2016 TBR Pile Challenge: Thunderstruck

OK. It’s September. Time to get back to it.

I would like to tell you that I had an incredibly relaxing bit of time off and that I feel refreshed and ready for whatever this next season brings. But the last bit of summer was insane, filled with celebrations and out of town guests and oh so much drinking.

Time to dry out and get back to real life.

Which means back to reading and blogging about the things that I read.

In order to keep up with the Unofficial 2016 TBR Pile Challenge, I’ve been making sure to read at least one of the books on my list each month. Except in August. So this month I will try to read two, knowing all the while that I made the mistake that Jennine @ My Life in Books warned me about by keeping TWO massive books on the list until the later part of the challenge.

I wanted a sure thing so the next book I picked from the list was Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck.

I have long been a fan of Erik Larson’s and I was excited to get to read another of his superb books – I almost wrote novels there. It’s easy to forget that Larson is actually writing non-fiction.


Thunderstruck tells two stories as they come together in an exciting conclusion. One is the story of Guglielmo Marconi and his work to perfect his invention of wireless communication. The other is the story of Hawley Harvey Chippen, the kindest, gentlest of men who almost got away with the perfect crime.

I will freely admit that this one was more of a challenge for me to get into that Larson’s other books. It reminded me a bit of The Devil in the White City where you are reading the story of the set up of the World’s Fair but all you really want to read about is North America’s first serial killer. Plus, the science behind wireless communication is mostly well over my head.


I stuck with it and was well rewarded. Part of what got me through those early sections were Larson’s tantalizing hints of what was to come. Larson constantly draws your attention to look out for things later. And Larson also has a way of inserting himself into his narrative with wry comments about things like the fact that Marconi wasn’t well-versed in how to understand people, or the improbable name of a boarder (May Pole).

While reading this book, it struck me how much it intersected with his other work. There is the talk of coming conflict with the Germans (which sets up In the Garden of Beasts), talk of the Lusitania (Dead Wake), and murder (The Devil in the White City). If there had been more storms perhaps he could have hit Isaac’s Storm as well.

In the end I was amply rewarded for my time spent with this book. I was totally delighted with the way the whole thing came together and am left wondering what tale Larson has in mind to tell us next. As per his twitter, he may have nailed it down.