By Erik Larson
In 1900 a hurricane barreled through the Gulf of Mexico and leveled an unsuspecting Galveston, Texas, killing more than 6,000 people. Larson recounts the mistakes the newly established U.S. Weather Bureau operatives made and gives an almost hour-by-hour description of what survivors went through. "This storm transformed the way we look at hurricanes," Williams says. "I think it may be the perfect short work of nonfiction. Wherever you're reading it, the air suddenly turns humid and dank and charged. I've given it more than any other book as a gift."
Brian's next pick: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid