"The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History" by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman

So I’m reading William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman’s The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History (published just last month), which is billed as similar to Simon Winchester’s outstanding Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded (2003), and so far it’s living up to that comparison. I’m fascinated by past examples of climate change, not only for the insight into history these accounts provide—David Keys’s Catastrophe (1999) is still one of the best—but also for the implication they have for our future. The Year Without Summer (a title that provokes a memory of that animated favorite, The Year Without a Santa Claus) is about the eruption of the volcano Mount Tambora in Indonesia in April 1815, but it’s scope stretches far beyond the geology of the volcano (though it covers that aspect as well) and into the cultural/political spinoff effects. 1816 is famous for being the year that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly wrote Frankenstein (and while staying at the same estate in Switzerland with Percy Bysse Shelly, John William Polidori wrote The Vampyre, known as one of the earliest vampire tales in English). Legend has it the summer was so cold and dreary they had to stay inside and tell or write spooky stories. What is well documented is that crops failed disastrously in New England and elsewhere, causing cultural and economic upheavals. It’s like The Day After Tomorrow, only in reverse—more like Two Centuries Before Yesterday. Well, not quite.

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