Titanic: Death of a Dream

Published Monday, April 15, 2019

The sinking of the RMS Titanic on the morning of Monday April 15, 1912 remains one of, if not the most, famous disaster of all time. But why? There have been far more recent accidents involving bigger ships or larger death tolls. Some have been broadcast around the world in front of our very eyes. Yet, of all the disasters in history, it is the Titanic that remains forever embedded in our minds. Even now, more than a century since it happened, its story still has the power to move and fascinate us like few events in history can.

In many ways it is like a great novel written for us by history. You couldn’t have written it better. The largest ship in the world sets forth on her maiden voyage carrying over twenty-two hundred passengers and crew ranging from some of the richest people in the world to some of the poorest. On what should have been its triumphant maiden voyage, it side-swipes an iceberg which does more damage than her designers had thought possible, and sinks in two hours and forty minutes with the loss of fifteen-hundred lives.

The story of the Titanic is filled with “what-if’s” that plague our imagination. What if the spring of 1912 hadn’t been unseasonably warm? What if the Olympic hadn’t been involved with the collision with the HMS Hawke thus delaying Titanic’s construction and pushing back her sailing date? What if her maiden crossing hadn’t been delayed a few hours in the near collision with the liner New York? What if they had struck? What if the binoculars hadn’t been misplaced? What if they had been going a few knots slower? What if the lookouts had spotted the iceberg a few seconds earlier? Or later? What if she had been given enough lifeboats for everyone on board? The list goes on and on and on.

What fascinates us about the Titanic is the question “What would I have done?” Would I have been a hero or a coward? Would I have accepted my fate or fought against it? Would I have tried to save others or just myself? It’s very easy to imagine ourselves as players in the famous disaster. And to fuel that imagination we hunger for everything Titanic: from the many films and television mini-series, to the countless books and songs, to the many traveling and permanent exhibits on the disaster.

In honor of the one hundred and seventh anniversary of the sinking, I am sharing with you five of my personally recommended books available at the Illinois Heartland Library System on that most famous of ocean liners, the RMS Titanic.

A Night To Remember
by Walter Lord

For many years, this was the definitive Titanic book. Few, if any, give way to it in terms of shear readability. It's practically a minute-by-minute account of the sinking and it makes you feel like you are really there. It covers a wide variety of people in it's narrative, from the very rich to the very poor. While it does contain a few historical inaccuracies, these can be traced back to the fact that it was written in the 1950's, before the discovery of the wreck, and can easily be forgiven. A must read for any Titanic enthusiast.

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The Night Lives On
by Walter Lord

The follow up to Walter Lord's classic book "A Night To Remember" it is an excellent read that provides further insight and commentary into the sinking, it's impact on the world, and the people who survived the tragic sinking.

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Titanic: An Illustrated History
by Donald Lynch

This was one of the first Titanic books I ever received and I read my original copy until it was threadbare. It's artwork is second to none and is one of the easiest to read. Highly recommended book for young adults and Titanic enthusiasts of all ages.

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Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy
by John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas

A great book that is very useful as a reference. It contains a great deal of technical information about the ship which many other books tend to gloss over or not cover in great detail. It also has many great photographs and sketchings of the interiors of the Titanic.

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Titanic: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner
by Susan Wels

This excellent book put out by the Discovery Channel contains many great photos of the wreck site as well as pictures of artifacts recovered from the wreck. It also is very well written and contains a great narrative about the ship and the disaster.

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About the Author

Jake has been a staff member at the Edwardsville Public Library since 2016. His major interests include interior design, Disney, and ocean liners. Jake's favorite things about working at EPL are his wonderful co-workers and meeting fun and interesting people.