Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World
by Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe
Pegasus Books, 2015 (($26.95))
In 1783 the Icelandic volcano Laki erupted, with catastrophic consequences. The ash it pumped into the atmosphere blanketed most of the Northern Hemisphere in a sun-blocking fog, causing one of the most severe winters for hundreds of years. Many across Europe froze to death, and crops withered, leading to mass famine. In Africa, the monsoons failed to come, and the Nile did not flood as usual, causing one sixth of Egypt's population to starve or leave the country. The official death tally in Iceland from Laki was around 9,000, but some experts suggest the global toll was much higher. Journalists Witze and Kanipe tell the scientific and human story of Laki and predict that because a Laki-scale eruption happens on average every 200 to 500 years in Iceland, a similar event is not unlikely.