Summary and Info
Susan Hough, rising star of the southern California earthquake science scene, and Roger Bilham, professor extraordinaire from the University of Colorado Boulder, have given us a very different earthquake book in _After the Earth Quakes: elastic rebound on an Urban planet_. Hough and Bilham focus primarily on historical earthquakes for which no instrumental readings exist and for which researchers must use anecdotal and often flawed "felt reports" and pre-photographic damage surveys to reconstruct the events surrounding an earthquake. The authors show us how the seismic sciences advanced with each new devastating earthquake, starting with the great Lisbon earthquake [and tsunami and fire] of 1755. The book is more or less chronological through chapter 8 and then splays off like a complex fault zone into more topical chapters [tsunamis, Los Angeles]. The book is both optimistic - the use of the term elastic rebound metaphorically to refer to how humans usually react [positively and generously] after a destructive earthquake - and pessimistic - even though scientists long ago internalized the idea that Nick Ambraseys summarizes with the quote "Earthquakes don't kill people, buildings do!", urban humanity may bring on even bigger disasters by failing to enact or ignoring well-designed building codes [often after the cold calculations of a cost-benefit analysis].
In my opinion, by focusing on earthquake intensity [as measured on the modified Mercalli scale using "felt reports" and damage surveys], _After the Earth Quakes_ is a great companion piece to other earthquakes books that focus on geophysics and earthquake magnitude [as measured on the Gutenberg-Richter scale]. I learned my earthquake theory at Penn State, but I've done my earthquake field work as a resident of southern California, where I've seen smaller quakes like the M5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquake do major damage and larger earthquakes like the M7.3 Landers quake and the M7.1 Hector Mine quake do little to no damage. It is hard not to resonate deeply with _After the Earth Quakes_ when one lives in a state that still has unreinforced masonry buildings in earthquake zones over a hundred years after we first figured out that they don't stand up to strong ground shaking.
I highly recommend _After the Earth Quakes_ to any reader with an interest in earthquakes and history and I think it should be mandatory reading for all politicians, civil engineers, and city planners.