From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Golden Spruce and The Tiger comes a stunning account of a colossal wildfire, and a panoramic exploration of the rapidly changing relationship between fire and humankind.
In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada’s petroleum industry and America’s biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster melted vehicles, turned entire neighborhoods into firebombs, and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the lens of this apocalyptic conflagration—the wildfire equivalent of Hurricane Katrina—John Vaillant warns that this was not a unique event but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.
For hundreds of millennia, fire has been a partner in our evolution, shaping culture, civilization, and, very likely, our brains. Fire has enabled us to cook our food, defend and heat our homes, and power the machines that drive our titanic economy. Yet this volatile energy source has always threatened to elude our control, and in our new age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in previously unimaginable ways.
With masterly prose and a cinematic eye, Vaillant takes us on a riveting journey through the intertwined histories of North America’s oil industry and the birth of climate science, to the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern forest fires, and into lives forever changed by these disasters. John Vaillant’s urgent work is a book for—and from—our new century of fire, which has only just begun.
John Vaillant is an author and freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and the Guardian, among others. His first book, The Golden Spruce (Knopf, 2005), was a bestseller and won several awards, including the Governor General’s and Writers’Trust awards for non-fiction. His second nonfiction book, The Tiger (Knopf, 2010), won the B.C. Achievement Award for Non-Fiction, was a bestseller selected for Canada Reads, and has been published in 16 languages. In 2014 Vaillant won the Windham-Campbell Prize, a global award for non-fiction. In 2015, he published his first work of fiction, The Jaguar’s Children (Knopf), which was long-listed for the Dublin IMPAC and Kirkus Fiction Prizes, and was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His latest book, Fire Weather (Knopf, 2023), is a #1 national bestseller, and a finalist for the National Book Award (US), the Baillie Gifford Prize (UK), the Writers‘ Trust Nonfiction Prize (Canada), and a Banff Mountain Book Award.
The Jaguar’s Children
The Golden Spruce