New book on the life of Tim Samaras

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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Have you read "Tornado Hunter"? It was co-written by Tim. It's something more like two books in one - interlaced chapters about specific chases (I think events of 2008 are highlighted) with chapters about the history of tornadoes and research. Some interesting stuff in there.
I read this book a couple years ago and it was great. I highly recommend reading it if you have the time. As Jeff said, it covers chasing from various view points: historical, actual chasing, and storm victims if I remember correctly.
 
I thought there would have been a thread about this by now, but I cannot find one. If there is, Mods please feel free to move this post to the right place.

I just finished reading The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras, by Brantley Hargrove. I would strongly recommend this book to everyone. Even though I thought I knew quite a bit about Tim before reading this book, I learned a lot by reading it, especially about the details of the various scientific research projects with which Tim was involved. The book is very well-written - I could not put it down (except to go chasing last Friday when there were finally storms within driving distance). One interesting factoid - the author was not a storm chaser before he wrote the book, but he went chasing with some of Tim's friends and colleagues as he was working on the book, to learn more about the culture of chasers - but he got hooked enough on chasing in the process that he has continued to chase since finishing the book.

You can get the book through the usual online booksellers and probably in the larger chain bookstores.
 
Mar 7, 2015
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I have checked out this book at my library and I couldn't get to it right away. lol Two other people had checked them out, fortunately for me, I was third in line and was excited when I picked it up. (Walked all the way to the library and back and it was totally worth it. :D) I definitely recommend this book. I'm not even finished with it yet but I can't put it down, as the book was very well written in my opinion. :) I will be buying this book off of EBay or Amazon for my birthday. It is a must have.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Thanks for calling attention to this Jeff, I subscribe to the online WSJ but hadn’t noticed this.

For those who can’t access the WSJ review without a subscription, its author (Mark Yost) writes favorably about the book, and about Tim and his contributions to the science of tornado analysis/forecasting.

One line that encapsulates his review of the book itself: “Mr. Hargrove weaves a tale with just enough background, just enough science and just enough adventure to keep us reading.”
 
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It was a really good read. It was balanced enough to appeal to a wide audience, I believe. For storm enthusiasts, he captured the thrill behind chasing with a bit of the science behind it too. Hargrove also does his best to get into the head and heart of Tim as well. He clearly spent a lot of timing studying and interviewing those who were close to Tim over the years.

It's not often that I read for extended periods at a time, but once I picked this book up, I had it finished within a couple of days.

Highly recommended!
 

Nils Franke

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Apr 19, 2012
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I just finished the book, and I have to say, it is really worth reading it!

Only knowing the stories about Tim from Storm Chasers or the forum here, I had the opinion, that it took away one of the very cautious guys.

The book doesn´t tell the opposite, but you really get to know, how experienced he was and how close to the limit he was doing his job.

A MUST read for every storm enthusiast!
 

Jeff Duda

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Just thought I would poke my head in here and update. I pre-ordered the book, but I have a long list of books to read, so it took me awhile to get to this one. I just finished it, and I was very impressed. The book does not portray Tim as some glorious hero who could do no wrong. In fact, the author does not hesitate to bring out some of the less sexy qualities of Tim from time to time (not that there was anything super scandalous in there), and I felt he portrayed the real story behind Tim's pursuit of tornadoes and research. The book definitely stirred emotions of pain and sadness as I read through "Part Three" and recalled my own experiences on 31 May 2013 and my reaction when hearing about Tim's, Paul's, and Carl's passing.

The Man Who Caught the Storm is a well-written book that tells it like it was. I'll admit that within the first few chapters the vocabulary seemed unnecessarily poetic and cheesy, as if the author was purposely trying to flex his writing skills and knowledge. But after that point, his words, adjectives, and nuances became very comfortable and beautiful, and the storytelling is impressive, inspiring, and evocative. Anyone in the community passionate about severe storms, chasing, and the camaraderie should definitely read this book. You won't regret picking it up, and if you are like me (someone who, throughout much of his life has not been a fan of reading longer books and is not a particularly fast reader), you will have difficulties putting the book down at times.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Thanks for kicking this thread back to the top of the timeline Jeff. Reminds me that I intended to post my Amazon review here but never did. Here it is:



I have been a recreational storm chaser for 22 years and for that reason was initially a little leery about the book. I have found that many non-technical books about tornado outbreaks, storm chasing, etc. written for a general audience are either too limited and/or inaccurate from a meteorological perspective to be satisfying to a storm chaser, and/or are written for a niche audience of storm enthusiasts and lacking any literary chops, sometimes even bordering on the cheesy side. I am happy to say that my concerns were completely unfounded in this case. Hargrove succeeded in writing a book that has literary chops, while also having enough meteorological meat to satisfy this storm chaser. Hargrove also successfully captures the essence of storm chasing. (I had read online in a storm chasing discussion group that Hargrove is a storm chaser; in reality I think he just participated on some storm chases as part of his research for the book).

Although I have been a chaser for a long time, and interested in severe weather for an even longer period, I did not know much about Tim Samaras’s life. Believe it or not, for several reasons I never watched more than an episode or two of “Storm Chasers.” I was generally aware of Tim’s work from other sources, but always had a vague (and, in retrospect, erroneous) impression that he was somewhat on the fringe of “real” science. From the book, I now understand where this impression came from; in some ways it was based on reality (i.e., Tim not having the academic pedigree and facing his own challenges with being accepted by the scientific community; forming his own TWISTEX group rather than participating in Project VORTEX), but I also understand more about why he was “on his own” (I appreciated the background on Tim’s conflicts with Josh Wurman and how TWISTEX came to exist outside of VORTEX) and simultaneously gained a greater appreciation for Tim’s very real and significant scientific contributions.

I’m no literary expert but I do read a fair bit and thought Hargrove’s writing was very good. I especially enjoyed some of his evocative prose on what it is like to be in a storm environment and chasing on the Great Plains, although at times it seemed he was trying too hard to use flowery prose or find an unusual synonym in the thesaurus. But that is a small criticism. I found the meteorological aspects of the book to be generally accurate. Of course, as a chaser I would have loved to have even more such content, but of course it’s not intended to be a textbook or technical case study. I think it’s just the right amount of science for a mainstream audience, and in that regard it neither dumbs it down nor leaves too much out even from a chaser’s perspective. The final El Reno chase is rendered in good detail and faithfully recreates the day from what I have studied of it (I was not chasing that day, although I wish I had been) and does a good job putting the reader in the doomed car with Tim, Carl and Paul.

One thing that would have been helpful is if the book had added for reference a map of the El Reno road network and the tornado’s path. I have studied both from other sources, and they are of course available easily enough online for those who are interested, but it would have been convenient to have them in the book to easily visualize and relate the narrative of that chase, especially since the road options, dead end at the El Reno airport, etc. were so pivotal to the fatal outcome.
 
Aug 22, 2015
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Tim is the man who inspired me to not only chase storms but also to be so interested in tornado research and science. I preordered the book before it was published and have since read it four times. Great Read!