Dead Wake: Teachable Moments

This post was inspired by Dead Wake by Erik Larson, a thrilling account of Lusitania’s last voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and the U-boat that attacked it. Join From Left to Write on March 26th as we discuss Dead Wake. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


If you aren’t familiar with my From Left to Write book club posts, we don’t write traditional reviews. We read the book and write a review about a topic that the book inspired in us. The third book club selection for March is a historical non-fiction book, I tend to read a lot of these types of books. Prior to B1 coming along I was a history teacher, mostly 8th graders, and I loved it. There is so much to learn and so many ways to make it fun, and this book definitely made me miss it.

I loved this book, Larson was able to weave not just the perspectives of the passengers of The Lusitania, the Captain of The Lusitania, the German U Boat captains, Woodrow Wilson, Room 40, etc… but also heavy historical information and a tragedy that helped bring The United States into World War I without making the book read like a text-book. I will say it wasn’t a short read, but definitely a worthwhile one.

The book was full of moments, where I would shake my head and think this tragedy could have been avoided not just once, but many times. Instead of using these moments and learning from them, the Cunard Line and Winston Churchill tried to blame the The Captain of the Lusitania for the tragedy. They wasted their time trying to pin blame instead of trying to solve the problem that caused the sinking of the Lusitania. Instead of trying to use the information from Room 40 to their advantage the war lasted longer than necessary and many innocent lives were lost.

I don’t want this to turn into a political post, however I feel like the world is still struggling with this. Many problems within countries and country vs. country have happened before and unfortunately could happen again. The teachable moments that we could all learn from, it seems that no one actually learns from.

Do you love learning about history or hate it?

10 thoughts on “Dead Wake: Teachable Moments

  1. I think when we look back, it’s easy to see all the mistakes add up to a big tragedy. Sometimes we can’t see it while it’s happening but many we can (like Ferguson, MO). We need to use our collective voices to make sure we’re heard and create change.

  2. Love this so much! We all get so caught up in “Who’s at fault?” that we often forget to just ask “How could we have made this better?” or “How could we have stopped that from happening?” Over and over an over.

  3. Excellent post Kelly, you really made me want to get into this book. I’ve only just read the first chapter and it’s a slow read but I want to read about Room 40 and how the President and the Cunard line felt it was the fault of the Captain. Bet you were a very good History Teacher!

  4. We never seem to learn from our mistakes. I wish I would have read this one – I love history, but didn’t think I’d have the time. Glad to hear you liked it.

  5. I love learning about history but in certain cases. I can’t really explain it- I loved Dead Wake. It was real to me and I could relate. But- me reading a book on the 1st President of the United States, or something similar, I just have a hard time reading stuff like that.

    • I can understand, there are areas of history I prefer not to teach. It is such a large subject area that I don’t think I’ve met a history teacher that loves it all!

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