THURSDAY

After calling New Orleans home for most of my life, I still hold a few local disaster scenarios close to my heart. I may have giggled through the TV movie about the sinkhole that threatens to swallow the French Quarter during Mardi Gras, and yawned through countless filmstrips about the perils of erosion, but other forecasts weren’t so easy to dismiss. The favorite of any Big Easy pessimist is the annual weather-computer simulation of some Hurricane of the Century stuck over Lake Pontchartrain, churning up a biblical flood. Millions without electricity! Thousands dead! All escape routes impassable! Or maybe not. It may take a bit of gumption to live in a place that could be underwater any day, but, as Jake Halpern documents in his new book Braving Home, it takes a lot more gumption to stay in a place that’s already submerged. Thad Knight, the lone inhabitant of flooded-out Princeville, N.C., is one of the five mule-headed locals Halpern finds in various places tilting against such foes as wind, lava, and glaciers. Halpern’s conversational tone lets the stories of his hard-bitten subjects—including a stormrider from the real hurricane magnet in Louisiana, the barrier island Grand Isle—come to life. The first-time author’s journalistic background shows through in the rich historical texture he adds to each resolutely personal item. It’s only when Halpern steps out from behind his subjects and grasps at “the meaning of it all” that Braving Home loses momentum. That’s a minor quibble, though: For engrossing stories like these, I’d brave anything. Except maybe a hurricane. Halpern speaks at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Josh Levin)