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Nature Natural Disasters

On Borrowed Time

North America’s Next Big Quake

by (author) Gregor Craigie

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
Natural Disasters, Earthquakes & Volcanoes
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

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Finalist, Balsillie Prize for Public Policy and Victoria Butler Book Prize
A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book
The Big One and what we can do to get ready for it.

Mention the word earthquake and most people think of California. But while the Golden State shakes on a regular basis, Washington State, Oregon, and British Columbia are located in a zone that can produce the world’s biggest earthquakes and tsunamis. In the eastern part of the continent, small cities and large, from Ottawa to Montréal to New York City, sit in active earthquake zones. In fact, more than 100-million North Americans live in active seismic zones, many of whom do not realize the risk to their community.

For more than a decade, Gregor Craigie interviewed scientists, engineers, and emergency planners about earthquakes, disaster response, and resilience. He has also collected vivid first-hand accounts from people who have survived deadly earthquakes. His fascinating and deeply researched book dives headfirst into explaining the science behind The Big One — and asks what we can do now to prepare ourselves for events geologists say aren't a matter of if, but when.

About the author

Gregor Craigie is a friendly public radio journalist, currently hosting CBC Radio One’s On the Island in Victoria, BC. He is generally well-liked and known for being fair, but will occasionally push people on political and social issues – while maintaining his manners, of course. Inspired by his interest in earthquakes, Craigie’s non-fiction book On Borrowed Time was a finalist for the inaugural Writers’ Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy. In an effort to stay healthy and as a tiny offering in the fight against climate change, Craigie bikes to work daily.

Gregor Craigie's profile page


  • Short-listed, Victoria Butler Book Prize
  • Short-listed, A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book
  • Short-listed, Balsillie Prize for Public Policy

Editorial Reviews

“Lucid and remorselessly researched, this book is both captivating and urgent. I am racing to geophysical maps to check the status of my local seismic zone, laying in emergency supplies, and warning loved ones to do the same.”

Alanna Mitchell, author of <i>The Spinning Magnet</i>

“Readers will be eagerly flipping through to see what we can learn and what to expect when the next Big One arrives.”

<i>The Tyee</i>

“The book offers much more than technical information; personal accounts, journals, old news articles, even diaries illustrate all too clearly the threats posed by shifts in the earth beneath us. Some of these stories are heartbreaking.”

<i>Miramichi Reader</i>

“A vivid evocation of previous catastrophes, a definitive rendering of what, when, where, and how they have happened, and a clarion call to get ready for more of the same. Gregor Craigie has produced a passionate tour de force, beautifully written and sturdily built on countless interviews, eyewitness accounts, newspaper articles, scientific studies, and Indigenous oral histories. This book dances with detail and rings with authority.”

Ken McGoogan, author of <i>Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage</i>

On Borrowed Time moves swiftly from the west to the east coast of North America, and the earthquake phenomenon reveals itself as Craigie describes the causes and results of quakes that most readers will never have heard of.”

<i>Ormsby Review</i>

On Borrowed Time is the culmination of decades of interviews and research and about four and a half years of actual writing. What sets it apart is Craigie not only speaks with seismologists and oceanographers, but actual survivors.”

<i>City News 1130</i>

On Borrowed Time is an impressive and timely reminder that large earthquakes can occur right across North America and that each passing day draws us closer to the inevitable next big one. But, as Craigie reminds us, earthquakes should not be anything to fear — providing we prepare properly.”

Edwin Nissen, Associate Professor/Canada Research Chair in Geophysics, University of Victoria

On Borrowed Time takes us on a tour of North American earthquakes, from the West Coast to the Atlantic Ocean. Gregor Craigie’s well-written and comprehensive jewel provides us with an accurate understanding of earthquake science, while exploring our fears and perceptions about future large quakes.”

John Clague, Emeritus Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University

“Nearly two years into this century’s first major pandemic, no one needs a reminder that even predictable events can have devastating and lasting consequences. On Borrowed Time sheds insight on a different kind of disaster that is both foreseeable and inevitable: the silent earthquake risk gripping many regions in North America. Gregor Craigie walks us through Canada’s seismic hotspots, observing that the solutions — from general upgrades to more proactive regulatory measures — are known and proven to save lives. The challenge is in how to overcome persistent apathy to marshal the necessary will and leadership to prepare. On Borrowed Time is a compelling call to action for politicians, policymakers, and Canadians to not wait until it’s too late.”

2021 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy Jury (Samantha Nutt, Taki Sarantakis, and Scott Young)

“Craigie has interviewed countless experts in the past two decades, which gives him authority as he scouts the situation in North America in particularly chilling detail.”

<i>Literary Review of Canada</i>

On Borrowed Time is not a breezy read. It is an exhausting and sobering treatise on the very nature of the Earth beneath our feet and the peril of neglecting the individual and collective community preparedness that must take place — if not now, then soon.”

<i>Coffee Crew</i>

“No collection that lies anywhere near a fault line should be without On Borrowed Time.”

<i>Donovan’s Bookshelf</i>

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