Erik Larson is best known in these parts for The Devil in the White City, about H.H. Holmes, one of America's first known serial killers and the World's Fair of 1893, held here in Chicago. In Dead Wake, Larson addresses the sinking of the Lusitania, a key factor in America's entry into World War I. With his customary aplomb, Larson captures the personalities and historical forces at work in this engaging piece of novel-like fiction. He also captures the tragedies of the little people on the ship, and how the sinking was a very near thing indeed. The author also discusses in depth the consequences of the death of the Lusitania both great and small. Another winner from America's master of narrative fiction.
For more on the Lusitania, there is Last Voyage of the Lusitania, a DVD by National Geographic. This typically excellent film spends a great deal of time on the discovered wreck of the great ship, as well as on the causes both physical and human of the disaster. Exploring the Lusitania is a mostly illustrated book that deals mostly with the site of the wreck but also with the far-reaching consequences of that fateful day in May.
If you're interested in Woodrow Wilson, the man who launched us into WWI after running for re-election on a pacifist ticket, there's Wilson by A. Scott Berg. Pulitzer Prize-winner Berg draws on two new sources of papers as well as the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library for this deeply personal biography that won the L.A. Times Book Prize.
For more on the war at sea, there's Castles of Steel. Author Robert K. Massie is also a Pulitzer winner, and he brings to life the battle between England and Germany for control of the Atlantic. Massie argues that with the land struggle bogged down in trench warfare, the turning points in the war came in the water.
This is a fascinating time period, and these are just a few of the excellent sources on the Lusitania and the outsize personalities and historical forces that made her demise so influential.