The Devil in the White City

History and fiction buffs unite! Though this book is purely historical, it is written like a novel. Who would have known that reading about the architecture of the extinct Chicago World Fair would be such a page-turner? Larson does a magnificent job at connecting many pieces of history to this one brief moment in time, when America awakened to its grandest potential.

There’s something about America’s past that makes me well up inside. When I see movies like The Majestic where all the townspeople are lined up outside the brightly-lit movie theater, or in The Music Man when the locals all gather at the center of town to dance the night away with their sweethearts, twirling, spinning, and twirling underneath multi-colored hanging lanterns, and fireworks exploding up above in the night sky, something in me cries out for the return of America’s glory days. The Devil in the White CIty does a marvelous job at recreating America’s prime, and the author never bores when describing the pure-white city as bright as Heaven itself, and so majestic that the Court of Honor alone brought grown men to tears upon seeing it.

True, part of this book is about a serial killer, but Larson, does not go into any gory detail, and handles the grim topic with care and tact. There are two murder scenes, but they are intended to convey fact rather than fear, and they pass by quickly enough. The murderer is not in contact with his victims, which may ease the tension for some readers. Aside from that, there is a brief mention of Jack the Ripper toward the beginning of the book that is a bit unsettling. I give these disclaimers because I know there are sensitive readers who may prefer to stay away from certain topics. I really wish books came with ratings and disclaimers like the movies.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

One of the delights of the fair was never knowing who might turn up beside you at the chocolate Venus de Milo or at the hearse exhibit or under the barrel of Krupp’s monster, or who might sit at the table next to yours at the Big Tree Restaurant or the Philadelphia Cafe or the Great White Horse Inn, a reproduction of the public house described by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers; or who might suddenly clutch your arm aboard the Ferris Wheel as your car began its ascent. Archduke Francis roamed the grounds incognito – but much preferred the vice districts of Chicago. Indians who had once used hatchets to bare the skulls of white men drifted over from Buffalo Bill’s compound, as did Annie Oakley and assorted Cossacks, Husars, Lancers, and the members of the U.S. Sixth Cavalry on temporary furlough to become actors in Colonel Cody’s [Buffalo Bill’s] show. Chief Standing Bear rode the Ferris Wheel in full ceremonial headdress, his two hundred feathers unruffled. Other Indians rode the enameled wooden horses of the Midway carousel. 

There were Paderewski, Houdini, Tesla, Edison, Joplin, Darrow, a Princeton professor named Woodrow Wilson, and a sweet old lady in black summer silk flowered with forget-me-not-blue named Susan B. Anthony. Burnham [the central architect] met Teddy Roosevelt for lunch. For years after the fair Burnham used the exclamation, “Bully!” Diamond Jim Brady dined with Lillian Russell and indulged his passion for sweet corn.

No one saw Twain. He came to Chicago to see the fair but got sick and spent eleven days in his hotel room, then left without ever seeing the White City. 

Of all people. 

Suspense seekers and history buffs, you all ought to check this book out. It’s a lot of fun and very fascinating. And you will walk away with a deeper appreciation of the roots of America’s greatness, and why we are still the greatest country in the world 120 years later.

Also, how has this not been made into a movie? I hope Peter Jackson or Ron Howard are just waiting for the screenplay.

This Summer’s Reading List

Summer’s approaching and that means… book fever! Yes, it’s time to dust off those books you’ve been meaning to read for so long, pull out those books you received for Christmas last year, open them up and start reading. I always say that no one is too busy to read. If you’re saying that, then stop *reading* this blog (or tweet), and stick your nose in a book. (And not a book that’s most likely going to be made into the next steamy movie – that doesn’t count… that’s just watching a silly movie in slow motion.)

So as you’ve probably figured out by now, every Tuesday is Book Rec day here on Adopting James. I’m just tingling with excitement over the next several books I’m going to read  this summer. Here’s a sneak peak at my bookshelf I’ll be making my way through in the next few months, so if you have any of these books, you can read along, or maybe this post will inspire you to get out there and treat yourself to some useful purchases. Be looking for my reviews in the next few months. And remember, I’m open to suggestions, so email them to me or comment. Happy reading!

This will be my first official baseball book, as I’ve just recently developed a love for the sport. I’m more interested in the history of baseball than taking it up as something I currently follow. Anytime you mix history in with something, my attention is taken captive. And heck, reading about the world’s longest ball game could be a good way to begin my baseball reading endeavor. Anyone have any other baseball book suggestions?

 

 

I am indebted to this man, like many of you, in so many ways. No so much because of the products he’s invented (Sarabeth and I still only have a MacBook, but would like others), but because of certain investments he’s made. Many people don’t know this, but it was Steve Jobs who gave Pixar Animation Studios their start by funding them back in the late ’80’s. In so many ways, it’s because of Steve Jobs that we have movies like Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and others, thus ultimately saving the Disney Studios. And, I’ve been told that it was Jobs himself who suggested Woody be a good guy rather than antagonistic when Lassetter, Stanton and their team were creating the first Toy Story . Why is that such a big deal, you ask? Let’s just say I’ve got a small collection of Woody figurines on my desk, including a real pull-string Woody doll on my bookshelf… with my name (Andy) written on the bottom of his right boot.

 

This is one of my favorite books, written by one of my favorite classic authors. If you haven’t read it, or Around the World in 80 Days, you finally need to do so. Plus, I hear Disney is making a movie about Captain Nemo, so… gots to be prepared for that.

 

 

 

I’ve heard nothing but outstanding things about author Erik Larson, and especially this book of American history. It’s set in Chicago, 1893, and centers around an architect, who was behind the idea of the 1893 World’s Fair, and a serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. This sounds like it has all the makings of a classic. Why didn’t they teach us this sort of stuff in school?

 

 

This book came highly recommended by Dr. Albert Mohler, and quite frankly, after reading a couple of his recommendations, I just keep going back to his list for more. And, after seeing The Conspirator last year, I’m very excited to get the story inside the story. I mean, other than hunting down Nazis or terrorist, what else could be more exciting than searching and capturing John Wilkes Booth? Plus, this will be great preparation for Spielberg’s Lincoln coming out this summer – And no, he does not go around hacking zombies to death with an axe.

Additional books: The Universe Next Door, Sire; The History of Israel, Kaiser; To Try Men’s Souls, Gingrich; America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. 2, Bennett; God’s Passion for His Glory – Piper

Image credits: Bottom of the 33rd, Steve Jobs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Devil in the White City, Manhunt