Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

OK, so I'm finally finished with this book. It took me six weeks of having this "book on tape" in my possession to finish. When I started reading it, Bridget Riley told me not to read it at night. I would concur with her advice and add that you shouldn't read it when you are down or when you don't feel like getting down. I actually liked this book, but it is just so heavy with saddness; I couldn't do it every day.
Premise: This book alternates between the story of Daniel Burnham and his building of the 1893 Chicago World Columbian Expodition and the story of H. H. Holmes and his serial killings during the fair. Tidbit: Bridget's 11th graders like the part about the serial killer; I loved the parts about the World's Fair.
Amazing: So many great people played a part in the World's Fair. Two notable ones include the artist Frances Millet (who later died in the sinking of the Titanic) and Fred Law Olmstead, the landscape artist who designed New York's Central Park and the grounds at the BILTMORE. (BTW: I want to play croquet on one of Biltmore's lawns in particular. I just know that's what Olmstead had in mind for it when he designed it!)
Incredible: So many new inventions showed up at this World's Fair. The first Ferris wheel was here; it was made to rival Gustave Eiffel's tower at the 1889 Paris World's Fair. Other notable firsts include (but are not limited to): Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit, Shredded Wheat, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, elongated coin souveniers, and the term "Windy City."
Discussion: With all of these great events/firsts/people recorded in this book, why are students drawn to the parts about the serial killer?
There are lots of interesting facts to be found at

Next Books: I am currently reading Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee, a native Tennessean; I like things from Tennessee, except a moon pie. I leave for a cruise on Saturday. I have several books packed, among them are the first three books of Rick Riordan's Percy jackson series.

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