Books,  Nonfiction,  The Q Review

Q Review | The Devil in the White City | Erik Larson

One of the best parts about writing these little reviews on my personal blog is that I am under no obligation to be objective or fair. So let me begin by saying this is one of the best books I’ve ever read and if you don’t read it you’re a damned fool.

What’s wild is that I never would have picked it up for myself. I came to it by my friend Brie who was visiting Austin for my birthday this year. We spent a day goofing off and went to BookPeople for some leisurely, nonessential shopping (the best kind). She pointed out another one of his books and asked if I’d ever read him. I had not. Then she said that he wrote one I absolutely had to read, and went looking for it while I browsed. She bought it for me that day and I took it home and sat it on the Q Queue (the stack on my bedside table). A couple weeks later I was ready to read.

WHERE DO I BEGIN? This book has it all! Politics! Intrigue! Murder! Weirdness! Absurdity! It’s the story of the Chicago World’s Fair and the eccentric personalities that birthed it, despite incredible odds and a succession of disasters, each of which could have easily shut down the whole thing. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into the psychology of the American public at that particular moment, teetering on the bring of financial collapse, convinced of our own greatness, and desperate to prove ourselves on an international stage.

When I say that this book is unbelievable, I mean that I had to set it down several times and marvel over the fact that every damn thing in it is 100% true. What’s more, I have reached the ripe age of fifty without ever having heard any of this.

I don’t want to tell you anything about it. I want you to pick it up and read it and enjoy the series of mind-boggled gasps that will involuntarily erupt from your throat as you grapple with the enormity of this epic tale. Even if you don’t enjoy books about history, or nonfiction in general, you will enjoy this book because Larson writes it like a fiction writer. Lots of rich detail and a keen understanding of the motivations of each of these real-life characters.

It’s extremely well-researched (the back contains references galore). I think the only thing I’ve read that compares is probably In Cold Blood (Capote)… and while I’m not sure I want to commit to this opinion – I think it may even be better.

The Q Review features short reviews of books, movies and music.