I read probably more than is healthy. I’ve been thinking of those audiobooks (formerly books on tape) because I think I could listen to a book while I go out for a walk, rather than just laying in bed and turning pages.

Reading has always been important to me. I can remember crying as a little boy, because I just knew that there was a whole world out there that I was missing out on, because I couldn’t yet read. I remember Dad holding a Scotch tape dispenser and slowly moving his thumb to uncover more letters, and getting frustrated because the closest I could come was “tap-eee”. Anyway, I got better. My home is full of books—many I have actually read!

Erik Larson's "The Devil In The White City"
Erik Larson’s “The Devil In The White City”

The last book I read was one that was quite popular several years ago, and on a lot of book club lists. Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.

I had never heard of this story, even though I’m drawn to both History and the True Crime genre, often. But I heard a couple of podcasts from “Stuff You Missed In History Class” (Part One and Part Two), and then caught a mildly cheesy treatment of the story in an episode of the television show Haunted History.

The weird thing about this is that I have actually been in, and remarked upon the architecture of, one of the buildings that remains from the Chicago World’s Fair. I had no idea.

Larson does a great job in this book, switching between the the drama and tension of a roomful of egos and architects and the actual drama of Holmes’ taking random fair visitors out of the gene pool in his purposefully designed ‘Murder Castle’ only blocks from the Fair. About the time you get to thinking maybe this is a little too tense and it might be a great time to put this down for a while, he switches back to the boardroom and the debate about what kind of flowers to plant, and where. It’s a complex story, wonderfully told, and worth your time if you’re a fan of History, Crime or just curious about how a huge enterprise comes together and comes apart, like the Chicago World’s Fair.

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  1. Lynn Janese said on July 18, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Think I will tell Michele about this book. From the way you described it, I bet she would love it! You two are both real history buffs.

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