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March Reads: Review of “Devil in the White City”

This past January I ran into an former coworker of mine.  We worked together ~ 5 years ago, she had moved around a bunch, and then returned to Athens, GA recently.  When we worked together she started a book club for our fellow coworkers and it made me read much more than I would on my own so I asked her, “hey, what are your thoughts on starting up that book club?” and she agreed! Thus the Biscuits and Books (BABs) book club began (I’ll fill you in later on how the name came to be 🙂 ).

The first book was “The Devil in the White City,” a non-fiction that reads like a novel about the Chicago World’s Fair and follows the lead architect Daniel Burnham and arguably American’s first serial killer H.H. Holmes.  Erik Larson writes an incredibly engaging tale of the awesome magnitude of the fair and of Holmes’ perverse urges.  Larson also mentioned social movements that crystallized because of the Chicago World’s Fair and which still affect us today including mandatory work breaks, limits on how many hours we can work in a day, and The Pledge of Allegiance.

While most of my fellow readers really loved learning about architecture and how American architects, engineers, politicians, entrepreneurs, entertainers, and inventors came together to create a massive technological feat including the introduction of the Ferris wheel to the world, I was far more interested in the twisted mind of Holmes.  How could a person be so brilliant and bent at the same time? And, how did Holmes get away with murdering so many people without anyone noticing?!!  As you read you find out about 6.8 million visitors came through Chicago at the time, how shotty detective work was at the time, and how easy it was to forge records only 100 or so years ago.  Overall a great read!