Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – The Devil in the White City Part 2


One of my favorite things about being part of this community is joining with other bloggers to participate in a challenge or read-along or some other sort of bookish project. I especially love read-alongs because they often expand my reading horizons and I get to answer discussion questions. I love discussion questions! This month over at Doing Dewey, we’re reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

What was your favorite fun fact from the book?

So many fun facts to choose from. I’m gonna have to go with the story of the Ferris wheel, how it was the first of its kind and everyone thought it would never work. The design was crazy, nothing like that had ever been attempted, and Ferris was actually expecting people to ride on the thing when it was completed. One thing I did wonder was about the scale – why are the Ferris wheels of today so scaled back compared to the original? Maybe I’m just not riding the right wheels.

Did reading about this era make you want to live then? Why or why not?

Absolutely not! It seems like every few pages, someone was suffering from a different ailment. Plus, the police force sounded pretty incompetent, not having the resources or time or enough concern to mount search parties for missing women. And all of those modern conveniences that I so appreciate hadn’t even been conceived yet.

I will grant that the magic and mystique of the fair would have been cool to witness. With today’s instant access to information, it’s harder to keep things under wraps in the same way. And it would have been amazing to be in the presence of Tesla, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Theodore Dreiser, and more. To see Wrigley’s chewing gum, shredded wheat, and Pabst beer for the first time. It must have been wonderful and so futuristic!

Do you think this story will make a good movie?

I certainly hope so. There are so many angles and perspectives that the movie could take…and no shortage of material. I hope the movie focuses equally on the fair and on Holmes, because both stories are fascinating. I hope the movie will evoke the sort of wonder and mystery that the actual fair evoked back in 1893.

What are you thoughts on authors sharing sexist or racist views of their characters/people from another era?

I think I’m confused by this question. I think it the author is sharing an opinion or view from a historical source and it fits within the context fine. But if an author has those opinions and just wants to share what he/she thinks in the book for no great reason, let’s keep it classy please.

Do you plan to read more books by Erik Larson?

Definitely. He writes well and has a knack for weaving together one story from many. I think that in the future, I will try to read print copies of his books instead of going the audio book route, as that ended up being a tad confusing at times.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America





Filed under Doing Dewey's Nonfiction Book Club, Reviews

5 responses to “Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – The Devil in the White City Part 2

  1. I really enjoyed this one too! I agree that we miss out on some of the magic and wonder that people had then, because we can access just about anything on our computers. But maybe that is its own kind of magic…:)


  2. I’m jealous that our modern day ferris wheels aren’t as big too, but like you, I’d not want to live during this time period! I can’t think of a time period in the past I’m excited enough about to give up our modern health care and other conveniences.

    With the question about authors sharing their views, I was mostly thinking about authors being careful not to have outdated, wrong views seem to be their own when they share them. I wasn’t always sure Larson succeeded in that way.

    I’ll definitely be reading more of his books too! This was so entertaining!


  3. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? | Jancee's Reading Journal

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