#NFBookClub The Devil in the White City Discussion – Part 2

October 24, 2015 Uncategorized 13


Wow, I loved this book all the way through! Despite some concern with the author’s lack of transparency when making things up, I couldn’t put this down and will definitely be reading more of his books. I also can’t wait until this a movie. I’m excited to hear what you all thought of it too, so on to the questions!

  1. What was your favorite fun fact from the book?
  2. Did reading about this era make you want to live then? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think this story will make a good movie?
  4. What are you thoughts on authors sharing sexist or racist views of their characters/people from another era?
  5. Do you plan to read more books by Erik Larson?

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  1. I had so many favorite fun facts! I think my very favorites had to do with new technologies at the time, like the air conditioning that used ice or our modern type of bicycle being exciting new things.
  2. Yes and no. I would love it if things like the world fair happened today, because I think it’s an amazing way to get people excited about science and technology. But, as with any previous era, I’d hate to give up all our modern conveniences and innovations in health and safety to live in the past.
  3. I’m optimistic! I suspect the parts about building the fair will have to be seriously streamlined and I think how much I like the movie will depend on how well that’s done. It can’t drag, but I hope they don’t cut out all the fun facts I enjoyed learning either.
  4. To me, the most important thing about sharing sexist or racist views held by your characters or by other people is to make it clear that they’re not your beliefs. Erik Larson wasn’t always completely successful at that for me. For instance, he describes a female architect who had a nervous breakdown as going mad and in the context of this book and of the times, this reminded me in a really bad way of how women were sent to madhouses and abused there, simply for being stressed out or depressed.
  5. I don’t think I can help it! As I said in my previous answer, sometimes I felt as though he could be more careful to be clear that he wasn’t being sexist. And I’m not sure I consider him a trustworthy, transparent author in terms of his use of sources. However, he’s a very entertaining author, so while I’ll keep these caveats in mind while reading his other books, I’ll definitely be reading them.

13 Responses to “#NFBookClub The Devil in the White City Discussion – Part 2”

  1. Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    This looks like a fascinating read! I’m sorry to hear, however, that the author doesn’t always distinguish views of the time from his own views. That can be a tricky line to navigate.

  2. Naomi

    1. I was amazed by the story of how the Ferris wheel came to be. The first time it has ever been built, and they make it HUGE! I also loved hearing about all the new inventions. I was telling my kids about them all – the zipper, the Aunt Jemima pancakes, etc. They thought it was pretty cool. My daughter did her next school project on the Ferris wheel. This book was fun for the whole family!
    2. If I did live in this era, I would have stayed away from the cities. They sound so dirty. The rural areas have their own challenges, but they would at least have had fresh air to breathe.
    3. Yes, but I’m not sure I want to see the parts about Holmes and his castle. Eek. It would be amazing to see them putting up those buildings, though. I googled it to see more pictures, but I couldn’t find any that were clear enough for me.
    4. I think it’s always good to make it clear that the views are not their own. I didn’t find this bothered me as I was reading. I guess I just assumed it was the characters/people of the era talking.
    5. Yes! I would definitely read more of his books. I have already read Dead Wake (his most recent) and liked it even more than this one. Right now, I’m feeling drawn to Isaac’s Storm.

    • Jancee @ Jancee's Reading Journal

      I kept interrupting my roommates to be like, “Hey, did you know that zippers were at this world fair? And Tesla did a demonstration. And there was the first Ferris Wheel. Doesn’t it sound cool?” It’s amazing how much was exhibited there that we take for granted today. It must have seemed so futuristic.

    • DoingDewey

      Until we talked about it in the google doc, I hadn’t really thought about how much larger the original ferris wheel was than the ones we see at fairs today! Once I realized that, I thought it was pretty cool too 🙂 I love that you shared the story with your family! I always enjoy sharing fun facts with people when I’m reading good nonfiction.

      The cities do sound pretty nasty in this era! And I agree with you about the parts with Holmes – they might be too creepy for me! Haha, but I think I’ll go see it anyway. I’m too intrigued by this story to pass on the movie.

      I think Dead Wake will be one of my next reads, maybe for Nonfiction November 🙂

  3. Jennine G.

    I’ve recommended is book like three times in the past week. People talking about serial killers and psychology and all that. Weird.

  4. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Er, I should remember to keep track of fun facts as I read. I thought it was interesting that the Ferris wheel was devised as a response to the Eiffel Tower, and that they didn’t really know if it would work until they tried it!

    I would definitely read more Larson, I’ve been interested in Dead Wake for some time. I would love to see the White City re-created in a movie, but I’m not so sure about Holmes. I was creeped out enough by just reading about him; to see him on screen might be too scary. And it will just mean more speculation about his character that viewers will take as fact), which is not so great.

    • DoingDewey

      I found this book, any many others, so full of fun facts, I don’t feel I can keep track of them all! I thought the story of the Ferris wheel as pretty interesting too 🙂

      Dead Wake is on my to-read list as well. And I thought the same thing you did about the additional speculation in a movie adaptation! I’ll have fun seeing the story brought to life, but I do think some making things up is will be inevitable.

  5. TJ @MyBookStrings

    I loved this book when I read it a few years ago. My husband was so sick of me constantly saying “did you know….” If you look at a picture of the one remaining building of the Fair, it’s almost impossible to imagine that they built an entire avenue of buildings just like it in such a short amount of time. (I liked the Fair part much better than the Holmes part.)

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, I’m the same way with my husband and any other innocent bystanders when I’m reading 🙂 I’d love to see the remaining building! It seems like it would be awesome. I really wanted to like the Homes part better, but the speculation and lack of known details made it less good for me.

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