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Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City
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Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  262 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
The Roaring Twenties in New York was a time of exuberant ambition, free-flowing optimism, an explosion of artistic expression in the age of Prohibition. New York was the city that embodied the spirit and strength of a newly powerful America.

In 1924, in the vibrant heart of Manhattan, a fierce rivalry was born. Two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former f
Paperback, 360 pages
Published September 21st 2004 by Broadway Books (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 604)
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Sep 16, 2011 Roger rated it it was amazing
I have found that I love to read historical non-fiction books about great building related projects(see my reviews of: Brunelleschi's Dome; Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling) and then traveling to see the structures in person. As with these others, I loved the historical background, historical context, the personalities, interrelationships, and competition of egos that went into the great race to build the worlds tallest buildings that in the process establish New York as the greatest city on ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Ben rated it did not like it
Shelves: architecture, history
This book was pretty disappointing which is difficult because I had low expectations for it in the first place. It is about New York architecture after all. Before I get into the biggest issues, I'll mention a few basic problems. The entire set up is a little awkward. It's laid out as a competition between two former partners, one builds the Chrysler Building, the other builds the Manhattan Company Building (currently the Trump Tower), then 2/3 of the way through the book, the team that designs ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Sam rated it liked it
Fairly superficial account of 3 NYC landmarks and the men who built them. The author is sometimes given to elegiac strains, perhaps appropriate, given the grand way these men saw themselves and the time - on the cusp of a new age that never came, or ended unexpectedly, depending on how you look at it.

He also makes frequent and frustrating allusions to peoples and technical processes that he does not care to explain, making them useless to include unless one understands their context. I don't me
Feb 03, 2008 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The 1920's was all about reaching new heights in America - the roaring 20's emphasized a fast-paced lifestyle where there were no limits. It was this "anything goes" attitude that led to the construction of skyscrapers in New York City that were just as much a symbol of the times as they were practical business investments. In this book that chronicles the race to be the tallest between 3 New York landmarks - the Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, and The Empire State Building - egos collide, ma ...more
May 03, 2014 Carl rated it really liked it
Amidst the back drop of the 1920's, two men will compete to build the tallest skyscraper in the world. Severance will build the Manhattan Building; Van Alen, the Chrysler Building. The unfolding competition brings us into the world of construction, power, and really the desire to be the best. It is a compelling read as these two architects struggle against time to out do each other to only be out done by a third building that will enter the race near the end.
Oct 28, 2014 Egm rated it it was ok
The description of this book made me very excited, but the tension in the description is not as evident in the book. Nonetheless, I found the book interesting and learned a lot about the 3 buildings, their history, and their architects. Makes me want to go visit all the buildings mentioned in the book. Listened to this book on tape, rather than reading it, and think it probably would have been better in written form.
May 14, 2015 Lynne rated it liked it
The content was interesting, but I got bogged down in some of the technical details and minor characters. It was difficult for me to keep the main players straight. However, I learned a lot about an interesting time in the history of the United States.
Jul 08, 2015 Evan rated it it was amazing
Historically accurate narration of pre Great Depression capitalism, embodied in the world's tallest buildings. Highly recommended for history fans and as culture context for any 1929 American sociological study
Mickey Hoffman
Jun 11, 2015 Mickey Hoffman rated it liked it
You definitely want to have a resource at hand where you can view the buildings being described because the book offers few photos. I found some of the biographies overly detailed, but in all, the book is fun to read.
Faith Tuttle
Apr 27, 2016 Faith Tuttle rated it it was amazing
I had started reading this book for a report in college, and was intrigued enough to buy it and finish it a few years later. It's an interesting read for those who enjoy learning about the beginnings of New York's skyline and the certain types of architect-client relationships it takes to make such a grand mark in the city's history. Bascomb does a wonderful job of describing the lives and toll it took on everyone involved, from automobile magnate Walter Chrysler to the four men that make up a s ...more
Nancy L.
Jan 25, 2015 Nancy L. rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down for long. It is a fascinating historic account of the race to build the highest skyscrapers in New York City and the key people involved in these achievements. Loved it!
Alfredo González
Jan 21, 2016 Alfredo González rated it it was ok
It has all the ingredients to be an interesting read, but I was disappointed, I laboured for two days to finish it.
If you enjoy learning about NYC during the turn of the century than this is a good start.
David R.
Jun 02, 2011 David R. rated it it was ok
This one documents the phenomenally stupid and wasteful race for the "highest in the world" title among builders of three structures between 1927 and 1931: the Manhattan Company, Chrysler, and Empire State. While the accounts maintain some level of factual interest, at least with respect to architectural and construction practices of the day, the story is really about egos, and there are quite a few to deal with. Further, the hyperbole is thick and tarry. I rapidly grew weary of the language Bas ...more
Aug 23, 2014 Kim rated it did not like it
This is one of the few books that I just couldn't finish. The story that compared the three skyscrapers being constructed at the same time seemed other words, the author was looking for an angle to tie the construction of these buildings into a competition and I just didn't find it compelling enough! It had too much extraneous detail and was not a fluid read. I gave up, tried to go back a couple of weeks later, and finally just realized it wasn't a story for me.
John E
Jun 26, 2012 John E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dynamic personalities and really big egos drive the building of the three tallest skyscrapers. All this happens within a four year period surrounding the financial crash of 1929. I enjoyed the book, but have one nit to pick: the men who assembled the steel frameworks of the buildings were IRONworders not STEELworkers (steelworkders work in steel mills making steel; ironworkers take the steel beams made by steeelworkers and assemble them into building skeletons).
Nov 30, 2007 Dave rated it liked it
Recommends it for: architects
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting with this book. For some reason the Empire State Building took me by surprise. The book was fairly well written and an interesting piece of American history. It was a bit removed from the characters for my taste, but it had wonderful building details (the act and the structure). I found the motivations, the egos, and the sheer challenge to be the most interesting aspects of the race to the sky.
Jul 31, 2015 Brett rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look at the skyscraper race in New York in the 1920s. It was a time of excess and big dreams that lead to some truly amazing architectural achievements, but also to the stock market crash of 1929. This book does a good job of capturing the spirit of the times as well as giving you an in-depth look at the men behind some of the most famous buildings in Manhattan. It is worth a read.
Dec 27, 2007 Marilyn rated it it was ok
Shelves: isurrender
This book was a bit disjointed--I kept falling asleep as I was reading it and losing my place. When I tried to pick up where I left off, I couldn't find my place. The author jumped around from character to character and time frame to time frame so much--I had to take it back to the library before I finished it. I'll try to get it again because the subject fascinates me.
Sue Heritage
Jul 10, 2015 Sue Heritage rated it really liked it
Bascomb writes about a topic (buildings albeit skyscrapers) which could be quite dry. However, his writing style and stories of the people who accomplished the feats make for easy, stimulating reading. The addition of other events occurring in the 20s and 30s add to making it a very enjoyable learning experience.
Deb Young
Oct 16, 2010 Deb Young rated it it was ok
Not well-written, this novel documents the greed and power of pre-depression era rise of New York's tallest buildings: The Chrysler Building, the Manhattan Building, and, ultimately, the Empire State Building. A mediocre behind-the-scenes look at the money, architecture and tenacity that made these icons possible.
May 01, 2013 Kriton rated it really liked it
After a slightly slow start describing the backgrounds of the architects, I thought it was an awesome New York City story about the landmarks New Yorkers see daily. It chronicles the race to build 40 Wall Street, the Chrysler building, and the Empire State building. Great insight into the mindset of the 1920s, too.
James Nevius
Sep 03, 2008 James Nevius rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in NYC, skyscrapers, the Jazz Age, NYC politics, architecture
I think Neal Bascomb makes an excellent case for the late '20s and early '30s in New York being one of the most interesting architecturally. The race to be "higher" that propelled the Chrysler, Manhattan Company, and ESB, is a captivating one and Bascomb tells the story well.
Oct 25, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it
I learned the sneaky way the Chrysler Building gained its height supremacy in my course on skyscrapers in college, so this book held no surprises. For anyone who hasn't studied skyscrapers, it's a good introduction to a fascinating topic filled with big personalities.
bibliotekker Holman
May 23, 2013 bibliotekker Holman rated it liked it
An interesting look at the building of some of New York's most iconic buildings. The author focused primarily on the personalities and politics. While compelling, I had hoped for more on the construction and design of the many Art Deco masterpieces from this era.
Mike Moore
Jun 29, 2008 Mike Moore rated it really liked it
One of those books I had to buy after reading it. During the Depression, these two NY architects managed to battle for the rights to the world's tallest building. I'm a tortoise-like reader, and this was so gripping it took me only a few days.
Kenn Myers
Mar 14, 2013 Kenn Myers rated it really liked it
Great book if you are interested in architecture, history or New York City. The race for the tallest building in the world is quite fascinating, especially considering the decade in which it occurred. Highly recommend!
Feb 02, 2011 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting story of the coming of the skyscrapers to NYC and their methods of construction. Also details the chicanery that made the Chrysler Building the tallest for a brief period.
Oct 15, 2010 Irene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audio 3.5
This just gives the background and framework for Ayn Rand's books
I enjoy any historical work that reads like a novel while teaching me about something
Scott Fuchs
Jan 08, 2012 Scott Fuchs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic perspective on the building of skycrapers. Engrossintgly written and great reading for anyone interested in one way that Ne4w York became New York.
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Neal Bascomb is a national award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of a number of books, all non-fiction narratives, all focused on inspiring stories of adventure or achievement. His work has been translated into over 18 languages, featured in several documentaries, and optioned for major film and television projects.

Born in Colorado and raised in St. Louis, he is the product of public
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