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Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  193 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
In this hugely appealing book, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, acclaimed author and journalist Daniel Okrent weaves together themes of money, politics, art, architecture, business, and society to tell the story of the majestic suite of buildings that came to dominate the heart of midtown Manhattan and with it, for a time, the heart of the world. At the center of Okrent? ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2003)
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Elizabeth Milnarik
Jun 25, 2008 Elizabeth Milnarik rated it really liked it
Currently, we seem to be having a minor blossoming of popular books on architectural history, and I think this book sets the standard. It is interesting, compelling and factually correct.

Kathleen Hulser
May 31, 2012 Kathleen Hulser rated it really liked it
Excellent blend of urbanism, architecture, social commentary. The portrait of the irascible Lewis Mumford is hilarious: Note his reaction to the beloved vertical setbacks of 30 Rock " the little scratchy tooth marks the mice have left in their cheese." Another newspaper bluntly characterized the popular music hall: "Radio City is ugly." Ray Hood really gets his due here, but this is an account that balances attention to architecture with a good sense of place. He details the fight between the ch ...more
Sep 29, 2007 Alex'ra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Okrent spins a killer yarn out of the story of Rockefeller Center.
Jan 18, 2010 Stephen rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!

I have always loved Rockefeller Center, so when I found this book in a used bookstore years ago, I was all over it. I started it, got bogged down, and stopped not very far into it. So when I sat down with it again a couple months ago, I was determined.

As I got going, the book sucked me in more and more. While it's definitely a dense account with lots of characters, information, and history, I found myself learning a lot. Okrent has a talent for making the Center come alive in y
Sep 26, 2015 Cristobal rated it it was amazing
The story of how Rockefeller Center came to be and even more what an amazing business success it is, is an amazing read. From how the idea for building what was at the time one of New York's undeveloped areas to what it came to represent for the Rockefeller family fortune, the book is an in-depth look at what must be the most successful destination real estate development of the 20th century. For anyone interested on how real estate works this is an illuminating and thoroughly entertaining book.
Frank Stein
Jun 25, 2009 Frank Stein rated it really liked it

Chatty but good. The author goes a little too much for "setting the mood" with an obnoxious kind of noirish patter, but it is an amazing a colonial garden became Columbia University land became the world's biggest office complex, how an original idea for a new Metropolitan Opera house morphed into a massive stage for gaudy kick-lines and radio shows.

I also had no idea just how famous this place was at the time. It was basically the only private building going on anywhere in America
Great history of major architectural achievement in new York City-- namely Rock Center.
Rob Neyer
Jun 12, 2016 Rob Neyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical non-fiction simply doesn't get any better than this.

And if you're fascinated by Depression-era New York, as I am, all the better.
Mar 05, 2008 Daniela rated it did not like it
I feel remiss reviewing a book I didn't finish reading, but I just left a book club meeting where none of the EIGHT people in my book club were able to get through this book. This is a book club which has been in place since 1999 and its rare that one person doesn't finish the book. We have never encountered a situation where no one read it.

It read like a text book. I thought it would be an interesting story about the architecture like DEVIL IN WHITE CITY, which we all loved. But, alas. Not.

Dec 04, 2014 Jeramey rated it really liked it
Shelves: urbanism, history
I've only visited Rockefeller Center once, so it was at times difficult to arrange everything in my mind (that the author describes). It's clear, however, that Okrent did a great job of including everything one could reasonably want to know about the building in this book. It's park Rockefeller family history, part buildings history, and all New York City.

For whatever reason, it took me a lot longer to read than a normal book of its page count (low 400's).
Sam Schulman
Nov 23, 2009 Sam Schulman rated it it was amazing
Despite some weakness on the subject of boxwood, an amazing accomplishment in urban history-writing. An exciting narrative that still combines the history of business, of real estate development, of academic intrigue, of legal history, of the entertainment industry, of the Rockefeller fortune and of course a masterful command of architecture and design. One of the few great books about NYC.
Steven Ujifusa
May 16, 2012 Steven Ujifusa rated it it was amazing
Okrent really captures the epic nature of this story with vivid detail, and the research is impressive. Some colloquial phrases in the text present a few jarring notes, but the main characters (Roxy, Junior, Nelson Rockefeller, Sarnoff, Nicholas Murray Butler) are well-portrayed, warts and all.
Jan 31, 2016 Jk rated it really liked it
I found this fascinating, envisioning midtown as an essentially rural area. To think that Columbia U owned the land and didn't know what to do with it. Makes you want to walk around NYC and look up at the buildings... I'll admit once the buildings are up the story slows a bit.
Jul 24, 2010 Stella is currently reading it
So far an extremely fun read, with lots of personal details about many of the larger-than-life types of folks involved in the creation of Rockefeller Center. I've kind of taken a hiatus from reading this for the moment, as it is a VAST book, and my Kindle is much smaller.
May 27, 2011 Katie is currently reading it
This book has got a lot of "characters," making it harder to follow than some other non-fiction I've read. However, its pretty awesome to walk around NYC and suddenly figure out what buildings the author is talking about! It makes the book really come to life.
Sarah's Book Nook
Oct 27, 2014 Sarah's Book Nook rated it really liked it
Some early chapters move a bit slow as everyone is introduced, including their roles and background/qualifications, but it picks up quickly as the building moves from planning to building. Almost too many people to keep track of, but still a great read.
Jun 21, 2016 Gene rated it did not like it
One of only two books in the last 10 years that I just couldn't finish.
If you are into early NYC architecture or Rockefeller business dealings you'll love this one.
I just couldn't get going with it even after reading half the book.
Apr 17, 2010 Joyce rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bob
This took me a long time to read, but it was really worthwhile. Some many fascinating stories, power play,s and the historical context. Now I need to spend a day walking around Rockefeller Center to see it with different eyes.
Card Inside: " A 2004 summer reading list selection with our compliments JP Morgan Private Bank"
Kyle Smalling
Feb 22, 2011 Kyle Smalling rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
Couldn't finish, just a little too dry. Seems well-written, just slow to get into.
Sep 14, 2009 Rachel rated it liked it
A good history of the development of the Rockefeller Center.
Alex Nagler
Aug 18, 2013 Alex Nagler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
On a building and the people who made it
Paul Pauciulo
Sep 01, 2012 Paul Pauciulo rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of 20th century Manhattan
Tracey Sinclair
Mar 23, 2012 Tracey Sinclair rated it it was amazing
Excellent, well-researched and highly readable.
Jul 27, 2007 Sara is currently reading it
so far I can't put this book down!
Oct 04, 2011 Tracey marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyc, recommended-tcpl
SDMB recco: Exapno Mapcase
Evan Higbie
Evan Higbie marked it as to-read
Jul 29, 2016
David Weirick
David Weirick rated it really liked it
Jul 23, 2016
Christina marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2016
Morgan Dreiss
Morgan Dreiss marked it as to-read
Jul 19, 2016
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Daniel Okrent's 40-year career has encompassed nearly every form of mass media. In book publishing, he was an editor at Knopf, Viking, and Harcourt. In magazines, he founded the award-winning New England Monthly and was chief editor of the monthly Life. In newspapers, he was the first public editor of the New York Times. On television, he has appeared as an expert commentator on many network shows ...more
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