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Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center
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Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  218 Ratings  ·  27 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?
Paperback, 560 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2003)
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Elizabeth Milnarik
Jun 25, 2008 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 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Okrent spins a killer yarn out of the story of Rockefeller Center.
Chris Haak
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I normally read much, much faster than I read this book, and the going was kind of a slog for much of the book, I did find it to be very well written, not kitschy or overly fawning - but sometimes I found that I just didn't care enough about the topic or the characters to really, REALLY get into the story.

Once the buildings were constructed, I found the story of how the sales team sold the available inventory during the depression and the story of the opening night performance at Radio Ci
Nov 08, 2009 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
Frank Stein
Jun 25, 2009 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
Jan 29, 2008 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.

Sep 08, 2015 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.
Sep 02, 2012 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 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.
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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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