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

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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  527,465 ratings  ·  32,965 reviews
Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 447 pages
Published February 11th 2003 by Crown Publishers (first published 2003)
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Lita I agree with Jan. An older teen may be prepared for the material in this book, but the book describes some sordid details on murders and the selling a…moreI agree with Jan. An older teen may be prepared for the material in this book, but the book describes some sordid details on murders and the selling and disposal of bodies. Fourteen is probably young for this material. In addition, the author's approach to writing the book, interspersing parallel threads of narrative for multiple principal characters, may tax the attention of a young teen. I suspect that some adults might tire of the constantly shifting narratives. (less)
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Madeline
Poor Erik Larson.

He wanted to write an extensive, in-depth look at the 1893 World's Fair, which was a collaboration of some of the greatest creative minds in the country (including the guy who designed the Flatiron building in New York and Walt Disney's dad) and gave us, among other things, the Ferris Wheel, the zipper, shredded wheat, and Columbus Day. The entire venture was almost a disaster, with delays, petty fighting, bad weather, and more delays, but it was ultimately a massive success and
...more
Jason
Jul 28, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is two, two, two books in one!

Sorry, that was annoying. But it’s almost as if Erik Larson wrote two really short books—one about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and another about the murder spree of Dr. H. H. Holmes—and then shoved them together to create a single story. The result isn’t bad, and I think Larson is successful at maintaining clean seams between the two narratives, but it’s hard to argue these two occurrences are anything but abstractedly related. Yes, Holmes lived
...more
Regan
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5

FASCINATING!
Miranda Reads
description

CLICK HERE for a Booktube Video about:

Ten Fabulous Book Reviews and One That Will Make You Go - doesn't that belong to Miranda Reads?

Now that you know this one made the list check the video review to see the rest (and find the stolen surprise)!
The Written Review

Overwhelmingly underwhelming

1893 was a year to remember - the World's Fair came to Chicago and H. H. Holmes (one of America's most famous serial killers) took full advantage. He stalked the streets and murdered whomever he pleased.
...more
Seth T.
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, really
Humour me and please allow the channeling an eighth grader for just a moment. OMG Squeee!!1 Teh best!! (Would an eighth grader say "teh best"?) And now we return you to our regularly scheduled review.

I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction. Scratch that. I'm a huge fan of non-fiction, but not so huge a fan of reading non-fiction. While I appreciate learning and broadening my understanding of the world around and as it once was, I find myself pretty quickly distracted from whatever non-fictional work I
...more
Danielle
So, no offense to those that liked this book, but I'm throwing in the towel after 75 pages. It's just not holding my interest. Part of the reason for this is that Larson's writing style is way too speculative for my taste in non-fiction. I just finished reading the Path Between Seas by David McCullough, and he does such an amazing job of making complicated, historical events interesting, without fabricating scenes that "could have" happened. Even that wouldn't have bothered me that much if Lars ...more
Henry Avila
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The White City rises above the lake like a fantasy from another time that never existed but the eyes do not deceive this image is real, bright lights glow at night and millions of respectful , quiet, mesmerized people look and walk by, the moon shines and reflects on the gigantic white buildings and glittering waters, magic drapes all...The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 arguably the greatest one in history, the citizens of this metropolis the second city of the nation need to show everyone that t ...more
Jim Fonseca
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
A fascinating book and an easy read. Chapter by chapter, in simple chronological order, the author juxtaposes preparations for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with the doings of one of the country’s first serial murders.

From the Fair’s chapters we learned how Chicago’s boosterism won it the fair from other competitors including Washington and New York. Construction was last-minute and in panic mode, but it got done. There’s a lot about Frederick Law Olmstead who was in charge of park design but h
...more
David - proud Gleeman in Branwen's adventuring party
For me, reviewing this book is similar to trying to review any Nicolas Cage movie from the past 20 years, in that if I was asked if Cage's over-the-top performance was the best thing or the worst thing about the movie, I could only answer...
"Yes!"

(Pictured - one of Nicolas Cage's more subdued performances; Not pictured - sanity)

If you were to ask me my favorite thing about this book, I would immediately answer, "Erik Larson's writing style!"

This book is mostly talked about for the portions pert
...more
Lobstergirl
Larson could be the worst nonfiction writer working in America today. When he notes that "[Frederick Law] Olmsted was no literary stylist. Sentences wandered through the report like morning glory through the pickets of a fence" he might as well be describing himself. It's painful to make your way through his books. The melodrama is over the top. He'll go on for several pages about some unnamed person, attempting to heighten the "mystery," and anyone who graduated second grade will quickly realiz ...more
jessica
in 1893, chicago took the world by storm when it hosted the world fair and created the marvel that was ‘the white city.’ and the man behind it all was architect, daniel burnham. not far down the street from the fair grounds, there was another man by the name of dr. henry holmes who took advantage of those visiting the city by luring women to his hotel and killing them. he is considered americas first serial killer.

so what do these two men have in common? other than being in the same city at the
...more
James
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Heard the one about the architect and the serial killer? It's not a bad joke, but it is a great book. The architect was Daniel Burnham, the driving force behind the Chicago World's Fair of 1893; the killer was H.H. Holmes, a Svengali-type figure who lured young women to his hotel and did the most gruesome things, the least shocking of which was murder. The two men never met, but The Devil in the White City brings their stories together, and although it reads like a novel, everything is thoroughl ...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent
I was genuinely excited to get back into this story every time I picked it up. At times, this jumble of factual events felt like a tale I would contrive while wandering aimlessly around Wikipedia (even though Erik Larson says he did not get information from the internet because, apparently all, data found on the internet is questionable).

Most of the dramatic facts this book will tell you show up near the top of the internet, and many are proclaimed at a bars when someone lets everyone know wher
...more
Carol
This is really a great read filled with meticulously researched historical facts and notable people of the time. Even Helen Keller made an appearance at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair! Alternating chapters educate the reader about the enormous undertaking and time constraints of building "The White City" combined with the daily bloodthirsty activities of serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett aka Dr. H. H. Holmes.

Reading about B. H. Burnham's construction of the fair during a time of deadly disease

...more
Dem
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Extremely well written and researched, unsettling, entertaining, educational and fascinating are all words that come to mind on finishing Eric Larson's book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was a remarkable achievement for the city of Chicago and it's architect Daniel H. Burnham and while the city was celebrating and enjoying this new wonder of the world, another man by the name of H.H. Holmes, a handsome and
...more
Mizuki
Pre-review:

“I was born with the devil in me,' [Holmes] wrote. 'I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.”


Damn, it is exactly my type of thing! *jumps to read*


(Link: https://giphy.com/gifs/ursula-lecture...)

Actual review starts here:

Note: Buddy-read with DayDreamer .

Rating: one of the best books in my 2017 reading list' 20 sparkling stars: when you open this book, please be ready for the unimaginable from both the good and the ev
...more
Erin
I have been meaning to read this book since it was published and I finally got around to it 15 years later.

The Devil in the White City combines two of my favorite subjects Serial Killers & Victorian America. I've read a lot of other reviews for this book and people seem to really hate the fact that this book isn't just about H.H.Holmes. A lot of the reviewers apparently never read the back of the book or they would have known that its a split biography. The Devil in the White City is obviously
...more
Jaidee
3 "fascinating but somehow lacking" stars !

2015 Most Average of Average Award

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. This was history made accessible but almost too accessible and readable to the detriment of depth and perhaps some additional analysis.

This is a book that ties together (rather loosely) the development and execution of the Chicago World Fair in the 1890s and a sociopathic doctor serial-killer. The stories were not treated equally and at times the emphasis on the des
...more
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristy
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Ohhhh, this book is creeeeeepy and all-true!!! Being from Chicago I was in an awful thrall the entire time. The only thing that was missing for me would have been some kind of map to show where exactly the Fair was located, and all the other buildings he talks about... I think the fair was probably located roughly on what the Museum Campus is now, but I still would like to see a map.

And the people! Burnham and Root and Atwood... and Carter Henry Harrison! It says his mansion was on Ashland, I'm
...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
The Devil in The White City is a fascinating study of the genius of two men and how they applied that genius. At first I was worried that the book would be too gory but most of the details are left to the imagination.

However, the Fair is what captivated me. How these men managed to build such beauty and excitement with limited time, funds and a less than favorable location, is amazing. I live in Milwaukee, about a hour and a half from Chicago and I know this area well, that brought it home to me
...more
Carol
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history lesson!!

This book captured my attention from page 1. I enjoyed reading about many of the influential people who made this great nation what it is today. I learned so much more than when I was a student. On the flip side, I was horrified by the murders committed by Holmes and how much of an evil character he was.
Jason Koivu
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Devil in the White City is one of those enticing little books in which you know what you're going to get, yet you read it anyway, and it delivers all the salacious excitement you desired...you filthy degenerate, you!

Amid of all the magnificence and enchantment of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair...

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...a doctor lured countless victims from the 27 million people who attended the fair into his "Murder Castle." His evasive trail is followed and his horrid deeds recorded, all intertwined with the oft
...more
Matt
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Matt by: Rae
Shelves: audiobook
Always one to enjoy a little true crime, I had this book highly recommended to me by a very close friend. Erik Larson explores not only the electric sentiment surrounding the World’s Fair in Chicago, but also a sinister character hiding in the shadows, piling up a number of bodies while no one took much notice. The year is 1890 and Chicago is vying to win the right to host the World’s Fair. Set to take place in 1893, the fair has been promised to the United States, allowing a proper quadricenten ...more
Bradley
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who might question why I might give this a four-star rating rather than the six-star rating that its research deserves, it's because it's mostly a ton of facts, interesting or otherwise, and not quite the kind of coherent narrative a person might expect as a regular novel.

That being said, it's really a fun and easy read that explores so much of what made the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 a real eye opener and imagination-sparker for pretty much all of America.

As a side-note, or perhaps
...more
Maxwell
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a pretty famous book, but not one that's particularly been on my radar. But I was listening to my favorite podcast as of late, Lore, and there was an episode about this story, of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and H. H. Holmes the murderer who used the venue to lure in vulnerable victims. It fascinated me, and it reminded me of this book I'd heard of. So I checked it out, and I'm SO glad I did. This is definitely one of my favorite reads of 2015.

Now I know this book won't be for everyone.
...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page Turning phenomenal!

I took notes on my iphone to remind myself of 'gems' to 'share/write' about -- but there are 'at least' 2,000 'already' wonderful reviews --WELL DESERVING-- about this amazing TRUE STORY --I've not much more to add.

The building of the Worlds Fair was fascinating ---(all the details -and the challenges were incredible, engaging-interesting, and exquisite!

'Holmes' --(the killer), was just CREEPY!!!

FASTASTIC STORYTELLING!!!!
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erik Larson is an amazing historical writer -- one of those rare breed who can bring the past to life and make it seem immediate, fresh, intimate and amazing. The book is based on fact, but it reads like the best of novels, going back and forth between the team racing to put together the most important peacetime event in U.S. history, and a psychopathic murderer who is stalking the city at the same time, preying on young women with a cold efficiency that makes Jack the Ripper look like (excuse t ...more
Glenn Sumi
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My expectations were high for this book of popular history, but I wasn't disappointed.

The Devil In The White City is an entertaining and informative look at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, which despite many obstacles – lack of time and money, natural disasters, a bad economy, pressure to top Paris’s fair, which introduced the iconic Eiffel Tower – got completed and proceeded to make international headlines and change the country.

Larson tells the stories of two self-made obsessives: Daniel Burnham,
...more
J.L.   Sutton
Oreos deep fried in pancake batter…Erik Larson’s writing, like novelty food updated from the Chicago World’s Fair (Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum) sparkles with new tastes and delights. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed the World features intertwining stories of the creation of the world’s fair and the serial killer H.H. Holmes. Of particular interest is how the fair shows the changing character of America at the turn of t ...more
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61,435 followers
Erik Larson’s latest work of narrative nonfiction is DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA, which became an immediate New York Times bestseller. His saga of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing, and lingered on various NYT best-seller lists for the better part of a decade. Hu ...more

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Twists, turns, and whodunits. We pride ourselves on recommending some great mysteries and thrillers here at the Goodreads office. So, we decided...
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“It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very easy in the smoke and din to mask that something dark had taken root. This was Chicago, on the eve of the greatest fair in history.” 74 likes
“I must confess a shameful secret: I love Chicago best in the cold.” 63 likes
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