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Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,684 Ratings  ·  296 Reviews
The story of the world-famous monument and the extraordinary world's fair that introduced it, by the author of Conquering Gotham and Urban Forests

In this first general history of the Eiffel Tower in English, Jill Jonnes-acclaimed author of Conquering Gotham-offers an eye- opening look not only at the construction of one of the modern world's most iconic structures, but al
Paperback, 354 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published 2009)
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in the 19th century
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: Scott Henderson
I actually liked this one better than Devil in the White City.

I liked the part of Devil in the White City that was about the fair more than the part about the serial killer. And this one is almost entirely about the Exposition Universelle of 1889.

A large part of Eiffel's Tower (actually, a very large part, thinking about it) sets the time and place for us. And it was a very interesting time and place. Coverage I would describe as not superficial and the writing I found fairly engaging.

I would re
Jun 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. It's about the Eiffel Tower, afterall, and I LOVE the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, I can't finish this book (although I'm giving myself credit for finishing it because it feels like I've been reading it for an eternity).

The author's writing style is very jarring. She jumps from topic to topic without warning, leaving the reader thinking, "Wait a minute...we were just talking about the Eiffel Tower and now we are talking about Annie Oakley. Where was the
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another non-fiction book that reads like a novel - only you feel smarter when you have finished. The setting is the 1889 World's Fair to be held in Paris. A contest was introduced to bring a "grand monument" to the site that all would remember! Along with the story of Eiffel's design being chosen and then the multiple obstacles (money, elevators, completion dates, etc) there are multiple characters that play supporting roles including Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, Paul Gaugin, Whistler and more! ...more
Jason Pettus
May 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Regular readers know that I'm a big fan of all the "NPR-worthy" nonfiction books that are being published these days, manuscripts that take a quirky event from history to instead examine the entire culture of that time and place, in a way that's easy to read and always fascinating; but there's an inherent danger that comes with such books too, that in their zeal to churn out a volume with the exact same standards as all the rest of these types of books (300 pages plus footnotes? Check. Ridiculou ...more
Jennifer Ridgway
I was a little disappointed with the percentage of the book that is actually about the Eiffel Tower. There was a lot about Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Show and other side topics. The book alludes to the difficulty of the politics of the tower, the actual engineering of the tower, and the building/construction of the tower. The design of the elevators seemed like a side mention. The life of the tower since the World's Fair, too, could have been expanded. In short, I would have liked more about ...more
Nov 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gustave Eiffel is most remembered today for the iconic iron lattice tower he built as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Eiffel, of course, also built the interior framework of the Statue of Liberty. You probably know this, but not much else about the turn of the century engineering genius who designed complex structures (bridges, monuments, lighthouses) all around the world.

Eiffel had originally planned to build his tower in Barcelona. When his design for the 1888 Universal Exposition was re

4.5 (liked a lot)

This book was a well researched, richly informative and factually interesting story about the origins of the Eiffel Tower in the context of the Paris World Fair Exposition in 1889. The Eiffel Tower, designed by former railroad builder Gustave Eiffel, was a significant accomplishment both architecturally in that it eclipsed the Washington Monument in height and nationally in that the goal was for it to elevate France's image in the world after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian Wa
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-theme
This was a really interesting book about the building of the Eiffel tower and the 1889 World's Fair in Paris that it anchored. It followed Eiffel and the tower from its concept through its ultimate completion, and the difficulties along the way--including the widespread opposition of many Parisians toward what would ultimately become their quintessential symbol. The tower and the fair also attracted an amazing assortment of Gustave Eiffel's famous contemporaries, including: Thomas Edison; painte ...more
Ross Mclean
Mar 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of the amazing American contribution to the 1889 World's Fair. Americans were the most wonderful, ingenious, wealthy people at the time. The American Otis elevators were a key feature of the Eiffel Tower. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, American icons and the greatest entertainers of the time feature prominently, as do American newspaper magnates, the American genius Thomas Edison and numerous other American personalities. The 4th of July was a magnificent celebration at the Wor ...more
I thought this was going to be more interesting than it actually was. Having read "The Devil in the White City," maybe I was expecting more from a tale about a legendary World's Fair. Paris may not have had a serial killer, but it had drama and celebrity, no doubt. However, this telling of the events surrounding the World's Fair in Paris was a little dry.

The book focuses on several notorious personalities and events associated with the fair, including Eiffel and the controversy surrounding his b
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were a lot of interesting anecdotes and characters in this book, in fact the book seemed to be written as an excuse just to compile all these stories rather than make a specific point. I wish there had been more of an argument and more editing to keep it on point.
Timons Esaias
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
When we were going to Paris, a friend loaned this book to us. My wife read it on the trip, and I finally got my chance after our return. It is certainly entertaining, and I learned a great deal of historical detail I hadn't known before.

The title can be said to be slightly misleading, as the focus drifts off the tower itself after the first few chapters; but it's still the organizing icon. Only about a quarter of the text is about Eiffel and the Tower. It is really a discussion of the 1889 World
Katherine Enderle
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable narrative of the building of the tower and the people who went to see it. This book entertainingly provided a slice of late-19th century life in Paris, and will certainly make my experience at the *Tour en Fer* richer! I wonder if I'll get a certificate as an ascensionniste?!
Bob Schmitz
Pick this up in the airport in NY on the way to Spain and France. Easy read with lots of interwoven facts.

The organizers of the 1889 Paris world's fair wanted to build some towering monument to be the centerpiece of their exposition. Many structures were submitted including a giant guillotine but in the end Gustaf Eiffel's unique steel tower was chosen. Though Eiffel at this time was a famous bridge engineer and builder there was no precedent for building such a tower. There was much opposition.
The subject matter (the 1889 Exposition in Paris) and cover of this book seem designed to invite comparison with Erik Larsen's The Devil in the White City. This book is similar in that it weaves together a number of stories of various historical figures whose paths crossed in Paris on this particular summer (Eiffel and the challenge of constructing the tower, Gauguin, Whistler, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, etc.), but the structure is somewhat less determined by the subjects themsel ...more
Jun 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a fast read, but still very readable and incredibly interesting. I learned a great deal, especially about Eiffel and his tower, but Jonnes also covers so much else about the 1889 Paris World's Fair, from artists like Gaugin, van Gogh, and Whistler, to personalities like newspaperman James Gordon Bennett, entertainer Buffalo Bill Cody, and inventor Thomas Edison. Sometimes I felt like Jonnes' scope was just too broad--there was so much information; but then other times I was equally as gratef ...more
Laura Bang
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this, but this book has a serious problem with scope. A more accurate title would have been "Paris 1889: the Eiffel Tower, the World's Fair, and some other random stuff." I found everything interesting, it just didn't all belong in *this* book. There were at least a dozen people or groups of people to keep track of and Jonnes did not do a good job of transitioning between all these different characters. Some sections were incredibly short (so just as I remembered what I'd ...more
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story of the 1890 World's Fair in Paris. It was really four separate biographies that were weakly tied together - World's fair, Eiffel, Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin, and Thomas Edison. The best story to me was Eiffel - railroad engineer who was designing bridgers in the French Colonies. He made a lot of money with his company. He proposes this massive tower (three times larger than anything previously built). Since he is not an architect, he faces a lo ...more
Margaret Sankey
Vivid social history recreating the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, at which Gustav Eiffel unveiled his creation, the French showed off their exotic empire and attempted to demonstrate the stability of the Third Republic, Americans made cultural and political attempts to enter the arena of "Great Powers" and Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley charmed the crowned heads. And Paul Gauguin bought a cowboy hat
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. Some how the author has made the 1889 World's Fair in Paris boring. I mean you've got the building of the Eiffel Tower, French impressionists, Guy de Maupassant, Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Indians and Annie Oakley - I expected it to be a romp - but alas, it was not.
David Hirschler
A good book about the Eiffel Tower and the World's Fair for which it was built. I learned a lot about Gustave Eiffel and the other main characters surrounding the event near the end of the 19th century, such as Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, the Van Gogh brothers, and many other famous artists. The Eiffel Tower itself is an engineering marvel and I would like to see it some day.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: May 2013 Book Club
I wanted to like this more than I did. Perhaps I am biased by Erik Larsen' s Devil in the White house City (about the Chicago World's Fair), but I feel this one barely scratched the surface of many fascinating aspects (as listed in the subtitle). Overall, pretty informative and a nice introduction to this particular World's Fair for me.
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It works as a piece of skillful scholarship AND as the kind of book to take with you on an airplane journey. It never outstays its welcome, and it actually leaves you panting for a sequel. But like the Eiffel Tower itself, this book stands on its own merits, inimitable. Thoroughly enjoyable, and thoroughly recommended.

I enjoyed the first third of the book the most. It was all about the actual building of the Eiffel Tower. I didn't find the Buffalo Bill history or the painters as interesting (with the exception of Van Gogh), but with Jonnes' writing I felt completely immersed in the past.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting this book to be a bit more like Erik Larson's writing. However, there wasn't much of a typical "plot"; no conflict, climax, denouement. Really dry reading. Only a couple interesting historical snippets.
Susan Carpenter
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you read Devil in the White City and enjoyed it, you have to read Eiffel's Tower. Filled with hitory and historical characters it tells the building of Eiffel's Tower and the worlds fair it was constructed for.
Christa  Seeley
A bit slow and I often found myself bogged down with way too many details. But overall a very interesting book filled with tibits about the famous landmark.
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-book-list
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Enough historical tidbits to keep the old history major happy, enouch Paris to please the current Francophile. Well written, easy to read, recommended.
Tom Carrico
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Eiffel’s Tower
By Jill Jonnes

Reviewed by Tom Carrico

The Eiffel Tower is the international symbol for France, has tremendous popular appeal both as a vacation destination and as a backdrop for movies and is now revered as an engineering marvel. It is hard to comprehend that it started as a controversial structure, described by various contemporary Parisian artists and intellectuals as a monstrosity and a vulgar expression of excess. Jill Jonnes has written a captivating history of the origin of th
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today, the Eiffel Tower may be the most recognized landmark in the world, but few people know the history of the tower or of the brilliant iron and steel engineer who is its namesake, Gustave Eiffel. Jill Jonnes, who has already proved herself a dedicated and thorough researcher, gives us this detailed and fascinating portrait of Monsieur Eiffel and the many others who prepared, produced, and performed for the phenomenon that was the 1889 World Exposition in Paris. First of all, the Eiffel and h ...more
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