The Devil and the White City
by Erik Larson
The book is non-fiction and tells of the vision, brilliance and underdog tenacity that it took to bring about the Chicago World's Fair, and the serial killer who haunted its streets.
I did not think I would like this book but I loved it! It did exactly what I think history books should do: plunk you down in the middle of the noisy smoky street in Chicago in the late 1890s, next to David Burnham (the main architect for the World's Fair) as he asks you the time. In other words, history books should be a TARDIS.
It gives you all the sights, smells, and textures of the world and the sighs, tears, chuckles and fury of its players. The reader becomes as familiar with them as with their hometown and its denizens. Sometimes this goes a little far, often putting the reader alone in a room with the serial killer as he revels in his kill, which teeters on the realm of historical fiction, but the author acknowledges those moments in the back of the book, and cites the sources by which he reconstructed the scene.
The book is an tantalizing juxtaposition of the hope and struggle of Burnham and the Chicago people to create the forefather of Disneyland, and the cold and seductive machinations of H.H. Holmes, the man who used the fair as bait.
I recommend it even if you don't like non-fiction. It is, in fact, a non-fiction gateway drug.
If you liked this, you may like:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters