alagasianflame's review against another edition

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adventurous dark informative inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.0

As one who was more interested in H. H. Holmes than architecture history, let me say the high rating is largely due to the fact that Larson manages to make committees and ledgers equally as fascinating as a man who built his own murder castle without anyone noticing. This is accomplished by the extensive backgrounds Larson lays out for practically every major player involved in the designing and building of the Fair. At the beginning, these winding expositions seem extraneous and, at times I’ll admit, perhaps even a little dull, but they serve as a foundation upon which is built the later trials and tribulations of the Fair’s designers, much of which was apparently caused by interpersonal strife and not, necessarily, pure financial or physical deterrents. By turning flat facts into tragic or triumphant events in the personal lives of the men (and occasional woman) involved, they come alive and make this tale something more engaging than a dusty history text book.

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amsswim's review against another edition

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dark informative mysterious reflective sad medium-paced

5.0

I'm so glad I finally read this, it has been on my TBR for years now.

I am already a big fan of non-fiction literature and historical reads, this combines the best of them both. This non-fiction book read like fiction in my opinion, making it quick to go by. The many intertwining stories were not difficult to keep track of and all interesting. This is for sure one of those reads that leaves you with a greater understanding of the time period (e.g. 1890s) as a whole, and puts into context the overlap of inventions, important figures, and other legendary events.

If you like historical fiction or non-fiction, true crime, or well written books, I recommend this read.

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pbender's review against another edition

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dark informative reflective slow-paced

4.5


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wheelygoodreads's review against another edition

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challenging dark sad slow-paced

1.75

I almost put this book down multiple times, as it's very slow to get going, and even then only half of the story, the serial killer portion, was really keeping me engaged. 

Many parts seemed to drag on, no helped by the formatting—this book really could have used shorter chapters, rather than longer sections. Getting through this felt like work.

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sshabein's review against another edition

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3.0

This is basically a book about the Chicago World's Fair with a longform essay about a serial killer smooshed between chapters. Both have some interesting moments, but the writing is also a bit overwrought and speculative for my tastes in nonfiction. There are some assumptions about different people's mannerisms and inner thoughts that he could not possibly know, most of which do not add anything substantial to the narrative. The overall effect is just an ok book. I learned a few things.

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nichola's review against another edition

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4.75

I am constantly astonished by the skill required to write good and engaging Nonfiction.

If you want to read a book about H H Holmes and true crime this is not for you. This is not the Biography of America's first serial killer. This is a brilliant snapshot (the origins of the word which I learnt from this book) of the history of America and in specific Chicago during a stunning period in history where men could do all things. And yes I say men, specifically. Also, I mean this with all the good and the bad clumped together.

This book stunned me in the best way. I feel like I have been immersed in a time and place and absorbed the world's magic and terror.

This book feels like an incredible explanation for why America is the way it is.

If you like Susan Orlean and her craft for recreating a moment in time on a page this is definitely a brilliant choice of reading material.

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headachesince03's review against another edition

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adventurous dark informative inspiring mysterious tense slow-paced

4.5


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askxtine's review against another edition

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dark informative sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No

5.0

Very enjoyable non-fiction book! I liked how it bounced from the architects to Holmes. Those under watchful eyes and those operating in private. I also learned a lot about the Fair, America, etc. Lots of moments of surprise. 

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beccabookworm's review against another edition

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I was assigned this for school and was really enjoying (the H. H. Holmes parts more than the architecture of the World Fair parts), but I had to return it to the library, so I never got to finish it. 

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renbot's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional funny informative mysterious slow-paced

4.5

An incredible journey where you truly care for the victories and failures of all of the characters

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