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review 2016-01-10 17:55
The Devil in the White City
Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, And Madness at the Fair That Changed America - Erik Larson

Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed reading this book and it did hold my interest all the way through. But if a person, who never has read a non-fiction book before in his entire life wants to try this genre out, would ask me, if this is the book he should read, I would say no. There are other non-fiction-books out there that I enjoyed more and there is one flaw that annoyed me while reading this book.


Larson tells two stories at once, the first one being the story of Daniel Burnham and his pursuit to create the World´s Columbian Expostion in Chicago in the shortest amount of time. In these chapters the main focus heavily lies on topics as architecture, landscaping, economics and the overall problems, that have occured throughout the making of the fair. That may sound like a dry read, but I enjoyed these chapters, because they gave me a glimpse of life in America in the 1890s.

The second story that Larson is telling is the story about H.H. Holmes. Holmes has been one of Americas known first serial killers, who supposedly has killed about 200 people during the world fair in his elaborate hotel, which he purely has designed to kill people and make them disappear. And I have to admit, Holmes scared the living daylights out of me, merely by being present on the pages. A serial killer, who almost can do as he likes, who is capable of talking his way out of everything and victims, who simply vanishes from the face of the earth, never to be seen again ... Yes, I would have preferred a book with its main focus being solely on Holmes and his wrongdoings.


And that is my gripe with this book. These two stories barely have a connection with each other. As a matter of fact the only connection is the World fair and the time Holmes has choosen for his killing spree. Holmes killings doesn´t have an impact on the world fairs outcome or success and this book actually read like to separate narratives combined in one book. Each story for itself is interesting, but they suffer when told in juxtaposition. This doesn´t turn Larsons story into a bad book, but it kept me from liking it more than I did.


And just to give you a general sense of Holmes and his creepy thinking, a quote by Holmes himself:


I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.




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text 2016-01-05 06:18
Reading progress update: I've read 26%.
Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, And Madness at the Fair That Changed America - Erik Larson

This inventor, who gave his initials as R.T.E, envisioned a tower four thousand feet tall from which he proposed to hang a two-thousand-foot cable of "best rubber". Attached at the bottom end of this cable would be a car seating two hundred people. The car and its passengers would be shoved off a platform and fall without restraints to the end of the cable, where the car would snap back upward and continue bouncing until it came to a stop.The engineer urged that as  a precaution the ground "be covered with eight feet of feather bedding".


It´s 1891 and someone has come up with the concept of bungee jumping - okay, fatal bungee. But still, this is just brilliant.

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review 2015-12-03 20:36
In the Heart of the Sea
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick

Herman Melville got inspired by this story to write his novel "Moby Dick" and it is truly a remarkable tale. In the Heart of the Sea tells the true story of the whaleship Essex that has been sunk by a sperm whale in the middle of the pacific and its crew being shipwrecked in the aftermath of this attack.


I love good written non-fiction. Real life sometimes comes up with the most exceptional stories and I really like the additional tidbits of informations that the authors of non-fiction books are giving to the readers. As for this book I learned quite a bit about Nantucket and its whale hunting business, the effect this business and the seafaring men had on the ecosystems all around the world and what dehydration and especially severe starvation would do to a human being.

But be warned, this is not a light read. There are some really gutwrenching scenes in this book and I had to take a deep breath more than once while reading it. It´s due to the top-notch writing and the intensity of this narrative that I couldn´t put it down, even though it sometimes was hard to bear reading about the hardship the Essex crew had to endure.

But overall I can highly recommend it and if you want to read a brilliant piece of non-fiction you should pick up a copy of "In the Heart of the Sea".


A bit of advice: should you consider to watch the movie, be aware that they have changed a lot of the story up to the point where the real story of the Essex is barely recognisable. The strenght of the book doesn´t lie in the attack by the whale but in the things that are happening after the whale attack, being stuck on small boats for about three months almost without any kind of food. And they certainly changed a lot regarding the whale and its doings. I haven´t been entirely happy with all the changes they have made.

Putting that aside and looking objectively on the movie it´s a great piece of cinema with some stunning cinematography. But don´t expect it to be the true story. Then you are going to enjoy the movie as a good piece of entertainment. And FYI, Chris Hemsworth still looks dashing after three months of starvation ;).   






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text 2015-11-29 19:22
Reading progress update: I've read 58%.
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick

Take my advice: Do not eat anything while reading this book. I have made this mistake twice and it kind of ruined my appetite.

Despite the gut wrenching details, "In the Heart of the Sea" is how a piece of non-fiction is supposed to be. Gripping, brilliant and devastating.

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review 2015-10-01 15:57
Into the Wild
Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer

Whew, I did it. I finished this book and it feels like it took me ages to finish these 200 pages (ultimately it took me eight days to finish it).


It´s the story about Christopher McCandless who has gone into the Alaskan wild "to live of the land" and died four months later of starvation. So the story of Chris McCandless is a sad one but I just couldn´t feel sad for him. I´ve got the impression that McCandless has been a selfish and arrogant person, who thought that he could go into the wilderness without any preparations whatsoever and that he could survive by merely killing some game and eating a few berries.

Krakauer tries his best to explain the reasoning behind McCandless´ actions and he is clearly of the opionion, that McCandless isn´t a nutjob who didn´t know what he was doing. I have to give him credit for that. But I still think that McCandless had a slight streak of madness about him (the fact that he calls himself Alex Supertramp on his journey didn´t help me change my mind about his mental state).


I´m not going as far to say that this book is bad but I just couldn´t relate to McCandless at all which probably made it that tough a read for me. And now I´m just glad that I finished it.






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