Book Club: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


On #NationalWineDay, 7 of us in the Young Professionals group met to discuss our second book club selection (The Devil in the White City) – over wine and PBR (incorporating a little bit of the theme πŸ™‚ ).

Even before we officially met, there were some consistent thoughts about our chosen book – details, names, murder: an abundance of all in the 447 pages….. Although there was detail galore, we agreed that it did not paint as big of a picture of how magnanimous the fair really was. We ended up looking up photos to give us a better idea of what this looked like.

Something else we discussed was what would the World’s Fair look like today? They have been called expos in most recent years but the magic and prestige have not been there. One of us made the comparison of the Olympics and how it may be dwindling in interest and spectacle that it may have the same fate as the World Fair/Expo. In my opinion, I feel that there needs to be some gathering of the many cultures of the world that is not United Nations – I have no idea what that is, but I don’t want us to lose that celebratory part of our world.

We all appreciated how so many people and ideas came from this World Fair, that this was the common thread through so many that will be famous in our history. The most impressive one was Ferris for the Ferris Wheel. What a cool contribution to the world like the Eiffel Tower from the Paris World Fair and the Space Needle if Seattle. I found myself smiling every time a hint of a famous person or idea was brought up, so brief in the excess of detail.

My personal favorite/most thought provoking quotes:

“And what good was an adventure if it did not feel a little dangerous?”

“The possession he craved was a transient thing, like the fresh scent of a fresh-cut hyacinth. Once it was gone, only another acquisition could restore it”

“Better to have it vanish suddenly, in a blaze of glory, than fall into gradual disrepair”

So as we continue to meet and discuss books from all kinds of genres, we are also taking note of what we can do better to make the most of our experience.

Book Club Lessons learned:

  • Making a decision is not our strong suit! We decided to plan out the rest of the summer now so we don’t spend a third of book club picking the next book. Also, it gives us a chance to see what formats we can get our hands on in time: library, bookstore, yard sale, kindle, etc. We did not want to plan too far ahead as new books are always popping up!
  • Silent Book Club… or a time we all carve out time to read and keep each other accountable. I came across this idea and thought it was a cool way to share in the book club experience. I would love to do this even if we weren’t reading the same book. We have a trendy wine bar in town that would be perfect or even a lodge-type hotel with rustic furniture, high ceilings, and a beautiful view of the lake and forest.
  • Themed meals and/or event. Seeing how this book had so many classics of Americana that were developed during The World Fair, we thought too late that we could’ve had those food snacks available: Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, PBR! So with the next few, we are going to be conscious of what can be incorporated from the novel into our meeting!

Here’s to our next book club selection, A Better Man by Leah McLaren – be prepared for a pre-4th of July book event!

devil final

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