I’m pretty sure that if Erik Larson had written my history books in junior high that history would have been my favorite subject. In fact, I think it would be great if students would be asked to read books by Erik Larson in the classroom. Students could read the book and then he could come to talk to the students about how he does his research and his “process” for writing his books.
I recently read the book “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America“, by Erik Larson. The story revolves around the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and a serial killer who was active at the time of the fair.
If you’ve never read a book by Erik Larson, I highly suggest it. The writing is such that you do not realize that you’re reading real-life accounts of history until you notice the careful grammar that Larson uses. Quotations are used when something was found through the research that could be quoted. I cannot imagine and can only appreciate the quantity of time in the research that must go into the books that Larson writes.
The writing compels the reader to want to learn more. Are there still world’s fairs today? (Answer: yes) Is Pabst Blue Ribbon any good? (Answer: I like my beer to taste like chocolate or coffee …) Does Irvington Indianapolis still exist? (Answer: Yes, and my in-laws live there.) Actually, Irvington has a haunted celebration every Halloween and I’m wondering if the end of the book makes a special appearance in the lore behind Haunted Irvington. I need to do some research in this area.
This book inevitably leaves the reader asking questions of a philosophical nature. What does it mean for Chicago to be the “white city”? What does it mean to contrast the great achievements of people with the horrific acts of one man? Is one a natural consequence of the other?
Do you enjoy reading non-fiction history books? If so, what books do you suggest? If not, I encourage you to give Larson a try.