I just finished the book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. A historical biography that reads like a novel, I learned much from this book.
Taking place in Chicago during the preparations for the 1893 World's Fair, the main driving plot of the book surrounds the lives of two men at the time; Daniel Burnham, the leading architect that designed and brought about the success of the fair upholding the pride of Chicago (then just an ambitious hog-butchering town), and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer whose criminal compulsions the bustle of the fair masked.
Featuring such famous characters as Frederick Olmsted (the landscape architect known for New York's Central Park), Buffalo Bill, Frank Lloyd Wright, and George W. Ferris (the man that out-Eiffeled Eiffel and his famous tower), the story proceeds from the initial days when Chicago first put out its bid for the honor of hosting the fair, through the struggles of the leading architects to work together, maintain the integrity of the fair, and prove to the world that Chicago was as deserving as it had boasted, to the opening ceremonies, to the final days of each of the fair's designers.
Throughout this enchanting and intricate telling of the process which brought about such an amazing event, the author alternated the story of the serial killer who was able to get away with the murder and exploitation of so many people that crossed his path at a time when the world had not yet come to terms with the rampage of Jack the Ripper, and the Chicago police department couldn't handle the constant stream of missing persons in the area.
At the beginning, it was the gruesome story of H.H. Holmes that made the book so compelling, but at the end, it was the architect's tale that I appreciated. Reading the book with a map of Chicago tucked in my purse, I was able to appreciate and visualize Jackson Park, the wooded island, 63rd street, and even buildings like the Rookery and the Reliance Building which made me miss and appreciate the history of Chicago even more.
Now only one more book in my stack of Christmas books to read!