The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (2003)

devilwhitecityErik Larson takes an unusual approach in The Devil in the White City and ends up telling a tale of two men who played a role in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago in this classic true crime book. Architect Daniel H. Burnham’s story focuses on the building of the impossible, creating an extravaganza in spite of time, budget, personnel, and weather constraints. It was the showcase of technology that ushered in the 20th century and still has remnants in Chicago to this day. On the other hand, serial killer Herman Mudgett’s story is filled with terror and gruesome details of the killings that went on in the background of the wonder of the World’s Fair.

Larson masterfully balances the sick cruelty of Mudgett with the financial and architectural details of the creation of the fair along with interesting tidbits of Chicago history to tell the story. Just when the reader cannot take the unspeakable horrors any longer, he changes gears to the most minuscule detail of the fair planning or statistics of attendance. It doesn’t create confusion, but rather makes the reading bearable. And it is a story that needs to be read.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin (2015)

knight7kingdomsNeed something to fulfill your Martin fix while waiting on The Winds of Winter?

Try George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms! While it is grim like all of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, it has a more lighthearted feel to it than the main series. It’s a compilation of three short stories that take place 90 years before the events in A Game of Thrones. They follow the adventures of Dunk and Egg as they traipse their way across the Seven Kingdoms, finding lords that require their services in exchange for money and housing.

Vanished Smile: the Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti (2009)

vanishedsmileOn August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. R. A. Scotti’s Vanished Smile is a fascinating book about the investigation, leads, and suspects. Pablo Picasso’s apartment was even searched. The history of the Mona Lisa from when Leonardo painted it to when it arrived at the Louvre is intriguing. The painting was finally recovered in 1913. Did the thief act alone or was there a conspiracy?

In December 1962, through the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy, the Mona Lisa left the Louvre for the second time and was exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Now France has a law forbidding her from leaving the country.

If you are interested in reading similar books, see True Crime: Lost and Stolen Art.

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age by Renee Rosen (2014)

whattheladywantsIn this historical novel (and great Chicago book), Renee Rosen tells a fictionalized story about Marshall Field from the perspective of his mistress Delia Spencer. What the Lady Wants includes some history of the late nineteenth century, including the Great Chicago Fire and the World’s Fair, plus shows how people lived at that time.

Do you enjoy fictionalized history? Check out other Novels Based on Real People.

The Road to Character by David Brooks (2015)

roadtocharacterDavid Brooks uses the case method to illustrate how character is achieved, but helps the reader in prologue by contrasting resume from eulogy values as well as citing Genesis for the two characters of Adam flowing from the creation. A wide variety of individuals from Frances Perkins to Dwight Eisenhower and St. Augustine to Dorothy Day are examined to show how their characters grew over the course of their days. The Road to Character shows how one may choose virtues such as honesty, loyalty, courage, and faithfulness over wealth, fame, pride, and status.

Check out a Sunday Book Review from The New York Times.

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (2016)

missbridgertonWith her trademark humor and snappy dialogue, Julia Quinn introduces readers to a new generation of Bridgertons–and launches a new series with Because of Miss Bridgerton. Neighbors Billie Bridgerton and George Rokesby have bickered their entire lives. But when Billie needs rescuing after her impulsive actions land her on the roof of an abandoned farmhouse, something changes… You’ll relish the journey in this sparkling, delightful historical romance.

Curious about those other Bridgertons? We own (in print and ebook) the witty novels featuring each of the eight siblings.

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns (2015)

fatbobI’ve read other suspense novels by Stephen Dobyns, but Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? was quite a surprise. This is a comic caper novel with a good deal in common with Elmore Leonard or even a Coen Brothers movie. Connor Raposo, a young man at loose ends, finds himself involved in a shady phone scam in New London, Connecticut. A motorcycle gang, bumbling detectives, and Elvis lookalike in witness protection combine for a funny romp.

Panda Cam: A Nation Watches Tai Shan the Panda Cub Grow (2006)

pandacamEnjoy close-up photos and read about Tai Shan, an adorable giant panda at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., from birth through seven months. Watch him grow from a blind, nearly hairless, helpless newborn into a black and white furred, curious, growing young panda. This short book with cute captions will delight adults and children alike. Some of the highlights of Panda Cam include interacting with his mother, rock climbing, and experiencing snow for the first time.

Tai Shan (peaceful mountain) was the first baby panda born at the zoo since efforts began in 1972 after President Nixon’s trip to China. The photos in this book are selections from a webcam set up in the Giant Panda Habitat to continually capture and monitor Tai Shan’s progress.

Tai Shan turned ten in July 2015. Watch his birthday celebration and other videos on youtube.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer (2016)

girlinredcoatA mother and daughter are separated at a crowded fair and suddenly 8-year-old Carmel vanishes.  Kate Hamer’s book alternates perspectives between Carmel and her mother, Beth. The Girl in the Red Coat captures the heart wrenching effects of such a tragedy from both Carmel and Beth’s perspectives.  This book is suspenseful, deeply emotional, and very engrossing – twists and turns in the plot kept me riveted until the end.  If you have anything else to do, don’t start this book as you won’t be able to put it down until it is finished.