Coming in late once again – November is proving to be a deeply unreasonable month, work-wise. What with that and the advent of Lockdown 2: Lockdowner, my concentration has been scattered about thirty directions at once. However, it’s getting to the time of year where all I really want to do is curl up with an enormous Victorian novel and drink hot chocolate, which got me to thinking about the last enormous Victorian novel I read – Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. I loved it when I first read it a couple of years ago, and it’s a book I’ve thought about often since I finished it. The Way We Live Now is loosely inspired by the financial scandals and dodgy investments that happened in the US in the 1870s, especially in relation to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Because I am a tremendous nerd, I like books about the history of trains, and The Way We Live Now included just enough titbits to pique my interest. I’d like to get a glimpse of the real story that inspired Trollope’s brilliant novel. After a bit of reading up on the topic, I’ve decided on Empire Express: Building the first Transcontinental Railroad by David Howard Bain. It sounds like, of all the books exploring this time period, this one does the best job of balancing detail on construction with the political and financial shenanigans that were going on behind the scenes.
I’m also open to books about the Panic of 1873, which corresponded to the building of these railways and seems to have been caused partly by the associated corruption, but I can’t find any which have a single positive review, so if you have any suggestions I’m all ears!
This is such an unusual topic but I love it!
Thanks! It’s always one of my favourite weeks of the month, so even though I was late and my post was short, I didn’t want to miss out completely!
Oh please, don’t worry. So happy you’re participating!
What about Rival Rails: The Race to Build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad
by Walter R. Borneman?
I also found Jay Cooke’s Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873 by M. John Lubetkin.
Ooh, thank you! Great suggestions.
>November is proving to be a deeply unreasonable month
I think you could have stopped that sentence right there…
The transcontinental railroad strikes me as one of those subjects that I didn’t know I wanted to know more about, which is the thing I love most about Nonfiction November!
Yes, I probably could have stopped the sentence there! A ridiculous month for all of us, wherever in the world we are and whatever else was going on.
Very good! Anything with Trollope is good, but this is very good.
Thank you! I’m just at the start of exploring Trollope’s body of work, but I absolutely loved both The Way We Live Now and Miss Mackenzie, so I’m looking forward to reading more of his work going forward.
Empire Express does sound fascinating, so I’m sorry to hear it doesn’t get reviewed well! Unfortunately, this isn’t a topic I’ve read anything on, so I don’t have any other suggestions.
Oh, Empire Express had some good reviews – it was specifically the financial aspects that I couldn’t find good books on. But Melanie gave me some suggestions in her comment that I might try 🙂