Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: "Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations" by Charlene Mires

Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations Charlene Mires
Published: March 4, 2013
ISBN-10: 0814707947
Genre: History
Source: TLC Book Tours

Recommended for readers looking for history about the United Nations

Summary (from Amazon.com):
From 1944 to 1946, as the world pivoted from the Second World War to an unsteady peace, Americans in more than two hundred cities and towns mobilized to chase an implausible dream. The newly-created United Nations needed a meeting place, a central place for global diplomacy—a Capital of the World. But what would it look like, and where would it be? Without invitation, civic boosters in every region of the United States leapt at the prospect of transforming their hometowns into the Capital of the World. The idea stirred in big cities—Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans, Denver, and more. It fired imaginations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and in small towns from coast to coast.

Meanwhile, within the United Nations the search for a headquarters site became a debacle that threatened to undermine the organization in its earliest days. At times it seemed the world’s diplomats could agree on only one thing: under no circumstances did they want the United Nations to be based in New York. And for its part, New York worked mightily just to stay in the race it would eventually win.

My Thoughts:
When it comes to nonfiction history books there are two types--one that is instructional, like a textbook, and one that is more narrative, almost like a novel.  Capital of the World fits firmly in the first camp and, if you are expecting a book in the second category, this book is not for you.

My degree is in history, so such instructional books are not new to me and, frankly, I can find them enjoyable.  There was quite a bit I liked about this book.  First of all, I had little knowledge of the topic.  I really never gave any thought as to why the United Nations was in New York.  I just that it was because New York City is New York City.  

Mires definitely did her research for this book and came up with an account that does more than explain why the United Nations is in New York.  As cities all over the country jumped to throw their names in the hat, the American character was on parade.  Compared to many of the other members of the United Nations, the United States was still a young nation.  While we had fought in the second World War, domestically we did not have to deal with bombed out cities, ethnic rivalries (at least not any more than usual) or a divided nation.  Nearly every city wanted in the game--from the more obvious choices of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco (ironically, New York City was practically silent for most of this contest), to places such as the Black Hills of South Dakota.  And the boosters from these communities were not afraid to do everything in their power to get the UN Planning Committee to pay attention to them.

Then, of course, another Americanism pops up--the old not in our backyard.  As the UN began to settle on locations, the residents decided that while it was all well and good for the Capital of the World to be in the United States, they did not want it in their community.  If it wasn't for this sentiment, the United Nations would have most likely ended up in Concord and Sudbury, Massachusetts.

As much as I learned from this book, I can't say that I found it completely satisfying.  An army of interesting characters litter this book--from the boosters of the cities, to the UN Officials, a Bush (yes--that Bush family) and the Rockefellers, yet we never really got to know any of them.  While Mires does a fine job bringing together the facts, I never felt she really did anything with them other than just present them.  If this were assigned reading for a class, I may not have even noticed this.  However, it jumps out when I'm reading for pleasure.

In short, if you want to learn something, this is a fabulous book.  But if you are looking for some sort of connection with the people involved, you may be disappointed. 

Want a second opinion?  Check out some of the other stops on this tour:

Monday, March 4th:  A Bookish Affair - review and author guest post
Tuesday, March 5th:  Padre Steve
Tuesday, March 12th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, March 14th:  Man of La Book
Monday, March 18th:  BookNAround
Wednesday, March 20th:  Suko’s Notebook
Friday, March 22nd:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, March 25th:  Knowing the Difference
Tuesday, March 26th:  Fifty Books Project
Wednesday, March 27th:  The Relentless Reader
Monday, April 1st:  The Future American
Wednesday, April 3rd:  Lisa’s Yarns
Date TBD:  Bibliosue
This review is part of a blog tour by TLC Book Tours.  I received a copy of the book to read and review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are mine, and mine alone.



3 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello, West Metro Mommy! I stopped by to see what you thought of this book. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I did, too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, and thank you for reading my book! I think my favorite booster story is the man from Rapid City, South Dakota, who was inspired to bring the UN to the Black Hills after his son was killed in the war. He did so much to try to achieve his goal, even though he never really stood a chance. If anyone would like to see if their hometowns jumped into the competition to become the Capital of the World, I have posted an expanded list on my blog, http://capital-of-the-world.com. If anyone knows of more, I would be glad to hear about them!

    ReplyDelete