Reader reviews and comments on The Race Underground, plus links to write your own review.

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The Race Underground

Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway

by Doug Most

The Race Underground
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 352 pages
    Feb 2015, 432 pages

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There are currently 26 reader reviews for The Race Underground
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Nancy O. (Hobe Sound, FL) (12/17/13)

I love history written like this!
With The Race Underground, the author has taken a subject that most people would simply take for granted and set it within the cultural, economic, scientific and social framework surrounding various historical periods in America's history. I really enjoy "accessible" history, and I liked this book. Not only is it informative, but it also weaves in the story of regular people aside from those whose financial backing and engineering talents made the subways possible. It's also easy enough to understand that it should be accessible to high school students, people who may be interested in the topic but are not really history buffs, and people who have an interest in urban history. Recommended.
Bink W. (Sopchoppy, FL) (12/13/13)

wonderful period detail
Should be especially interesting to people who have lived in New York or Boston. Excellent detail of the times and processes that led to the building of the underground. Good historical fiction
Joan C. (Warwick, RI) (12/10/13)

It's the early 20th century. We are in New York City and the city lacks public transportation. Can you imagine what it was like to travel from one place to another? There were a few motor cars (very few), carts, horses and their droppings, bicycles, baby carriages, and the only form of public transportation was privately owned trolley cars which could only move at a snail's pace because of the congestion. Oh, I forgot to mention pedestrians from the numerous boroughs in the city. The Washington Bridge was just being built. Under these conditions a few brilliant engineers and architects conceived the idea of tunneling under the city streets to build a railway system. Ditto the same situation in Boston, Massachusetts and you have a race to end all races. People say "nessessity is the mother of all invention" and nowhere is this euphemism more appropriate. These inventors were relentless in their pursuit to provide their city with clean and safe public transportation for the burgeoning population, all the time battling the infamous Tweed politicians and bureaucratic city government. Boston had similar problems, just different people in a different place. The ideas that these men put into action and their foresight into bringing economic prosperity to their cities is unbelievable. What a history lesson on American ingenuity. This book is a must read!
Power Reviewer Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY) (12/10/13)

The NYC Subway
Rode the NYC subway every weekday for many years. Never thought about what went into the construction. This book is a very readable and entertaining history of that construction. I also think that pictures would have enhanced it. If you enjoyed The Devil in White City you will enjoy this. I will recommend it to my book group as a selection for next year.
Charlene M. (Murrells Inlet, SC) (12/10/13)

#1 book to read this year
Inventions and inventors, the New York and Boston subways - what do they have in common? Doug Most's The Race Underground is the story of how two brothers and past inventions and their inventors led to two of the greatest achievements of man. The Race Underground is a superbly written history of world-wide ingenuity, which culminated in twos cities triumph over congestion, graft, politics and proving America as a world innovator. One of my favorite books.
Lucy (Massachusetts) (12/10/13)

Brought an era to life
I typically do not read non-fiction books, but living in the Boston area, this book caught my interest. Doug Most brought the late 19th century to life. His attention to detail and the way he wove the background of the characters and was incredible. His writing style was incredibly interesting and filled with detail about life in Boston and NYC in those times. He adeptly, but not laboriously detailed the challenges, obstacles - successes and failures of the brilliant men that brought the subway to America. Tremendous research - there are passages that make you just want to read it aloud and share the interesting facts. It was very entertaining as well as being tremendously informative. I would definitely recommend this book.
Power Reviewer Joan P. (Owego, NY) (12/09/13)

The Race Underground
This book is the painstakingly researched but very readable story of the men and machines that brought rapid underground transit to New York City and Boston. In the half century after the Civil War, America saw the engineering marvel of the Brooklyn Bridge, the use of electricity to illuminate our buildings,electric motors to do many laborious jobs, the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, and man's first attempts at flight.The entrepreneurial spirit was alive in America and men with vision and courage pushed through political snarls and almost impossible physical obstacles to build subways.This book gives us an insight into the lives of the men who accomplished this task. I'm only an occasional non-fiction reader but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to two book clubs.
Patricia H. (Norman, OK) (12/06/13)

Blood, Swear and Fears Underground
"The Race Underground" is a critical and detailed examination of two cities engaged in an intense rivalry in the late 19th century. New York and Boston, at the time this adventure started, were both dirty and crowed cities. Horse draw streetcars had been the basic means of transportation for over 50 years leaving little to the image the suffocating stench. Alfred Beach, publisher of Scientific American, had a dream of using an underground system But many challenges lie in his way from political to technological to the inbred fear of being underground. His dream comes to fruition in the tale of two brothers, one successful the other not so much, two cities and two subways. This is a detailed account of how New York and Boston tunneled their way into a transformation from the pre-industrial to a world of new possibilities.

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