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 by Doug Most
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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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Laura M. (02/19/14)

Very interesting
I have always been interested in history and will read almost anything, but it takes a talented author to really catch my interest like Mr. Most has with this book. Not living in an area where the subway is an option, I never really thought much about its development. This is much more than an account of the progress of mass transportation. It is the story of the people involved, from the inventors to the backers to the workers. The people are what really bring it to life and make it so enjoyable.
Marie D. (Waretown, NJ) (01/29/14)

Incredible saga of American ingenuity!
In Doug Most's book, "The Race Underground," he has complied detailed biographical sketches of the creators of subway systems which provide the fodder for books on their own!

As a native New Yorker, I have used the subway system for years without truly thinking of how it all came to be. This account of the journey from concept to execution to reality is a fascinating read!
Jorie (Florida) (01/17/14)

An Age of Daring to Believe in the Impossible
I am quite amazed at the living histories of the industrial age! Especially in consideration of those I haven't yet heard of; nor known of the men in which I previously had become familiar! For instance, I've heard quite a heap about Edison recently this past year which made me half cringe, as oh! Not such a nice fellow in regards to patents & inventor rights of his colleagues and nemesis's alike! Yet, who knew he was a drifter from Ohio and embarked on a quest to define both his own worth and to sort out what his true calling might actually be? He 'accidentally' discovered he was an inventor because he liked to 'tinker' and put things back together! Fascinating how Scientific American not only had humble upstart roots, but how interconnected the magazine & inventors like Edison became infamous in the mid to late 1800s!! No wonder Steampunkers find this era of emerging America in history the impetus of inspiration for their stories! It all but demands for fiction to pick up where man left off!

Whilst emerged into "The Race Underground", I felt as though I was a time traveler who had stepped right into the footsteps of history as it was being lived! The idea of concession towards a goal not befit the age was not a plausible outcome for New York & Boston. Resolute in their determined grit and belief that a train system could thrive underneath the surface of both cities was paramount in their independent and conjoined success therein! Despite the hurdles and adversities which befell the project towards completion, its the tenacity and sheer will of believing in the impossible which endeared me to the triumph ending of which we all might have taken for granted prior to having learnt the history behind the rails!

The vibrancy of an era bent towards inventing what was not yet conceived nor readily accepted possible is what prompted me to pick up this book! Seeing the interconnected threads of rail systems which stretched far outside our own borders is what kept me on the edge of my seat wondering how the feat would eclipse any expectation I had whilst I first turned the page!
Susan (Maple Grove, MN) (01/10/14)

The Race Underground
I found this fact-filled book about how subways came to be very interesting and readable. A few times I had to push myself a little to read because of all the facts being presented, but others may not find this a problem. I would have liked to see some illustrations - photos, drawings, images of the key players and historic sites mentioned. Overall a good book that also made me wonder about how some other grand projects were accomplished.
SS (Somerville, MA) (01/06/14)

Race Underground Review
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. Some of it was a bit dry and factual, but some of it read more like a novel. I have lived in the Boston area for the past 10 years and rely on the subway for my commute, so it was interesting to learn a lot about the history of the T and about some of the historic figures who lived here. The author does a good job of depicting how difficult it was to get subways in both New York and Boston approved, not to mention built, and I feel like I appreciate the public transportation system a lot more now.
Elaine M. (Beaver Falls, PA) (01/06/14)

The Race Underground
This was an interesting historical read about the building of the subway system in the late 19th Century. The focus was on the Whitney brothers and the race to build the first subway. One was building one under New York City and the other under Boston.

Honestly, I never thought about the development subways! In school we learned about the Transcontinental Railroad and the "Model T"; but never the Subway System. Finding out that planning and building began in the late 19th Century was astonishing.

Doug Most writes as if we were actually there experiencing the terrifying breakthrough, and horrific tragedies.

In my opinion, readers who would like this book would be who read historical works, adventure non-fiction and anything about transportation. Historic non-fiction.
Lora O. (Antioch, CA) (01/05/14)

Moving People Forward Into the Future
I have ridden subways to work for many years, but never before I read The Race Underground by Doug Most, did it occur to me to wonder how it came about. This wonderful book explains the history of mass transit, from the beginning of an idea by futuristic thinker Alfred Beach in Scientific American to the reality of the subways in Boston and New York around the turn of the century. More exciting than any fiction, there is an amazing cast of characters, including engineers, scientists, businessmen, politicians, bankers and the laborers themselves, and included some of the brightest, most imaginative minds of the past two centuries. The development of the subway systems in these cities, as well as the rest of the Country and Europe depended on economy, the recessions and banking troubles, availability of renewable energy, political infighting, corruption, immigrant labor, population growth in the cities, environmental questions, protests and even the weather.

This exciting book conveys a constant sense of motion, a dizzying energy going forward, the growth of new science and technology at a faster pace into the future. I loved the vivid descriptions of the city streets in the horse and carriage days, and can only imagine the joy when finally the cleaner, faster way of moving people was finally in place. This book is so rich and full of history and was much more satisfying than a novel. I believe this could lead to rich discussion in a book club - there were so many fascinating facets to the story, but there are a lot of issues also about growth, government's duty to the citizens and the future of mass transit versus the automobile.

I don't usually comment on the format of the book, but wanted to mention that this book was so well organized, with sections of 2 to 3 pages on a certain topic, within the chapters. This made it very easy to put the book down and pick it up again, without re-reading many pages., unlike many books on history.
I would have liked to see maps of the streets of Boston and New York, to get a true picture of types of plans that were being discussed
Anita S. (Boynton Beach, FL) (01/02/14)

American ingenuity
While riding the New York subway, I often wondered how it was built. Not only did this book answer, but also told a great story. It was a fascinating book that read like a novel.
The subways were built with the help of many men who saw the need for underground transportation and had the intelligence, fortitude and money to make it happen. To me it showed the great entrepreneurial spirit of America. The stories of all these men made for a great read. I believe that anyone would love to read this book. It has clarity along with great story telling. I recommend it highly.

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