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Monday, March 4, 2013

TLC Book Tours Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: Capital of the World by Charlene Mires

Title: Capital of the World
Author: Charlene Mires
Format: ARC
Publisher: New York University Press
Publish Date: March 4, 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a history lover.
  • You're a politics lover.
  • You enjoy architecture.
  • You're a non-fiction lover.
What's the Story?:

From "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.

With a sweeping view of the United States' place in the world at the end of World War II, Capital of the World tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in pursuit of an extraordinary prize and the diplomats who struggled with the balance of power at a pivotal moment in history."

My Two Cents:

I'm most definitely a history lover and while I love reading more and more on big event type subjects that I'm already familiar with but I also really love I really enjoy reading about some of the more sort off the beaten path stories from history. This book definitely fell in the latter group and I loved it!

For me, it's hard to think of the United Nations building being located anywhere besides New York City. I mean, if you aren't going to put something like the United Nations in the greatest city in the world, Washington D.C. (full disclosure: I live here and it's great), you might as well have it in New York City. But did you know that places like San Francisco and the Black Hills of the Dakotas were also in the running to have the United Nations make their home there. I had absolutely no idea! How different would the United Nations be if it were located somewhere in the Midwest of the United States? It's hard to think about what that would even look like!

Mires really makes this story come to life! We get to read about all of the different places that wanted to be in the running to be the home of the United Nations. We get to read about all of their various campaigns. Some of the places had very active campaigns even though it seems like they were definitely behind the pack. The book is relatively short but is so richly detailed! I loved getting a behind the scenes look at the various things that were considered when the UN committee was making the decision on where it would be located.

One part that I found very interesting was all of the different mock-ups for what various architects thought that the United Nations complex should look like. The design that ended up getting chosen for NYC is absolutely iconic and it's very strange to imagine anything different in another place. I loved seeing the different designs that other places came up with. They were very interesting. I'm making my architect husband read this book next!

Bottom line: This book will appeal to history and even some architecture lovers too!

Guest Post by Charlene Mires:

Today I am very pleased to welcome Charlene Mires to A Bookish Affair.

How does a writer go about researching a story involving 248 cities and towns across the United States?  Good question!  At Meg’s invitation, I’ll retrace some of my journey to find and understand the many communities that sought to become the permanent headquarters site for the United Nations – the Capital of the World. Many of the world capital hopefuls were major cities, as we might expect. But others were in such seemingly out-of-the-way places as the Black Hills in South Dakota or Sault St. Marie, Michigan. (See the complete list on my blog.)

Amazingly, sixteen of the competitors traveled all the way to London – without invitation – in 1945 to personally make a pitch for bringing the UN to their hometowns. I devoted my first energies to these most energetic boosters, who went to the greatest lengths to capture the UN’s attention.  Fortunately for me, the group that traveled from Philadelphia kept a remarkable journal describing the experience of flying over the Atlantic Ocean in those early days of commercial air travel. They donated the journal to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, so it was available for me to read there.  For the rest, I turned first to the United Nations Archives in New York, where I found letters from boosters and verbatim records of the UN’s earliest meetings. The spectacle of the American civic boosters in London became the central, pivotal chapter of the book.

It became clear to me, though, that the world capital competition of 1945-46 was much bigger than official histories of the UN ever recorded. The diplomats stopped keeping an official count in the fall of 1945. But in the United States, additional cities and towns jumped into the competition throughout 1946 as well. Most of these efforts were covered by hometown newspapers, so I spent many hours looking at microfilmed papers at the Library of Congress in Washington. (Now digitized newspapers are revealing more competitors than I could spot in the microfilm.)  At the beginning of the research, I thought I would be writing a story of thirty to fifty cities and towns.  By the end, I knew there were more than two hundred.

Because the UN was so new, civic boosters had to find the best way to communicate their interests. They wrote to their congressional representatives, their governors, the Secretary of State, and the President of the United States. A surprising number wrote to John D. Rockefeller Jr. So, whenever I could get the chance to visit libraries with collections of correspondence, I took it.  At the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, for example, I found a gold mine of letters from world capital hopefuls around the nation. At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I found not only letters but also the meeting records of the boosters for New York City, who ultimately won the prize.

All of this came together into the narrative of Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations. Of course, I could not tell the entire story of all of the 248 known contenders and suggestions for the UN’s permanent headquarters. In addition to the book, I am expanding on more of those stories on my blog, so please visit and be sure to let me know if you know of more world capital competitors of 1945-46.  I am also on Twitter @profmires.

Thank you, Meg, for kicking off my blog tour.  I hope you enjoy the book, and I appreciate the chance to tell the story behind the story in Capital of the World.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, March 4th:  A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, March 5th:  Padre Steve
Wednesday, March 6th:  Bibliosue
Thursday, March 7th:  The Future American
Monday, March 11th:  Fifty Books Project
Tuesday, March 12th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, March 13th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Thursday, March 14th:  Man of La Book
Monday, March 18th:  BookNAround
Tuesday, March 19th:  West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, March 20th:  Suko’s Notebook
Monday, March 25th:  Knowing the Difference
Wednesday, March 27th:  The Relentless Reader
Wednesday, April 3rd:  Lisa’s Yarns


I'm very happy to be able to give away a copy of this wonderful book. (US/ CAN only)

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I really enjoy good non-fiction books and this looks like one of them from your review. I would love to read about the history of the United Nations.

  2. A fascinating non-fiction. Thanks for this chance. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. Meg, thank you for being the first stop on my blog tour. I'm glad you liked the book - the site plans were fascinating to me as well (especially the plan for the Black Hills!).
    Charlene Mires

  4. Meg, I never even considered or thought about the discussion for where the UN would be housed. This sounds fascinating and I think I would enjoy so many aspects of this book.

  5. Coincidentally, I was just reading about this book this morning at the NYU Press site and thought it sounded interesting. Your review and interview have confirmed my interest and more. Please enter my name for the chance to win a copy of this book.

  6. Everything one would enjoy in a storyline, thanks for the chance to win.

  7. What a great guest post! I really like reading about the way authors research their books and how they think while they're writing them. This sounds like a very interesting read.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. I like that book cover. They look like vintage postcards and I love vintage!

    mestith at gmail dot com

  9. The books sounds so fabulous! I hope your architect husband enjoys it, too. And I love Charlene's guest post- it's all so interesting! Thanks for being on the tour.

  10. I didn't know that so many places were in the running to be the site of the U.N.

  11. Great review, I liked the book as well ( I had no idea they wanted to build a city at first.

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  13. My husband would love this book, thanks for the chance to win.

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