The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway

As industrial innovation and waves of immigration led to the dramatic growth of New York and Boston in the 19th century, both cities needed to find new ways to move people around. Constrained by geography, they were running out of space for pedestrians, horses, carriages and street railways to coexist; eventually, they looked in the same direction--below street level. In The Race Underground, Boston Globe editor Doug Most recounts the remarkable achievements in civil engineering that transformed two cities, along with the political and financial intrigues that accompanied them.

The Race Underground shifts its narrative between Boston and New York from one chapter to the next, and while Most doesn't minimize the technological developments that made the subway possible, he's more interested in the people responsible--and, sometimes, on the ones who stood in the way. The human interest angle allows him to play up the competitive relationship between the two cities as each races to be first to take its transportation problems underground. (Spoiler: Boston does it sooner, but New York does so on a much bigger scale.)

As challenging as it can be to get around New York, Boston and other cities where mass transit is part of everyday 21st-century life, it's staggering to imagine what it might be like without it. The Race Underground tells the story of how we got there, and it's an enlightening--and surprisingly exciting--ride. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

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