Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Capital of the World: Review and Giveaway

The United Nations, courtesy of Wikipedia
What? Did you know that the United Nations headquarters could have been built in Riverdale (a section of the Bronx), or in Black Hills (South Dakota), Atlantic City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis, or in over two hundred other cities, large and small, in America or Europe?  I had no idea that New York City was the last choice for the location of the United Nations! The "Capital of the World" was not supposed to be located in midtown Manhattan on the East River. 

When I was in college, many people I knew were studying International Relations, or "IR", as it was called.  At the time, I didn't really know what that course of study covered, but the term seemed rather grand to me.  Growing up in NY, I'd always met people from many countries, from African and Asian and Latin American countries, and just about everywhere, and I became friends with people of different nationalities.  I'd visited the United Nations on a few school field trips, and had felt a sense of awe and reverence each time. (If I could, I'd travel the world, and I'd love to be a diplomat.)  Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations by Charlene Mires, a new book published in March of 2013, appealed to the side of me that's interested in people from other cultures and countries.  I also wanted to learn about the early history of the United Nations, the "Capital of the World" (the idea of a world capital runs deep in history, dating to at least 27 BCE, according to this book), a meeting place and a workshop for nations who value peace.

After the devastation of two horrific wars, the world was eager for peace.  The United Nations was formed (replacing the League of Nations) at the end of World War II, in 1945, to maintain international peace and promote cooperation in solving the world's economic, social, and humanitarian problems.  Author and history professor Charlene Mires says that at the end of the Second World War Americans in particular were determined, hopeful, and anxious, and ready to avoid future wars.  In both a symbolic and a practical sense, the creation of the United Nations provided hope and the opportunity to live in a more peaceful world. The question then became where to situate the United Nations, the "Capital of the World".  Countless cities wanted the United Nations headquarters in their city, but only one would have this distinct honor.  This created a boisterous competition, and for several years a "race" for the "Capital of the World" ensued.  Public officials, business leaders, civil boosters and citizens alike formed committees, composed letters, and created promotional campaigns, and fervently tried to persuade others that the headquarters belonged in their city.

Back cover
 "Civic leaders among this generation--the parent generation of World War II--seized upon the dream of creating a Capital of the World.  They chased it beyond reason, although it seemed perfectly reasonable to them at the time.  At the end of the Second World War, when so much had been risked, so much lost, and so much achieved, it seemed possible, even imperative, to dream."
~Capital of the World, Charlene Mires

A letter from Wales by Mabel Morris that arrived in America suggested that a ship be the headquarters of the United Nations, which could "be moved to any nation".  This was humorous at the time, but in hindsight may have been "the right metaphor for the long and storm-tossed journey that lay ahead for the United Nations as it tried to narrow the choices for its permanent home".

History books can sometimes seem rather dry, even to the most die hard history buff, due to the sheer abundance of facts and information presented (and admittedly, prior to reading this book, I referred to the "report" I'd write about it, rather than the usual post).  Although this book has its share of facts, it's also lively and animated, and is enhanced by photos, drawings, and maps. The book is very well researched, with a thick and hefty appendix.  With the help of librarians and archivists, Charlene Mires skillfully pieced together the early history of the United Nations.  I enjoyed reading about the efforts of various cities to "win" the "Capital of the World", to try to convince others that their town was the one and only place for the United Nations.  Overall, I found Capital of the World to be quite captivating.  

Terrific news!  New York University Press, the publisher, is generously offering a copy of Capital of the World as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For an extra entry, leave a comment about a visit you've made to the United Nations.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, April 1.  A winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 2.  Good luck! 

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me Capital of the World.  For more reviews of this book, visit the other stops on TLC's book tour of Capital of the World.


  1. Though I don't often read these types of books, the fact that you say that this one is entertaining and not dry makes me want to delve into it, and discover the drama for myself. This was a great review, Suko, and I would love to be entered in your giveaway!!


  2. thanks for the great review. Because of that I would be interested in this book. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. This would be a departure for me since I read fiction but the background sounds unique and special. thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  4. Thank you for reading my book - I'm glad you liked it! If anyone would like to see whether their hometown entered the race to host the UN, I have posted the list and more stories on my blog, (Of course, you do not have to enter me in the giveaway!)
    Charlene Mires

    1. Charlene, thank you very much for your comment! I changed my post a just a bit and added a link to your blog site. :)

  5. Fascinating stuff, thanks for sharing with us.

  6. Vey interesting! I had no idea that there were so many different proposed places for the UN! In mistaken retrospect the location would seem inevitable for the time.

  7. Please enter me in your contest, as I'd love to win a copy of the book and read it :-)

  8. Nice review and an interesting topic, one I've never seen written about before. I like the idea of a floating UN. Putting the headquarters on a ship doesn't sound so silly today.

    I'll post the giveaway on my blog sidebar.

  9. Great review! I'd love to be entered.


  10. Capital of the World sounds really interesting. I know what you mean about history books tending to be dry. Funny enough I've just finished reading a history book myself, and it was really good too.

  11. I can't imagine the UN being anywhere else but NYC, except for Washington DC perhaps. Sounds like a good story!

  12. I like a lot your article, Suko. I didn't know at all the historry of the UN. Very interesting !

  13. I wasn't aware the NYC was a last choice for the UN, but it does seem appropriate that NYC or DC would be contenders. Very interesting info. Well done.

  14. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one so much as it does sound interesting. I don't read a lot of nonfiction so you don't need to enter me in the giveaway. I just enjoyed your review :)

  15. I'm so looking forward to reading this one, especially after your review (mention of the hefty appendix got me all excited!).

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  16. I hadn't realized it was such a competition either! Interesting -- and I love the vintage appeal of the cover, too. The only experience I've ever had with the UN comes through movies, alas...much too far away for me to visit. But any book that uses librarians and archivists to help build it is fine by me ;)

  17. I would love to win a copy!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

  18. I'm a follower

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com



    TaraTagli at gmail dot com


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