Picks and Pans Review: Great Fortune

updated 10/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Epic of Rockefeller Center
By Daniel Okrent

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Okrent, a former editorial executive for Time Inc. (PEOPLE's parent company), more than matches the giant scale of his subject in this massive and absorbing 500-page volume, which covers New York City's Rockefeller Center from its beginnings as a garden plot for medicinal plants in 1801 to its present as one of the most famous architectural complexes in the world. Chronicling the planning, financing, building and decorating of the center, Great Fortune is filled with cultural asides that make the past sparkle. At its heart this is the story of the men behind the center, especially John D. Rockefeller Jr., whose money and reputation ensured that the largest construction project of its time would succeed.

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