Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman

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What a wonderful book about a topic most of us know little about, heck few even know or remember the name Nellie Bly. Bly was an intrepid journalist for the NY World and had an idea for a round the world journey to try and outdo the fictional record of 80, as written by Jules Verne. Her idea in 1888 was pushed aside, but by 1889 the World’s circulation started to decline and out of the blue the newspaper decided it would be a great idea and so on 2 days notice Bly was sent on the journey in November. She traveled on an East to West course, with her first leg being on a steamer from New York to England. Not to be outdone, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine had feature writer Elizabeth Bisland hustled to their offices and told her she had to now race around the world against Bly and beat her back to New York, but Bisland was going to go West to East and her trek began with a train trip across America – but she only had 8.5 hours to prepare and catch the train!
This book is a story of the two ladies, their differing upbringing, differing writing styles, and their competition to get around the world faster than the other. Bisland knew she was racing Bly, but Bly did not find out about Bisland until she was in Hong Kong.
Lots of good stories and descriptions of the trip, author Matthew Goodman does a great job in contrasting the women, their highlights and dilemmas, as well as their returns to New York and lives after the trek. A great non-fiction look at travel in the later 19th century, as well as the emergence of female journalists. This is a book any reader, no matter their sex, will enjoy immensely!

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