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Publisher's Summary

Every century or so, our republic has been remade by a new technology: 170 years ago the railroad changed Americans' conception of space and time; in our era, the microprocessor revolutionized how humans communicate. But in the early 20th century the agent of creative destruction was the gasoline engine, as put to work by an unknown and relentlessly industrious young man named Henry Ford.

Born the same year as the battle of Gettysburg, Ford died two years after the atomic bombs fell, and his life personified the tremendous technological changes achieved in that span. Growing up as a Michigan farm boy with a bone-deep loathing of farming, Ford intuitively saw the advantages of internal combustion. Resourceful and fearless, he built his first gasoline engine out of scavenged industrial scraps. It was the size of a sewing machine. From there, scene by scene, Richard Snow vividly shows Ford using his innate mechanical abilities, hard work, and radical imagination as he transformed American industry.

In many ways, of course, Ford's story is well known; in many more ways, it is not. Richard Snow masterfully weaves together a fascinating narrative of Ford's rise to fame through his greatest invention, the Model T. When Ford first unveiled this car, it took 12 and a half hours to build one. A little more than a decade later, it took exactly one minute. In making his car so quickly and so cheaply that his own workers could easily afford it, Ford created the cycle of consumerism that we still inhabit. Our country changed in a mere decade, and Ford became a national hero. But then he soured, and the benevolent side of his character went into an ever-deepening eclipse, even as the America he had remade evolved beyond all imagining into a global power capable of producing on a vast scale not only cars, but airplanes, ships, machinery, and an infinity of household devices.

A highly pleasurable listen, filled with scenes and incidents from Ford's life, particularly during the intense phase of his secretive competition with other early car manufacturers, I Invented the Modern Age shows Richard Snow at the height of his powers as a popular historian and reclaims from history Henry Ford, the remarkable man who, indeed, invented the modern world as we know it.

©2013 Richard Snow (P)2013 Tantor

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  • Rick
  • Murrieta, CA, United States
  • 10-07-13

Excellent...But I'm a Ford Guy!

A Michigan native (Lansing) and having visited Greenfield village several times in my youth, I thought it almost an obligation that I read the Henry Ford story. I'm proud to say I'm a Ford owner and have been since I started driving and so was really looking forward to the history behind the brand. The book did not disappoint! From the first chapter until the Epilogue I found this tale fascinating. Henry Ford did in fact invent the Modern Age, and everything that is automobile.

Henry Ford and his quest for perfection almost derailed his future in automobiles in the early goings similar to how Steve Jobs almost lost Apple. Though Ford never lost his company (far from it, eventually becoming the sole owner), the desire to make his early vehicles better than they were slowed his progress at first but he persevered by producing the most recognizable, reliable, sturdiest brand in the industry.

As brilliant as the man was, he was not without his shortcomings. He despised bankers and lawyers and had a hatred of anything Jewish which the book does a good job in telling the nasty details. Sad to hear from such a pioneer in his era.

I enjoyed the book cover-to-cover though was a little disappointed with the very brief outline of his death (literally the last page of the book). He died with little fanfare though his legacy was decided many years before by the brand he created and the cars and trucks that are on American roads today. An excellent read and well worth your time!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 11-23-13

A Complicated Man

I have never read anything about Henry Ford until this book except when mention in a biography of another person such as John D. Rockefeller and his business dealings with Ford. Richard Snow covers Ford’s life from childhood to death but mostly concentrates on the area of his developing his engine and first cars. I found it interesting that Ford was in some ways was brilliant in his ability to see the end results of his car design and able to devote all his energy and time to develop it and then in his ability to deal with people he failed miserably. He failed at building two car companies before his success with the Ford Motor Company. He was the first to develop the assembly line or mass production and World War Two triggered more companies to quickly follow his methods of mass production. He attracted too him men of great skill’s and ability but then he pitted them against each other and he would fire the looser. He hired more black Americans than any other auto company but as he aged he revealed he was anti-Semitic. He distrusted bankers, Wall Street men and other financial people to the point he never invested in Wall Street which saved him in 1929. He hated investors and he maneuvered his company when it was successful to get rid of his primary investors and became the largest stock holder of the company. He hated to have anyone tell him what to do. According to Snow after he got control of Ford he appointed his son Edsel as company president but he never let go of the control of the company. As I read the book I got the feeling that Ford was his own worst enemy. All these contradiction and Snow’s excellent writing ability reveals an interesting story. It is obvious that Snow did a great deal of research to write the book. Sean Runnett did a great job narrating the book.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • SMYRNA, GA, United States
  • 06-26-13

Did not expect it to be so interesting...

What did you like about this audiobook?

Yes... very riveting book... I rarely have time to sit and read.. I went through this book why too fast... I will be doing it again...

How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

The factors that came together to creat the assembly line.

Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he achieve this?

The assembly line or development of the modern engine.. makes me feel like the age of discovery, at least the phase I would have fit in has past..

What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

Made me think what it took to bring it all together... excelent narrator...

Do you have any additional comments?

Great narrative. .. I don't usually read bios but really enjoyed this book.. nice surprize...

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Excellent except for the gaping hole in the story.

How do you write a Ford biography, subtitle it "I invented the modern world," and never mention The Depression, UAW or the River Rouge Massacre? The narration is excellent. The story of how Ford built the model T and thereby transformed America is fascinating. But if the author could find pages to cover Ford's pacifism, quixotic attempt to end WW I, antisemitism and devolution into a jealous crank he could have devoted a chapter to inform us about Ford's role in some of the most consequential events in America's pre WW II history. He does not and an otherwise five star book gets only two.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not as engaging as I would have hoped

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I really enjoyed learning about such a fascinating part of history, but I also found the book particularly closer to the ending a bit confusing as it seemed like he went from quite a nice caring guy to suddenly starting a magazine that harasses jewish people and his factories were being run by gangs after he had been such a standup citizen and was part of increasing minimum wage and bringing about the middle class being very anti war. So how he changed his personality so drastically was not really clear to me after listening to the book. I think there could have been more explanation around his character changes then just focusing on the Ford Motors company. But I overall really enjoyed the history the Model T and Henry Ford.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • wcarmn
  • MN, United States
  • 01-31-14

Great book about a great man.

Would you consider the audio edition of I Invented the Modern Age to be better than the print version?

I always prefer the printed version of a book. That being said, this is an excellent audible. One of the best I have purchased.

What did you like best about this story?

The information about Ford's genius for creating manufacturing technology from nothing. He had an uncanny vision to create and use processes to bring his product into mass production, and mass use.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent audio book

For those who are interested in Henry Ford, his life, struggles and successes, this book is in one word excellent. It covers all aspects of his live and his car companies and the challenges that he had to face and overcome. It pays to listen to this book a few times. A lot of information is given and important details may be missed at first. Great book.

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More nuanced than the title would suggest

A more human, balanced view of Ford that contextualizes the sentiment if the time, and us able to frame issues properly in their context.

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Henry Ford turned Awful

The book was written very well. I was impressed with Henry Ford, then unimpressed at his later years. What a terrible man in the end. Author and voice actor did a fantastic job.

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wasn't very thorough

just got done listening to John D rockefeller's autobiography and it was far more thorough than this one. There is very little conversation about Henry Ford's childhood or his personal life. though it did give relatively good history of the Ford Motor Company I felt that it was a little bit incomplete.