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Edison

Narrated by: Arthur Morey
Length: 25 hrs and 5 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER •

From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.

Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world - already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other revolutionary devices - that it cast a shadow over his later achievements. In all, this near-deaf genius ("I haven’t heard a bird sing since I was 12 years old") patented 1,093 inventions, not including others, such as the X-ray fluoroscope, that he left unlicensed for the benefit of medicine.

One of the achievements of this staggering new biography, the first major life of Edison in more than 20 years, is that it portrays the unknown Edison - the philosopher, the futurist, the chemist, the botanist, the wartime defense adviser, the founder of nearly 250 companies - as fully as it deconstructs the Edison of mythological memory. Edmund Morris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, brings to the task all the interpretive acuity and literary elegance that distinguished his previous biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Ludwig van Beethoven. A trained musician, Morris is especially well equipped to recount Edison’s 50-year obsession with recording technology and his pioneering advances in the synchronization of movies and sound. Morris sweeps aside conspiratorial theories positing an enmity between Edison and Nikola Tesla and presents proof of their mutually admiring, if wary, relationship.

Enlightened by seven years of research among the five million pages of original documents preserved in Edison’s huge laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey, and privileged access to family papers still held in trust, Morris is also able to bring his subject to life - the adored yet autocratic and often neglectful husband of two wives and father of six children. If the great man who emerges from it is less a sentimental hero than an overwhelming force of nature, driven onward by compulsive creativity, then Edison is at last getting his biographical due.

©2019 Edmund Morris (P)2019 Random House Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Badly organized - chronologically backwards

Each chapter covers a decade of Edison's life, and covers it well. But organizing them backwards was a mistake. Listeners should fix this by beginning at the ending and ending at the beginning. As Edison knew, and Edmund Morris apparently doesn't, not all experiments work.

Otherwise, this is an excellent biography. Morris gives attention to the man as well as his times, and probably pays more attention to Edison's family than Edison himself did. The book's poor organization makes them difficult to get to know, but it is worth the effort.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Very good but flawed

The author has assembled a vast amount of information and it is fascinating. However the curious format, which presents Edison’s life in reverse order, is distracting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A novelty idea

But I wish the author had not started at the end of Edison life instead of the beginning. The book was full of personal family antidotes that I was never made aware of. The detailed succession of his life and inventions was astounding, just difficult to keep up with at times because the chronological history telling was done in reverse order.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • morgan
  • bakersfield, ca United States
  • 11-10-19

Reverse chronology kills it for me.

The reverse chronology... It just killed me. I couldn't finish. I wanted to like it, but the further back I went, the more frustrating it became (for me).