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Publisher's Summary

In the final decades of the 19th century, three brilliant and visionary titans of America's Gilded Age - Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse - battled as each vied to create a vast and powerful electrical empire. In Empires of Light, historian Jill Jonnes portrays this extraordinary trio and their riveting and ruthless world of cutting-edge science, invention, intrigue, money, death, and hard-eyed Wall Street millionaires. At the heart of the story are Thomas Alva Edison, the nation's most famous and folksy inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and mastermind of the world's first direct current electrical light networks; the Serbian wizard of invention Nikola Tesla, an eccentric dreamer who revolutionized the generation and delivery of electricity; and the charismatic George Westinghouse, Pittsburgh inventor and corporate entrepreneur, an industrial idealist who in the era of gaslight imagined a world powered by cheap and plentiful electricity and worked heart and soul to create it. Empires of Light is the gripping history of electricity, the "mysterious fluid", and how the fateful collision of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse left the world utterly transformed.

©2003 Jill Jonnes (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A very accessible and informative historical account that will be fascinating reading for a general audience as well as those with a more specialized interest." ( Booklist)

What listeners say about Empires of Light

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

Get the book vs audio version

The book is nice history read as I am a fan of Tesla but the narrator of the audio has a tick that bothered me...when he gets to the end of a sentence he has certain drawl that wore thin on me and I could not finish listening to the book...I recommend getting the book vs audible version.

17 people found this helpful

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Worst narrator on the planet. Dont waste your time

I don't believe I have ever heard a more monotone, dull, boring narrator in my life. The person who read this book should be permanently banned from ever reading anything aloud ever again!! He made me want to cut my wrist just to end the agony of his boring voice

14 people found this helpful

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wonderful book if you can tolerate the narration

I love the writing, the story and especially the detailed account of how electricity became what it is today. Unfortunately, the monotone up and down rhythm of the narration overshadows the wonderful story.

6 people found this helpful

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Engaging

Instead of writing about one of these great titans Edison, Tesla or Westinghouse, Jill Jonnes chose to write about all three in one book. Jonnes focused on the race to control electricity delivery to the country. The battle between Edison and Tesla was whether electricity should be delivered and put to use as direct or alternating current. Edison backed direct and Tesla alternating current. Westinghouse jumped into the fray to control the delivery to business and homes throughout the country. Westinghouse and Tesla teamed up to harness the Niagara Falls in 1895 to deliver electricity. According to Jonnes electricity unleashed a Second Industrial Revolution.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The book covers a broad-spectrum picture of the race to electrify the nation. The book is well organized. The book covers everything from the biographies of the three men to the science of electricity, to business and finance. Of the three men, it is Tesla that has fascinated me since I studied him in college.

Jill Jonnes has her degree in history from John Hopkins University. In this book, she demonstrates the ability to portray the broad picture of history in the style of the late Stephen Ambrose. She is definitely an author to watch.

The book is almost seventeen hours long. Chris Sorensen does a great job narrating the book. Sorensen is a screenwriter, playwright and award-winning audiobook narrator.

11 people found this helpful

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The narrator...

The narrator has a strange intonation at the end of almost every sentence. It is super distracting from the otherwise fascinating storyline. if you listen at 1.3 speed its much better. but still... very very distracting.

2 people found this helpful

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History is amazing

It is hard to imagine life before electricity. I didn't know how Westinghouse got Tesla to hand over his patents but now I do. A little eccentricity mixed with arrogance. And it was too bad Edison got mixed up in the War of Currents. I'd have appreciated him more if he skipped the electrocution experiments. A must read for history buffs.

2 people found this helpful

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Play at 1.2X speed

This is a gripping story of three titans of American history, well-researched and well-written.

The narration is a different matter. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode when George despairs of the irritating books on tape narrator and his whiny, nasaly monotone. That would also describe this narrator. The best idea came from another reviewer who suggested speeding up the narration. After trial and error, I found 1.2X speed to be the most palatable. Not great but acceptable.

1 person found this helpful

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great book, poor narration

Very entertaining and informative book. I appreciated the direct quotes from the main characters' own letters and newspaper articles about them. However, the narrator's style was too flat and slow for me.

1 person found this helpful

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Loved Every Minute!

Jill Jonnes has capture the real life drama , with all its complexities , emotion, triumph, and tragedy, in his superbly , extremely well paced, engrossing, excellently written "Empires of Light."

Extremely informing and the book pays great tribute to the founders and contributors of the second industrial revolution.

Chris Sorensen dose an amazing job of reading , never tiring to listen to.

Enjoyed it immensely!

1 person found this helpful

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A fabulous story of amazing men and their inventions

This book brimming with history not only of the war of the electric inventors but also the world but their inventions impact it is riveting and well told