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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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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

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 08-03-17

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.

7 of 8 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review 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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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great gathering of history.

great gathering of history. facts you won't find on Google alone. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Anand
  • BALTIMORE, MD, United States
  • 07-10-18

Excellent history of the early days of electrici

This is a great book telling the story of the early days of electricity in great detail. One gets to relive the 1880s and 1890s, with the politics, financial crises, labor struggles, horses, railroads, patent fights and other aspects of life. The book describes the patent wars, AC vs DC, electric companies and their financing, safety concerns, etc.

The downside of such a detailed book is that it is very long and the story moves slowly. Also, IMO the author is a little too worshipping of individual inventors, when in truth a lot more people contributed to the technological progress of the time. Apart from that, it is a great read and very engaging. one gets to learn about the lives and personalities of Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla.

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Little different than expected

Was less about Tesla and Edison and a lot more about Westinghouse but overall a decent look at the history of electricity. As others have said the narrator is a little off putting, but I got used to it.

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Shocking

This era in history plays out like an epic sci fi. Filled with history but told with an emphasis on the competition and rivalry. Starts slow but it is worth it!