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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  654 ratings  ·  187 reviews
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
Hardcover, 800 pages
Published October 22nd 2019 by Random House
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Jamie Morris has attempted to break out of the mold of standard biography before (see Dutch, his biography of Ronald Reagan). With this bio of Edison, I had…moreMorris has attempted to break out of the mold of standard biography before (see Dutch, his biography of Ronald Reagan). With this bio of Edison, I had a hard time understanding the choice to tell the story backwards. That said, a glimmer of a reason comes at the end of the epilogue, when Morris wonders what Edison's last moments might have been like, as he looked back over his life, going back further and further until reaching his earliest memories.

As a stylistic choice, therefore, it may be that is what Morris had in mind. However, as a practical choice, I don't think it added value to the story of Edison's life. The entire thing could be rearranged in chronological order without losing anything.(less)

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Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
History is full of people whose lives have impacted mine in some form or another. While I have always loved reading biographies, I find particular interest in people whose names I know but whose lives remain a mystery to me. While the name Thomas Edison has always been synonymous with the invention of the lightbulb, there is much more to the mans life. Pulitzer-prize winning author, Edmund Morris, takes the reader through the life and times of this most complex man. While the lightbulb was ...more
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
As a boy growing up there was a time when I read the biographies of famous persons. The Wright Brothers. Alexander Graham Bell. And of course Thomas Alva Edison. The books that I read then were geared towards a child and were light and not too technical. Edmund Morris's biography is very deep, extensively researched, and at times technical. Edison was much more than the inventor of the first practical incandescent lamp, phonograph, and motion pictures. This tome brings to life the man I did not ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Edison by Edmund Morris was a comprehensive and meticulously researched biography of Thomas Alva Edison. While Morris is one of our most esteemed biographers, this was a book that he chose to write in reverse chronological order, why I'm not sure, and due to his sudden death last year I'm not sure anyone can answer that question, but it was disconcerting. While I must admit that as a child I would leap to the end of the book once I had a good idea of who the characters were and what the plot ...more
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf, audio, overdrive
I do not agree with the decision to present Edisons life in reverse chronology. Maybe Ill try another biography some day. ...more
Porter Broyles
There are certain conventions and norms that one expects when writing a biography. The biography is either going to be written chronologically or (less frequently) thematically. Those are the approaches that people know and are familiar. To do it any other way requires a skilled writer and a supportive editor/publisher.

Edmund Morris is a skilled writer. This is the fourth book that I have read by him. The first three (on Roosevelt) all received 5 stars from me and one earned Morris the Pulitzer
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I would say to one particular atom in mecall it atom No. 4320Go and be part of a rose for a while. All the atoms could be sent off to become parts of different minerals, plants, and other substances. Then, if by just pressing a little push button they could be called together again, they would bring back their experiences while they were parts of those different substances, and I would have the benefit of the knowledge. Morris, Edmund. Edison. P. 495. (2019)

Edmund Morriss biography of Thomas
Patricia Romero
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Edmund Morris is the author of the three Theodore Roosevelt biographies as well as the really good Ronald Reagan one. I am very sad to say he passed away just this past May.

Thomas Edison was a driven man. He was constantly inventing and patenting new ideas or as he would say, he brought them out in the open, they were always there. He had a new invention about every 11 days, with over 1,000 in his lifetime.

Best known for bringing us into the light, he was a man with a singular need to invent, to
Casey Cep
I reviewed this biography of Thomas Edison for "The New Yorker." You can read the review, which takes into account some other writing about him, here:
More than just an inventor!
Thanks to Amazon Vine, NetGally and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Edison by Edmund Morris.
This eight hundred page book is an interesting read and engaged me easily with the history of Thomas Alva Edison. This fascinating man was so much more than just an inventor and the author conducted extensive research to bring Edison to life for us! I just wish the book had an index for research accessibility because this is the main reason for
Bill Powers
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I read Edison because 1) I have an interest in T. Edison and; 2) I thoroughly enjoyed the Edmund Morris Theodore Roosevelt trilogy. I've seen several reviews that criticized the reverse chronological order style that the author chose to use. I didn't particularly like the reverse chronology, but it wasn't that big a deal for me. Unfortunately, I think the book could have done with a stronger editing job. There was a bit too much fluff included for me.

That said, I'm glad I read Edison and did
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
Ye gads, NO!!!

There was a creative new angle for Morris in penning the life of Edison (see end of review) but not the one he actually took.

No, this just doesnt work.

Ive read an occasional non-chronological, thematically organized biography. Where its not intended to be an introductory biography, and may be somewhat professionally targeted, such as Heiko Obermans Luther bio, it can work well.

I have never read a reverse chronological biography, and now, Ill never try another.

First, this is the
Camille Calman
I received free uncorrected proofs of this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I had previously read and enjoyed one of Edmund Morriss books on Theodore Roosevelt, so I was confident that I would enjoy this book (Morriss last he died in May 2019). I was correct; the book is well-researched, written in a lively, readable style, and does a reasonably good job of explaining scientific concepts to lay people. I was really impressed by the authors ability to convey how much of Edisons success (which ...more
Margery Osborne
Nov 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: biography
I don't know what possessed the author to invert his narrative but the end result was to make this biography of Edison a complete slog. seriously I don't think I achieved any insight into Edison or his process. Would it have been different if the story of his childhood and youth came first? Maybe but after forcing myself through all those pages I really wasn't in the mood to rethink or reread the earlier pages. I have had some personal experience hanging with 'inventors' and I do know it takes ...more
Rich Gatlin
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Edmund Morris has an uncanny ability to put you in the world he's writing about. I'm a huge fan of his Roosevelt biography, so I was very excited to receive this book from Goodreads as an advance copy ahead of publication. It did not disappoint. The format is unique, it is written from the end of his life to the beginning in reverse order. At first I was unsure but it turned out to be one of the best parts of the book. Normally I dread reading the first part of any biography as it's a slog ...more
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
The thing everyone writes about this biography is that Morris wrote it backwards. It starts with his death and each chapter is the previous decade of his life.

I liked this choice the further I got into the book, as it sets up Edison's greatest inventions (phonograph and light bulb) as a climax to the book. So much of his life afterwards was built around these two things, and the book deconstructs all of it as we read further into the book while moving earlier into his life. It creates a tension
Paul Spence
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
What an impressive man, with over 1100 patents in a variety of fields. His National Park site in Orange NJ is one of the most inspirational of the many visited. The book is organized by decade in reverse order; for what reason I do not know. It made for some interesting surprises however. The cube of copper sitting in the corner gathering dust is explained in a later chapter (earlier in time) to have been a prize from a scientific academy.
Anne Morgan
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thomas Alva Edison, known today primarily as the inventor of the lightbulb, spent his life researching, experimenting, and inventing devices in nearly every scientific field available to him over the course of his life. Edmund Morris' new biography takes a thoroughly-researched, detailed look into these aspects of Edison's life, hoping to leave readers (perhaps) with the sense of Edison as a Renaissance Man who unceasingly explored the world around him. The reader learns of Edison's tireless ...more
Chris Kovacs
Nov 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is unusual in that the beginning of the biography starts with Edison's death and then proceeds backwards through the decades of life. For a subject such as Edison where "progress" is the essence of the story this makes it almost impossible to understand. People and inventions pop up and then go away with no clear sense of the magnificent importance of what is being discussed. Relationship with Tesla and controversy with Westinghouse is barely mentioned and when it is, it is difficult ...more
Craig Pearson
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. This is a very detailed look at the life and foibles of Thomas Edison. Most people know only general facts of Ediso's genius, such as the light bulb and motion pictures. They do not know about his failures and family life. Edison was very complicated and most, even his family, did not understand him fully. This book has many technical details about his inventions and patents but they are presented by Morris in a very ...more
Annette Geiss
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive tome on Thomas Alva Edison. Admittedly, I skimmed much of it, as it is so filled with exhaustive accounts of him and his life. I learned copious details about this rare genius of a man. Kudos to Edmund Morris for his extensive research. Thanks you Netgalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
Karen Troutman
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I received this book as an electronic resource from Net Galley

Noted: I am not a great history buff. For the true follower of Edison this would be great book. I however, found it exhaustive and skimmed some of the details.
Not one of my favorite books but it well researched and written.
Scott Wozniak
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I loved Morris's biography of Teddy Roosevelt, so I had high hopes for this book. He's still a skilled writer, so there were smooth sentences and nice turns of phrase here or there. But the book was overwhelmed by the technical details of his discoveries (hundreds of them). I liked those details. But there was relatively very little space given to his personal life, his thoughts, his character. Most of all, the book went through his life backwards. Seriously, it started with his last decade. ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, bio
Author Edmund Morris is difficult to anticipate; his works can be truly excellent or surprisingly unreadable. He is always creative and so I look forward to reading his work, never quite sure what I will be receiving. EDISON was a disappointment to me because I hoped to learn more about the subject and enjoy Morris work. Unfortunately, the author tried a few gimmicks that interfered with both objectives. The book is organized chronologically backwards. It doesnt just begin with Edisons death but ...more
Scott Martin
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
(Audiobook) A good read, but one that could have been better. Admittedly, I didn't know a lot about the man, so this book does a good job of offering good insight into the man. Like many famous folks, there was good and bad about the man. Hard-working, and did much to advance human development. Interesting that Edison felt that the phonograph was his most important invention, rather than the lightbulb, but both continue to define humanity. His family life was difficult, especially when his sons ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I think I like the concept of presenting a biography in reverse order more than the actual execution here. Theres lots of fascinating insight, and Edison definitely comes alive, but it doesnt feel like the book was written with this express intent. Theres too many moments of confusion that could have been smoothed out if Mr. Morris had lived to take another pass at this. As it is, it feels like a gimmick, as other reviewers have noted. But I think this idea has potential to better understand ...more
Thank you to Netgalley for the free e-book in exchange for a review.

I really enjoyed this book in the beginning - or should I say at the end? This biography is written Benjamin Button's style, starting with Edison's death and then going backwards. I found Edison's micromanagement and interest in the tiniest details of his company fascinating. Who knew that Edison spent so much effort to find a domestic plant to make into rubber?

This book's unique format made it so that I was fully immersed in
Mar 10, 2020 rated it liked it
FIRST- read the last chapter first and continue in reverse. I am not sure who suggested the reverse chronology, but it didn't work for me. This book is very interesting and "techy" at the same time. I admit I skimmed the pages of explanations of ohms and resistors, etc. However, I learned what an amazing man he was. I believe - Autistic would be applied to him today. Three Stars only because of the reverse chronology
Becky Loader
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Morris is an excellent researcher, and by presenting the biography in reverse order, he takes the reader from the end to the beginning of an amazing life--and career. No punches are pulled about the extremely eccentric parts of Edison's life and the relative indifference he displays to his family. I learned a lot of details I had not read about before. Many interesting photos are also included.
Brian DeVries
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
An exhaustive study of Edison's life and achievements. I enjoyed the amount of detail in describing Edison's inventions but I don't feel it was so much that it would frustrate a non-technical reader.
The only negative for me was the reverse history format. (His last 10 years, then the 10 before that etc.) I found that frustrating.
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An incredibly dense text, with enormous research...but it makes you work for it to get maximum impact. Not only is it detailed to an epic scale, it's also presents Edison's life backwards, decade by decade. It's an unusual approach, and I'm not sure it aids in the reading of this book, but you can't fault its scholarship or its ambition.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. This profile may contain books from multiple authors of this name.

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Edmund Morris (1804-1874)
Edmund Morris, actor, playwright, author of screenplays

Edmund Morris was a writer best known for his biographies of United States presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Morris

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