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  • Edison's Ghosts

  • The Untold Weirdness of History's Greatest Geniuses
  • Written by: Katie Spalding
  • Narrated by: Susie Riddell
  • Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
  • 5.0 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Edison's Ghosts

Written by: Katie Spalding
Narrated by: Susie Riddell
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Publisher's Summary

Overturn everything you knew about history’s greatest minds in this raucous and hilarious book, where it turns out there's a finer line between "genius" and "idiot" than we've previously known.

“As Albert Einstein almost certainly never said, everyone is a genius—but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So begins Katie Spalding’s spunky takedown of the Western canon, and how genius may not be as irrefutably great as we commonly understand. While most of us may never become Einstein, it may surprise you to learn that there’s probably a bunch of stuff you can do that Einstein couldn’t. And, as Spalding shows, the famous prodigies she explores here were quite odd by any definition. For example:

  • Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, believed that he could communicate with the undead and built the world’s very first hotline to heaven: the Spirit Phone.
  • Marie and Pierre Curie, famous for discovering radioactivity, slept next to a lump of radioactive material for years and strapped it to their arms to watch it burn them in real-time.
  • Lord Byron, acclaimed British poet, literally took a bear with him to university.
  • Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity and motion, but he also looked up at the sun without eye protection. The result? Three days of blindness.
  • Tesla, whose scientific work led to the invention of the AC unit, fell in love with a pigeon.

Edison's Ghosts is filled with examples of the so-called best of humanity doing, to put it bluntly, some really dumb shit. You’ll discover stories that deserve to be told but never are: the hilarious, regrettable, and downright bafflingly lesser-known achievements that never made it into our history books, until now.

©2022 Katie Spalding (P)2022 Little, Brown & Company
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What the critics say

"[Edison's Ghosts] takes a lighthearted tour of the missteps of scientific heavyweights, including Thomas Edison’s so-called phone to heaven and the time Isaac Newton temporarily blinded himself after studying the sun without eye protection."—Publishers Weekly

“With wit and charm, each of Katie Spalding’s stories in Edison’s Ghosts nudges, pushes, and eventually shoves some of our most illustrious celebrity thinkers right off their pedestals. Whether it was learning how Pythagorus died from an ill-timed fascination with beans, the career derailing procrastination of Leonardo Da Vinci, the truly impressive-in-its magnitude gullibility of Arthur Conan Doyle, or the failed attempt of the titular Edison to create a phone for calling ghosts, this warts-and-all review of the human, the very silly human, side history’s most famous “geniuses” will fuel your dinner party conversations for years.”—David McRaney, author of You Are Not So Smart

Edison's Ghosts is a masterful combination of historical research and comedic storytelling, infused with erudition and judiciously dropped F-bombs. I laughed out loud on nearly every page. It is truly inspiring to read about the stupidity of geniuses. Thank you, Katie, for knocking these wunderkinds down a few pegs and making the rest of us feel smarter in the process.”—Justin Gregg, author of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal

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Potty Mouth but Pure Fun!

I just loved this book. I think Kate Spalding was fair and insightful. The swearing is appropriate because, honestly, some of the things these great people did were startling!

The book is well-researched but I was surprised she missed a few bits about various people. Like that Newton and Tesla both died virgins, which to me, is so sad that such smart men could not emote enough to other people to, well, get close to them. And that Tesla had OCD for sure, never shaking hands and fearing germs in his food and elsewhere, though he could touch pigeons!! Yuck. As well, she missed the Thomas Levenson revelation that Einstein tried to seduce his second wife/cousin's 20 year old daughter almost the moment he was married: love rat indeed.

Too often we have hagiographies of the geniuses in our world. Spalding had given a wickedly funny, wise, and very honest review of some of the bone-headed behaviour of those who could be bright in one area, but so awful in others, just like the rest of us.

A wonderful book that should be read as bedtime stories for teens so they can learn to detect bullshit they are taught about the world's heros: the great are all zeros sometime.

Oh, and the narration of this book is spot on!! What a delicious performance by Susi Riddell!

George Young
Montreal, Canada

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