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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Grab a Hammock and Your Lemonade: Suggested Summer Reads

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 6th

by Rebecca Jones, Estates Collections Information Specialist

Looking for an interesting title to help you while away the lazy days of summer? Several writers have recently produced factual books that are so engaging they read just like novels. Check out one of the following, several are available at our online bookstore;





Greg Grandin. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City. (2009) Recently named one of Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2009 … So Far, Fordlandia presents the stranger-than-fiction tale of Henry Ford’s attempt to exploit the Brazilian rubber industry by setting up an American-style outpost in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest. The story of Fordlandia offers an engaging portrait of the often-contradictory, but always fascinating, Henry Ford.





Jill Jonnes. Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. (2004) A fascinating and accessible account of not only the individual scientists responsible for bringing electricity to Gilded Age America, but the market forces on Wall Street that ultimately controlled this revolution. Also available in the Museum Store. 





Jane S. Smith. The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants. (2009) Unlike his friends Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, Luther Burbank’s name isn’t immediately recognizable today. Cultural historian Jane Smith does an admirable job of telling the story of Burbank’s fame as a bioengineer in an age when such a term had yet to be coined. Burbank developed more than 800 new breeds of plants, making him a folk hero during the early twentieth century, a time when Americans moved from farms to cities in droves and the fascination with man’s domination over nature was at its height. A captivating look at a forgotten celebrity.





 Joe Jackson. The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire. (2008) After World War I, Thomas Edison spent the last decade of his life working to end our dependence on international rubber by attempting to produce a domestic source right here in Fort Myers. Fifty years earlier, Englishman Henry Wickham ensured his country’s dominance of the worldwide rubber trade by stealing 70,000 seeds from the Amazon and smuggling them to scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, who in turn planted them in Britain’s Asian colonies. The Thief at the End of the World is the remarkably readable tale of this adventure in “biopiracy.”




 Tom Standage. The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. (2007)  Standage highlights the competitions, successes, failures, and personal heartaches that comprised the creation of the telegraph (perfected by Thomas Edison) in the late nineteenth century. This quick history also demonstrates how technological advances bring about uncontrollable, lightning-fast cultural change. In the age of the Internet, smart phones, and instant communication, we can certainly relate.




 Randall Stross. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World. (2007) Stross takes on Thomas Edison’s story through a different lens; that of Edison as self-created public icon. An entertaining look at Edison’s attempts at self-promotion, the ensuing extreme lack of privacy, and his status as the first American superstar. Stross argues that the greatest of Edison’s inventions was himself.




 Susan Orlean. The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession. (1998) The Edisons were fascinated with orchids and hung them in the trees throughout their Seminole Lodge estate here in Fort Myers. Mina Edison even named an outdoor walkway on the property “Orchid Lane,” in honor of these exceptional beauties. Susan Orlean’s bestselling tale of “orchidmania” takes readers on a wild ride through the swamps of Florida, chronicling one man’s journey from orchid fascination to criminal prosecution.




 Michael Grunwald. The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise (2007). The Florida Everglades may seem like a weighty topic for a summer read, but don’t let the title of this mesmerizing book fool you. Grunwald, an award-winning Washington Post journalist, chronicles the role of politics in the desecration and rebuilding of this ecosystem in a provocative, engaging narrative. Edison and Ford and their families were lucky enough to experience the unique environment of the Everglades during a 1914 camping trip to the area. Grunwald captures the “Glades” from that pristine era through modern times. You won’t be able to put it down.

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