The most recommended Thomas Edison books

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to Thomas Edison, and here are their favorite Thomas Edison books.
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Book cover of An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood

Elyce Helford Author Of What Price Hollywood?: Gender and Sex in the Films of George Cukor

From my list on classic Hollywood from a scholar and fan of film.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a film fan and scholar who has a joyful yet complex relationship with Hollywood. I have basked in the classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age (1930s-1950s) from my teen years on, including the musical delights of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the screwball comedies of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, the magnificent Universal monsters, and the deliciously dark creativity of film noir. Reading about the history of Hollywood has helped me enjoy this pastime even more, learning everything from economics and politics to method and form. The more I know, the richer grows my interest in both the past and present of that unique institution we call Hollywood.

Elyce's book list on classic Hollywood from a scholar and fan of film

Elyce Helford Why did Elyce love this book?

Gabler offers a detailed and persuasive history of Hollywood’s first producers, all immigrant Jewish Americans seeking to achieve the American dream.

This handful of men started in New York as peddlers or small business owners and then moved west to build their own film empires. No one saw motion pictures as more than a superficial pastime, but it seemed a good business opportunity. Unfortunately, Thomas Edison owned the rights and patents that kept Jewish entrepreneurs from accessing New York, so the immigrants went west.

MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Universal: these were their kingdoms and are still the names we know today as the major Hollywood studios. Meet the remarkable (and sometimes horrible) men who built this world and learn about their lives and ambitions in Gabler’s engaging book.

By Neal Gabler,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked An Empire of Their Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A provocative, original, and richly entertaining group biography of the Jewish immigrants who were the moving forces behind the creation of America's motion picture industry.
 
The names Harry Cohn, William Fox, Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, Jack and Harry Warner, and Adolph Zucker are giants in the history of contemporary Hollywood, outsiders who dared to invent their own vision of the American Dream.  Even to this day, the American values defined largely by the movies of these émigrés endure in American cinema and culture. Who these men were, how they came to dominate Hollywood, and what they gained and lost…


Book cover of Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius

Anthony D. Fredericks Author Of From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them

From my list on creativity and imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was the kid who colored outside the lines and marveled at the special effects of monster movies. Yet, as I grew, I became aware of certain “rules” and “expectations” that seemed to limit my innate creativity. When I became a professional educator, I became even more cognizant of how students’ creativity was shut down. I read tons of books on creativity, but soon discovered that no one had ever written a book on the ingrained practices in family life, education, work environments, and personal beliefs that stamped out our natural creativity. Why do so many people consider themselves as “non-creative?” I wanted to find out…and change the equation.

Anthony's book list on creativity and imagination

Anthony D. Fredericks Why did Anthony love this book?

Here is another “classic” that should be part of your personal library.

Michalko shares life-changing creative techniques captured from creative “experts” such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Pablo Picasso. With easy-to-follow instructions, you too, can lead a more creative life (and change the world) at home and at work.

The author shows you, in exquisite detail, how to alter your thinking or modify your problem-solving abilities to generate tons of new ideas and tons of satisfying solutions to ongoing challenges.

No matter your occupation, this is a book that will generate an array of new and positive ideas.

By Michael Michalko,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cracking Creativity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of Thinkertoys, this follow up brings innovative creative thinking techniques within reach, giving you the tools to tackle everyday challenges in new ways. 

Internationally renowned business creativity expert, Michael Michalko will show you how creative people think—and how to put their secrets to work for you in business and in your personal life. You don't have to be a genius to solve problems like one. Michalko researched and analyzed hundreds of history's greatest thinkers across disciplines—from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso—to bring the best of their techniques together and to teach you how to apply…


Book cover of The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

Natascha Biebow Author Of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

From my list on inventors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to get kids fired up about true stories, using their imaginations and believing in themselves as future innovators, inventors, and creators. Crayola crayons inventor Edwin Binney's story is a fabulous springboard for exploring nature, color and creativity. I love to draw and make stuff just like Binney, so his story resonated with me. The more I researched, the more I admired how he listened to what people needed and looked to nature for inspiration. I am intrigued by the origins of everyday objects. Here are some books that inspired me when I was writing, and that have that fascinating a-ha moment that spurs on innovation.

Natascha's book list on inventors

Natascha Biebow Why did Natascha love this book?

We’ve all heard of these two inventors, but I hadn’t heard of the time they met. The title immediately intrigues and hooks in readers  – what did Ford and Edison learn from each other? Curiosity was a trait they shared that got them both into heaps of trouble and spurred them on to explore, innovate and create life-changing inventions. But before Henry successfully invented the Ford car, he looked longingly at Edison’s numerous successful inventions. What was the secret of his success? “Keep at it!” – such a simple, empowering tip, one that everyone can find inspiring and encouraging, especially young readers.

By Suzanne Slade, Jennifer Black Reinhardt (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inventor's Secret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

* 2017 NSTA Best STEM Book List K-12* * NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 *
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford started off as insatiably curious tinkerers. That curiosity led them to become inventors--with very different results. As Edison invented hit after commercial hit, gaining fame and fortune, Henry struggled to make a single invention (an affordable car) work. Witnessing Thomas's glorious career from afar, a frustrated Henry wondered about the secret to his success.

This little-known story is a fresh, kid-friendly way to show how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford grew up to be the most famous…


Book cover of Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories

Elise Blackwell Author Of Hunger

From my list on that lie to tell the truth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Three of my five novels have largely tragic historical settings—the siege of Leningrad, the Great Flood of 1927, and Hurricane Katrina—and I’ve always been fascinated and awed by how people survive the things they do. The origin of “May you live in interesting times” is disputed, but undoubtedly it's more curse than blessing. I’m also just fascinated by the way writers bring real people and events to life in new ways. As the daughter of scientists, I’m often drawn to works of fiction that feature scientists, real or invented. 

Elise's book list on that lie to tell the truth

Elise Blackwell Why did Elise love this book?

Each of the mostly very short stories in this collection features at least one animal and at least one real person—from Madonna to Thomas Edison and from David Hasselhoff’s dogwalker to Nicola Tesla. It’s funny, sad, and textured, uniting my interest in scientists with my love of animals. Often funny and often sad, each story is a gem of craft, sentence by sentence. As a writer, I admire the audacity of the project and the exuberant skill with which is carried out. This is not a book I could write, and I love it for showing me such a radically different approach to lying to tell the truth.

By Lydia Millet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love in Infant Monkeys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Animals and celebrities share unusual relationships in these hilarious satirical stories by an award-winning contemporary writer.

  Lions, Komodo dragons, dogs, monkeys, and pheasants―all have shared spotlights and tabloid headlines with celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Thomas Edison, and David Hasselhoff. Millet hilariously tweaks these unholy communions to run a stake through the heart of our fascination with famous people and pop culture in a wildly inventive collection of stories that “evoke the spectrum of human feeling and also its limits” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review).

  While in so much fiction animals exist as symbols of good and evil or as author…


Book cover of Edison

Sanford D. Greenberg Author Of Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man's Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life

From my list on biographies for sheer inspiration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a man who has led two lives. The first was as a junk dealer’s son from Buffalo, New York, who worked his tail off in school, won a full scholarship to Columbia University in 1958, and began dreaming of entering politics and someday becoming governor of New York State. The second life arrived suddenly during the third semester of my junior year when blindness seemed to rob me of my dreams. It didn’t, and along with dear friends and a loving family, these biographies have played a central role in keeping my dreams alive.

Sanford's book list on biographies for sheer inspiration

Sanford D. Greenberg Why did Sanford love this book?

Like Da Vinci, Thomas Edison was possessed of great genius, but the point Edmund Morris drives home so well is that Edison was also indefatigable. The Wizard of Menlo Park worked untold hours on end, often sleeping on a mat on the floor, hard by whatever his current project was. It’s such a simple concept—enormous work can lead to enormous accomplishments—and Morris gives us a living example of one man whose work ethic changed civilization.

By Edmund Morris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Edison as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews

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 incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world—already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other…


Book cover of The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

Bryant Wieneke Author Of The Day Rachel Carson Invented Environmentalism

From Bryant's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Seeker Athlete Family man Friend

Bryant's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Bryant Wieneke Why did Bryant love this book?

The Wizard of Menlo Park tells the Thomas Edison story frankly and compellingly, combining the tale of America’s most famous inventor with the story of a man who worked extremely hard to achieve what no one else could.

I learned a lot from his book about an amazing idea man, but also about someone who knew how to translate ideas into reality, break through barriers to achieve a goal, and persevere when success seemed impossible.

When we pay our electric bills, many of us send them to “Edison” because he set a new standard of brilliance and productivity. This is a brilliant read to get to know the man behind the electric company.

By Randall E. Stross,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Wizard of Menlo Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas Edison’s greatest invention? His own fame.

At the height of his fame Thomas Alva Edison was hailed as “the Napoleon of invention” and blazed in the public imagination as a virtual demigod. Starting with the first public demonstrations of the phonograph in 1878 and extending through the development of incandescent light and the first motion picture cameras, Edison’s name became emblematic of all the wonder and promise of the emerging age of technological marvels.

But as Randall Stross makes clear in this critical biography of the man who is arguably the most globally famous of all Americans, Thomas Edison’s…


Book cover of Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies

Chris Yogerst Author Of The Warner Brothers

From my list on bringing Hollywood history to life in the present.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Hollywood’s Golden Age when I first watched Psycho. From there, every new film and book from or about the era has been a journey into Hollywood’s history. I got into higher education and writing because I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with others as much as I enjoy the learning process itself. What interests me most about Hollywood history is how the industry has interacted with American and global history. Hollywood has always had either a front-row seat or a seat at the table of history in the making. Not always on the right side of history, but always fascinating. 

Chris' book list on bringing Hollywood history to life in the present

Chris Yogerst Why did Chris love this book?

This book was my first foray into social and political history of Hollywood.

Sklar covers early film industry battles with Thomas Edison, the impact of censorship in Hollywood, the monopoly-like integration of the studios, and the overarching mythology that Hollywood sold through their movies.

I read it as an undergraduate when I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back as an author and professor, I can see this book as planting seeds that continue to blossom through my own work in the classroom as well as in books and articles that I publish. 

By Robert Sklar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Movie-Made America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as the definitive work upon its original publication in 1975 and now extensively revised and updated by the author, this vastly absorbing and richly illustrated book examines film as an art form, technological innovation, big business, and shaper of American values.
Ever since Edison's peep shows first captivated urban audiences, film has had a revolutionary impact on American society, transforming culture from the bottom up, radically revising attitudes toward pleasure and sexuality, and at the same time, cementing the myth of the American dream. No book has measured film's impact more clearly or comprehensively than Movie-Made America.
This vastly…


Book cover of New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009

Donna Jo Napoli Author Of As Night Falls: Creatures That Go Wild After Dark

From Donna's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Linguist Social advocate Gardener Dancer

Donna's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Donna Jo Napoli Why did Donna love this book?

The author had a great idea: to give us a history of New York City by offering us pages of the diaries of famous people and obscure figures from the early 1600s up through the first decade of the 21st century. 

She goes day by day through a year – with multiple entries from different years and different diaries for each of those days.

We get to see comments on the major political and historical events that shook not just New York but the country and the world, from perspectives that differ drastically from today’s. She was masterful in choosing the diary entries. 

My writing is often historical fiction, and getting inside the mind of someone a few hundred years ago is simple about some things – timeless things – but a challenge about other things. I have to be constantly vigilant to keep my modern mentality from interfering. So…

By Teresa Carpenter (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked New York Diaries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York is a city like no other. Through the centuries, she’s been embraced and reviled, worshipped and feared, praised and battered—all the while standing at the crossroads of American politics, business, society, and culture. Pulitzer Prize winner Teresa Carpenter, a lifelong diary enthusiast, scoured the archives of libraries, historical societies, and private estates to assemble here an almost holographic view of this iconic metropolis. Starting on January 1 and continuing day by day through the year, these journal entries are selected from four centuries of writing—revealing vivid and compelling snapshots of life in the Capital of the World.
 
“Today…


Book cover of They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators

Richard Munson Author Of Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

From my list on inventors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long been fascinated by innovators. In my day jobs, I’ve helped launch a clean-energy startup as well as helped write legislation to promote environmental entrepreneurs. In addition to Nikola Tesla, I’ve written biographies of Jacques Cousteau (inventor of the Aqua Lung and master of undersea filming) and George Fabyan (pioneer of modern cryptography and acoustics), as well as a history of electricity (From Edison to Enron) and profiles of food and farm modernizers (Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food). I love reading about ingenious and industrious individuals becoming inspired and achieving their dreams. 

Richard's book list on inventors

Richard Munson Why did Richard love this book?

Fascinated by innovations, I’m drawn to these concise profiles that span two centuries, moving from the steam engine to the search engine. Continuing the theme of electricity, my favorite story is of Samuel Insull, who served for a time as Thomas Edison’s secretary. He created a business model—a utility monopoly—that brought cheap and drudgery-reducing electricity to millions, yet his corporate pyramids collapsed in the Great Depression, leaving millions of investors penniless. What a grand arc – from being the most powerful modernizer of the 1920s became the most notorious business villain of the 1930s.

By Harold Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Made America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The real inventor of the steam engine. The creator of the bra. The man who invented modern banking. The creator of the computer operating system. These and scores of others are the characters that populate Harold Evans's rollicking, brilliant history of the men and women who made America great. Vast and beautifully designed with hundreds of duotones and photos throughout (many never before published), the book is itself a creation as grand as those it describes. Evans reveals the surprising truths behind many of the creations that made our modern world, as well as the lessons we can learn by…


Book cover of The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-Line Pioneers

Ogi Ogas Author Of Autism: How It's Made: A Memoir of Life With the Dark Gift

From Ogi's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Autistic Neuroscientist Transgressor World-jumper

Ogi's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ogi Ogas Why did Ogi love this book?

The Victorian Internet traces the development and impact of the telegraph in the United States in the nineteenth century, and explicitly draws parallels to the emergence of the Internet in the twenty-first century.

It is a wonderful source of perspective on the tumult and turmoil of our Digital Age by reminding us that any major new means of communication is sure to generate social upheaval, including a new generation of winners and losers.

The book is also very provocative and enlightening by sharing plenty of anecdotes about how people reacted to the emergence of the telegraph—how ordinary folks immediately used it for love, business, and crime, giving rise to entirely new social phenomena and transforming American industry.

For those of us trying to understand consciousness, autism, and higher minds, The Victorian Internet is a wonderful guide to the transformative power of increased connectivity. 

By Tom Standage,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Victorian Internet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new paperback edition of the book the Wall Street Journal dubbed “a Dot-Com cult classic,” by the bestselling author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses-the fascinating story of the telegraph, the world's first “Internet.”

The Victorian Internet tells the colorful story of the telegraph's creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it, from the eighteenth-century French scientist Jean-Antoine Nollet to Samuel F. B. Morse and Thomas Edison. The electric telegraph nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than ever before or since, and its story mirrors and predicts…