From Publishers Weekly
Why should the hours in a day be open to government interference? Who are politicians to dictate how clocks are set? In Preau's engrossing and highly readable history of Daylight Saving Time (DST), these questions are posed many times over by people dead-set against altering "God's time," forgetting (or unaware) that Standard Time was largely created by the railroad companies. Early-to-rise Benjamin Franklin wrote of the good that could come of tinkering with the clock hours, but Englishman William Willett was the first to work out the logistics in his pamphlet, The Waste of Daylight, and lobby for DST in 1907. He died before anything came of his proposal, and it took the economic shock of WWI to get it adopted-and then only temporarily in most countries. Prerau writes knowledgeably about DST, following its trail with a single-minded focus that allows him to untangle the "clock chaos" it sometimes caused in places like Minneapolis and St. Paul, which in 1965 clashed over when to spring forward. Poems and editorial cartoons scattered throughout demonstrate just how fierce and widespread the debate raged. Prerau has compiled what seems to be every intriguing tidbit related to DST (and some that are less interesting, like the full texts of DST ordinances). Uncontroversial as it may seem to some, for others it was a matter of life and death, and Prerau handles the various arguments with admirable skill and evenhandedness, making this an excellent read for anyone curious about this peculiar slice of history.
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In this rewarding excursion into the curious history of daylight saving time (DST), Prerau discovers that it has been at the crossroads of politics and war. He recounts that DST first occurred to an Englishman who on his morning horse rides observed that Londoners were still abed, a lethargy he found reprehensible. The affronted William Willett championed DST in a 1907 pamphlet entitled "The Waste of Daylight," setting the original argument that touched off decades of debates on DST in British and American legislatures. These civic battles ballast Prerau's narrative. However, real battles are what enshrined DST in daily life. Patriotic appeals in World Wars I and II swelled the pro-DST forces (primarily urbanites and railroad companies), while in peacetime, anti-DST voices (primarily rural dwellers) reasserted themselves, such that observance of DST in America became a patchwork of local preferences. Noting the congressional acts (as recently as 1986) that eventually sorted out America's timekeeping confusion, Prerau's account is well researched and wryly presented. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved