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Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time Unknown Binding – February 22, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
For one thing, the background history of timekeeping goes back further in Prerau's book than in Downing's. And it is placed in a more logical place in the book. Additionally, this book is, in my opinion, better written, reading in a way that holds my interest better. Prerau also uses maps and illustrations intelligently.
In addition, Downing seems not to have thoroughly proofread his book, occasionally writing "east" instead of "west" and "latitude" instead of "longitude."
For all these reasons, although both books pretty much cover the same material, unless you have a great desire to have both books in your library, this one is the one to buy.
Since 1986 the U.S. has observed DST from the first Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October. Beginning in 2007, DST is to be expanded by three weeks (in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005). It will now begin on the second Sunday of March and extend until the first Sunday of November. Given this change I figured it was high time for me to find out what Daylight Saving Time is all about.
I review below David Prerau's Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. It's the first of two DST-related books that have been weighing down my TBR shelves. Both books were published in 2005--the idea of exploring DST apparently being very much in the air in the first years of the new millennium.
Benjamin Franklin proposed in 1784, when he was serving as the American minister to France, that Parisians conserve energy--in the form of candle wax and tallow--by changing their habits, rising with the sun rather than sleeping in with their shutters closed against the daylight. The idea never caught on, and it is at any rate impractical as it would depend on the alteration of individual habits on a large scale for it to have any chance of working for a community. Over a hundred years later, in 1905, a certain William Willett devised an alternative plan for increasing the number of usable daylight hours during England's summer months.Read more ›
The reason that I give a "grudging" five stars is that I still personally disagree with DST. Biological circadian rythms do not easily go backward, and I believe that one day research will describe the deleterious effects (sleepy drivers, morning heart attacks, reduced productivity in schools and workplaces, etc.) that can be directly traced to disrupted biological rythms that take weeks or months to recover from the artificially disrupted schedule. These effects, when fully identified, may more than fully counteract any marginal beneficial economic advantage from energy conservation. If DST is such a good idea let's move the time zones one hour forward and then leave them there rather than shift back and forth twice a year. This book does not even address the issue of circadiam rhythyms, except for a one-sentence mention on the second to last page. A full evaluation of DST must include this important factor, as anyone who drags out of bed for weeks after "spring forward" day, sipping cup after cup of coffee just to awaken, can personally attest.
The second thing I learned is that virtually all the arguments advanced even today against DST were already put forward when the idea was first seriously proposed in the early 20th century. I must say that the author is so fair that after reading this book, which is pro DST, I have more respect for the contra arguments. The dairy farmers do have a legitimate beef, if you will pardon the expression.
Robert Frost, before he had any success as a poet, tried to make a living as a farmer in New England. By all accounts, he was not very good at it. Late at night, after the rest of the family had gone to bed, he would stay up late, composing poems on the kitchen table, going out to observe the starry sky when he got stuck. As a result, he got up late in the morning. Sometimes he didn’t milk the cows until noon. He’s supposed to have said, “The cows got used to it quicker than the neighbors did.”
And that’s been pretty much my attitude to those who oppose DSL and almost invariably mention “the cows.” It may not accord with ancient tradition, and it may not make sense at all places and all times (countries near the equator have little need for it), but for the most part, it is eminently practical. As Winston Churchill said long ago, DSL is not a change “from natural time to artificial time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Most people today would be surprised to learn that daylight saving time (DST) was for most of the 20th century a controversial issue that divided many countries, U.S. Read morePublished on May 5, 2012 by bellczar
Before reading this book I did not know that daylight savings time started and ended on a different schedule each year; I did not know that Arizona and Indiana don't participate; I... Read morePublished on April 5, 2011 by macjedi
Everybody talks about Daylight Savings Time. This book tells an interesting story about it and timekeeping.Published on November 21, 2007 by Todd Roth
This book really opened my eyes to the story of "Daylight Saving Time".
It was a fast read and I recommend it to anyone who is involved in DST. Read more
Prerau has done a fine job chronicling the history of DST. Every reader is certain to find something here he didn't know (Example: Having been overseas 1973-75, I was completely... Read morePublished on February 22, 2006 by Roadrunner
I thought this was a superbly written book. It gave an incredible history of DST, complete with interesting stories and anecdotes that made the subject even more enjoyable. Read morePublished on July 19, 2005 by Jenn
The subject is very interesting if you are a trivia and history person. I am. The problems caused by time lines, shifting the clocks forward or back are many and well documented. Read morePublished on July 8, 2005 by Sue R