Book Buzz: Edison’s Ghosts

Edison’s Ghosts: The Untold Weirdness of History’s Greatest Geniuses by Katie Spalding

You know their names. You might even know their famous accomplishments. But do you know how truly, well, weird they were? Probably not – which is exactly where mathematician and author Katie Spalding shines. Pulling back the layers of reverence that surround well-known geniuses like Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie and others, Spalding shows us how very imperfect these high achievers really were. Learn about Albert Einstein’s disastrous attempts at sailing; Ben Franklin’s “prank” electrified wine glasses; Nicola Tesla’s unhealthy attachment to a pigeon; and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle’s astonishing gullibility. Readers will find the book’s premise, that geniuses are maybe not that special after all, relatable and deeply reassuring. (By the way, don’t skip the footnotes! Those are some of the best bits.) Blending an impressive amount of research with irreverent, often biting humor, Edison’s Ghosts is a highly entertaining slice of history perfect for holiday gifting. 

Reviewed by Mary Kinser, collection development librarian, Whatcom County Library System

(Originally published in Bellingham Alive October 2023 issue.)