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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes reveals the fascinating history behind energy transitions over time - wood to coal to oil to electricity and beyond.

People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Ultimately, the history of these challenges tells the story of humanity itself.

Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford.

In Energy, Rhodes highlights the successes and failures that led to each breakthrough in energy production, from animal and water power to the steam engine, from internal combustion to the electric motor. He addresses how we learned from such challenges, mastered their transitions, and capitalized on their opportunities. Rhodes also looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the specter of global warming and a population hurtling toward 10 billion by 2100.

Human beings have confronted the problem of how to draw life from raw material since the beginning of time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation brought further challenges, and through such transformations we arrived at where we are today. In Rhodes’ singular style, Energy details how this knowledge of our history can inform our way tomorrow. 

©2018 Richard Rhodes (P)2018 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about Energy

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent book but please spare us the accents!

This is not quite the riveting read that Rhodes' account of the making of the atomic bomb was, but still a very comprehensive and interesting history of the development of energy technologies from the start of the coal age. Jacques Roy has a pleasant voice to listen to, but he has alas fallen prey to the pernicious fashion for reading historical quotes in the accent of the person being quoted. Unfortunately his accents are truly execrable and do nothing but annoy and distract. Please Audible narrators, just stop it.

1 person found this helpful

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History of energy

Deep dive into the history of energy from Richard Rhodes. I wasn't quite expecting this but it was a really handy review. Narrator Jacque Roy is very good in most books but for some reason tried to use accents (Scottish, a poor Russian one) which is unusual for him and slightly detracted from the performance. If you want to understand how we got to where we are from an energy perspective, this is your book. I thought they could've spent a little more time on renewables and less time on the very early parts like wood etc. Good stuff anyway.

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  • Photino
  • 26-07-2018

Rhodes si, accents no!

Rhodes’s book Is engaging but is not easy to listen to. Mr. Roy’s attempts at accents are unfortunate and amateurish. He has a pleasant and clear voice. If only he had just read the book and omitted the histrionics.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Parts
  • 22-07-2018

Does not disappoint.

An in depth analysis of energy from wood to nuclear to renewables. Rhoades recounts the history of how society, whose existence, limitations, and growth ultimately depend on energy. As those of you who have read his Pulitzer Prize winning book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" will note his work is unbiased, straightforward an approach to history. This departs from that only in the final chapter when necessity forces him to draw conclusions from history and project these forward in time. Although some disagreement may exist on the precise nature of how the future might unfold, no thinking person can disagree with the general idea of these conclusions. An excellent work of history and prescient futurism combined.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Ned Gulley
  • 30-08-2018

No more accents, please!

Hello to Audible narrators, Audible producers, Audible editors: I love your books. I love your service. But please please PLEASE don't use foreign accents when reading nonfiction. It's painfully distracting. This is a terrific book. But, just to take one example: the French inventor Denis Papin did not speak English with a bad French accent. He spoke French. We know that, and we don't need to be reminded of it. When you're reading an English translation of his words, it doesn't help to say it in a bad French accent. Or a good French accent. Or a French accent of any kind. It actually makes it very hard to concentrate on the text. I'm begging you not to do this with other nonfiction books. I might not have ordered this book had I realized how much of this I would have to listen to. But it is a good book!

19 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Jensen
  • 09-09-2018

Poor narration

I did not like how the narrator performed various accents, otherwise the book was fine.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Sabacon
  • 07-03-2019

Good Voice, Poor Reading

To give a printed book analogy of this audio book: You have an interesting story, you choose a lovely font and then make all pages annoyingly hard to read by placing many of the words on the pages without any spaces between them. I had to stop listening, could not finish, the narrators voice is cool and nice like a beautiful font but the manner of reading sounds atrocious in headphones which I have to use.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Don Middleton
  • 27-08-2018

Not as comprehensive as perhaps is warranted today.

It is a history, so no peek into what may be just over the horizon, such as “gasoline from sunlight” an industrialization of what plants do with photosynthesis - make a liquid source of energy with sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. And because he wanted to write a much shorter book, this is not nearly as comprehensive as his two books on the making of the atomic and nuclear bombs. But still, a worthwhile listen. And he makes a great case for keeping nuclear energy as part of the mix of future electrical generation.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Richard Redano
  • 08-07-2018

comprehensive history of energy development

This is a wonderfully comprehensive overview of energy development spanning more than six centuries. It is presented at an ideal technical level that most readers can follow without being bored. The audio performer consistently mispronounces the prefix "giga" as though it were "jiga" e.g. jigawatt. This really grates on the listener's nerves

7 people found this helpful

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  • J. Rector
  • 21-08-2018

Soporific narration.

The book is good, but did not meet my high expectations. The reader has a soft tone that when combined with the dry material makes for a sleepy listen. Reader’s decent but unnecessary attempts to inflect foreign accents on quoted material were distracting.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Graham Reynolds
  • 04-03-2020

weird accents by narrator ruin the book.

the book itself is good. Get the physical copy the narrator keeps putting in annoying accents

1 person found this helpful

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  • Clay Wilcox
  • 07-02-2019

Speak Up

Unfortunately the narrator speaks in a tone that is almost a whisper. It makes it unpleasant for me to listen to the book with my headphones. However, the story and the level of detail he goes into is worth the read...just don't listen on headphones.

1 person found this helpful

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  • R Yates
  • 30-11-2020

Good, but accents were distractingly bad.

Sir, please refrain from accents in the future. Apart from that, good narrator. Very informative. I'd have loved to hear a little more about renewable energy at the end and a bit less about the minute details of e.g. the discovery of electricity.

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  • NEIL MURPHY
  • 30-09-2019

TURGID DISJOINTED AND SOPORIFIC

Curiously structured book that jumps all over history in a very boring and disjointed fashion that is difficult to follow let alone enjoy. The tedium and complexity of the narrative is matched only by the dullness of the narrator - too softly spoken and most apt to lose your concentration except when he attempts foreign accents, which are laughable bordering upon offensive. Worst audio book I’ve ever waded through.

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  • Geoffrey Morley
  • 23-08-2019

Awful attempts at accents

I'm sure it contains interesting stories but by the time the inexplicably Indian sounding quotes from James Watt were read I had lost my ability to ignore the performance and concentrate on the detail.

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  • Cliente Amazon
  • 09-01-2019

Definitely a must for one's world understanding

the book portrays an excellent picture of how the search for solutions to various problems weave into technological innovation and the improvement of societies! I think the reader is able to imitate any accent imaginable :)

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  • D. Jarenicz
  • 06-06-2018

Interesting topics, very well narrated

I have listened to Richard's previous books and always enjoyed them. This was also enjoyable, strayed off topic sometimes. Great narration

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