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Spring Forward

The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time

List Price: $14.95

February 17, 2009 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 240 Pages | ISBN 9781582434957
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“[A] lively history aimed at debunking the ‘uncanny idea of falsifying clocks to delay the apparent time of sunset.’” —Wall Street Journal

Michael Downing is obsessed with Daylight Saving, a loopy idea that became the most persistent political controversy in American history. Almost one hundred years ago, lawmakers across the country first debated, ridiculed, and then passionately embraced the possibility of saving an hour of daylight. But to this day, no one can say for sure why we are required by law to change our clocks twice a year. Who first proposed the scheme?

Downing unravels the worldwide confusion occasioned by decades of clock manipulation. He sifts through a century of Congressional hearings and contemporary newspaper reporting to offer a portrait of public policy in the 20th century, a perennially boiling stew of unsubstantiated science, profiteering masked as piety, and mysteriously shifting time-zone boundaries. It is a true-to-life social comedy with Congress in the leading role, surrounded by a supporting cast of opportunistic ministers, movie moguls, stockbrokers, labor leaders, educators, sports fanatics, and farmers.

This new and expanded edition contains updates since the book’s publication, including insights into recent legal debates, Daylight Saving’s impact on energy and the environment, and more narrative anecdotes about this most perplexing world custom.

MICHAEL DOWNING is the author of five other books, including Shoes Outside the DoorPerfect Agreement, and Breakfast with Scot. He teaches creative writing at Tufts University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


“Now, just in the nick of time… comes novelist Michael Downing with Spring Forward, a lively history aimed at debunking the ‘uncanny idea of falsifying clocks to delay the apparent time of sunset.’” —Wall Street Journal

“Downing’s examples of the ravages of keeping time compete with one another for the most zany . . . [He] shows how Daylight Saving Time factored into the low-grade rural-urban civil war that began with industrialization and is today more commonly known as red versus blue.” —The New Republic

“My favorite philosopher is Groucho Marx, who noted, ‘Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas.’ My second favorite time-related philosopher is Michael Downing.” —Manchester Union Leader

“This short, jam-packed account by Downing rights the often misunderstood history of daylight saving time… Downing brings it to life by dramatizing politicians and various industries pitted against one another in absurd, often hilarious debates. It’s a colorful story of something we all take to be fundamental, but through history has been maddening, divisive and baffling.” —Publishers Weekly

“Novelist Downing writes gracefully, with a penchant for the strange detail, and he draws much mirth from the facts about DST and its amorphous benefits.” —Booklist

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