Spring Forward by Michael Downing

November 18, 2009 at 12:00 am 2 comments

springforward Let loose your inner conspiracy theorist in Michael Downing’s thoroughly excellent Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. In this fascinating history, Downing traces the story of daylight saving from its earliest incarnations (consensus is that we can blame an Englishman named William Willett for the idea) to its current muddled state (conspiracy theorists all agree that it is now a government and retail plot to make us spend more money and be tired all the time so our judgment is foggy).

Downing may not be a historian and his book may not clear up the question of why we do have daylight saving, but it does a great job of tracing the arguments for and against daylight saving throughout the twentieth century. There is almost no reason why we do have it or don’t have it and Downing’s book shows how random twists of public opinion and the personal interest of certain politicians created the system we currently have today.

Daylight saving may just be one of the most poorly understood institutions in our lives currently. I tried to talk to my roommate about it and he just kept putting his head in his hands and shaking it confusedly while muttering, “But wait…wait…that means…” Downing’s book is a great step forward in understanding just why it is so confusing. There is no way to clear up the confusion because, as an institution, daylight saving is inherently mystifying, but Downing does a great job of at least clearly explaining the confusion and making the reader feel less like an idiot for being confused in the first place.

In the end, the main frustrating thing to remember is that no one can change time, you can only change what we all call it. So it is some consolation to us daylight saving haters that the government can call it 3 p.m. all they like, but it will still be 2 p.m. in reality. (Or is it 4 p.m.?)


Entry filed under: Non-fiction. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KT  |  November 19, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I vote for its being a government conspiracy — also, I heard someone in real life the other day argue for the conspiracy theory! Crazy. Anyway, this book sounds delightful :)

    • 2. Corey  |  November 20, 2009 at 6:25 am

      I also vote conspiracy! At the very least it is the government unnecessarily meddling with when I should want to go out in the morning and evening.


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