Spring Forward

Title: Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time
Published by: Counterpoint
Release Date: 2009
Pages: 228
ISBN13: 978-1582434957
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound


It was a Saturday night in October. I knew I was supposed to wait until 2 a.m. on Sunday, but I was tired, and no one else was likely to consult the kitchen clock before sunrise, so I turned back the time by one hour. And I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

And then I got obsessed with the uncanny idea that we can save energy, lives, and maybe our very souls with this loopy and entirely unscientific routine of falsifying our clocks, which has become the most persistent political controversy in American history.

Spring Forward is a social history and a true-to-life social comedy with Congress in the starring role, surrounded by a supporting cast of opportunistic ministers, movie moguls, stockbrokers, labor leaders, sports fanatics, and railroad execs. And it is a portrait of public policy in America—a boiling stew of unsubstantiated science, profiteering masked as piety, and mysteriously shifting time-zone boundaries.

For starters: Don’t blame the farmers. And don’t expect to save anything with daylight saving, which is actually a fantastically effective retail-spending plan.

Read an excerpt


“Just in the nick of time comes novelist Michael Downing with Spring Forward, a lively history aimed at debunking the ‘uncanny idea of falsifying clock time’ . . . As the perceptive Mr. Downing observes . . . stripped of its bogus efficiency arguments, Daylight Saving Time amounts to an extra hour for shopping and golf . . . Spring ahead and fore!”
—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 . . . [Downing] performs the valuable service of forcing some realism into considerations of what Daylight Saving Time can actually accomplish.”
—The New Republic

“Michael Downing’s merry new book, Spring Forward, tells the story of America’s odd and chaotic movement to change time. . . . [You] can’t talk about daylight saving without laughing, because the history is so wacky.”
—Boston Globe

Spring Forward has a cast of characters to rival a mobster novel . . . a charming history of time in America. . . Downing is certainly opinionated, and is thoughtfully skeptical of the need to change the clocks. But he effortlessly captures the ridiculousness of both sides of the debate . . . in this well-researched, amusing book.”
The American Enterprise

“This short, jam-packed account by Downing rights the often misunderstood history . . . 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

“Thoughtful, provocative, and often hilarious . . . Downing delivers a funny, readable,
well-documented account of the strange history of daylight-saving time—one that
finally absolves farmers and cows from unjustified blame.”
—Indianapolis Star

Spring Forward offers not only a history of time in the United States (and, for that matter, in much of the world) but also a wryly humorous look at the perennial clash over the usefulness of Daylight Saving Time . . . Fortunately for readers, he presents both sides of the case with wry skepticism . . . It’s entertaining, informative and—yes—as light as 8 p.m. in the last week in June.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“I’m among those scorned by downstate Illinois Republican Congressman Edward King as ‘the pleasure seekers, the swivel-chair ornaments, and the golf players’ . . . during one of a startling number of debates on this issue over the last 100 years as documented in author Michael Downing’s new book.” 
—Chicago Tribune

Spring Forward won’t help you understand the wisdom of the practice, but it may help you laugh, especially as all the things you have been told over and over about daylight-saving time are revealed to be fiction. Downing’s book won’t make daylight-saving time more sensible, but it sure makes it more fun and hip to think about.”
—Sacramento Bee

“Why is there Daylight Saving Time? The best answer so far is offered in Spring Forward . . . Combining diligent research and amusing asides, Downing has assembled a history of a practice that is misunderstood by most, and unquestioningly obeyed by even more.”
—Providence Journal

“Tufts University lecturer Michael Downing asserts in his new book, Spring Forward that profit, not patriotism motivated some of the Daylight Saving Time backers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big department stores led the charge . . .’Whenever Americans turned ahead their clocks,’ Downing writes in his book, ‘somebody turned a profit.’”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Downing draws upon an impressive array of sources . . . [and] leavens the facts he has collected through his use of humor and an ability to create ironic twists in the unfolding drama he weaves.”
—Lexington Post-Dispatch

“This fast-paced history of Daylight Saving Time in the United States is a treasure trove of surprising facts that have been forgotten or hopelessly muddled since Congress first began debating the idea. . . . Spring Forward is an eye-opener . . . The book should also be a cautionary tale to current members of Congress.”
—New Hampshire Valley News

“Stirring us from our chronological complacency . . . Novelist Downing writes gracefully, with a penchant for the strange detail, and he draws much mirth from the facts about Daylight Saving Time and its amorphous benefits.”

“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


Michael Downing has discussed his celebrated social history of the seasonal clock change on television and radio programs across the United States and Canada, including the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer and multiple appearances on NBC’s Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, CNN’s In the Money and American Morning, Fox’s Neil Cavuto show and national news, several MSNBC news and analysis programs, CNBC, C-SPAN’s Book TV, Canadian television’s World News on the CBC, as well as National Public Radio’s All Things ConsideredMorning EditionOn Point, and Living on Earth, the BBC’s national news and the BBC Five Live talk show, and World Report andSunday Edition on CBC radio.

Michael’s op-ed pieces about the extended dates for daylight saving in 2007 and the dubious impact on energy savings appeared in the Wall Street JournalNew York TimesWashington PostBoston GlobeToronto Globe and Mail and other newspapers. Spring Forward has been featured in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and online sites, including articles in Time magazine, ESPN.comUSA Today.

See below for links to some of Michael’s television and radio appearances with Spring Forward, including his interviews on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer and with Melissa Block on NPR’s All Things Considered.

One of Michael's many interviews with the GeographicRead

Michael talks with Melissa Block on NPR’s All Things Considered— Listen

This is one of Michael’s conversations with C-Span’s Book TV— Watch

NPR's John Hockenberry grills Michael about what we do and don't save— Listen

Michael’s first op-ed about the extension of daylight saving appeared in the New York Times when Congress passed the 2005 Energy Act— Read

TIME Magazine
Michael’s take on the new daylight-saving law is covered in Time magazine— Read