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on February 15, 2010
While we all know that Bell was responsible for the telephone and, indirectly, all the high tech gadgetry we use or bemoan today, I had no idea of the extent of his interests nor the foresight he had--for things that were commercialized well after he'd identified their possibilities. He clearly wanted to be and was far more than a "one-shot wonder".

I enjoyed the insight into his foibles and his marriage which clearly proved the maxim "beyond a great man is a great woman." As a former Bell employee I was familiar with the name "Mabel Hubbard" but had no idea of just how wonderful she was.

It was also interesting to read about his peers and to learn about their foibles.

I had a little bit of trouble with the technical parts of the book but was truly fascinated by the character analysis. Alec Bell was a complicated man who clearly suffered from a lack of focus. Today, he'd be described as ADD I'm sure.

I was also a little confused by the title. While he was clearly reluctant to pursue commercial avenues for his inventions I'd say he was anything but reluctant when it came to inventing or to pursuing his interests. He was driven by the kind of thirst for knowledge that few of us can ever appreciate or experience.

I learned an awful lot from this book. I think it should almost be required reading for Canadians who typically know so little about our legendary heroes.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon November 7, 2013
Before reading this excellent book, I thought that I knew just about everything of importance about Alexander Graham Bell: that he invented the telephone, that his wife was deaf and that he was involved in some way with helping deaf people. I now know that this barely scratches the surface of Bell's rich, passionate and inventive life. I had absolutely no idea that Bell was involved in so many scientific pursuits and inventions other than the telephone.

As in most biographies, the author recounts her subject's life from birth to death as well as a depiction of the times in which he lived. She puts much emphasis on Bell's family, his wonderful partnership with his beloved wife, his amazingly inventive mind, his distinctive personality and the ups and downs in his remarkable life - both personal and professional. However, regarding his inventions, the author does describe them but without going into enough technical detail (and without appropriate diagrams) that would appeal to a technically-minded reader like me; nevertheless, one can still get a gist of how they worked.

The author writes in a very friendly, warm, compassionate, accessible and engaging style. To me it is clear that for the author, researching and writing this wonderful book was a labour of love. I believe that absolutely anyone can enjoy this warm, captivating biography of a truly great, iconic individual.
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on September 20, 2006
Once again, Charlotte Gray has created a gem. Before page 10 of "Reluctant Genius", one is totally absorbed in the story (yes, it does feel like a novel). The wealth of detail about the life of Alexander Graham Bell is impressive, as are the descriptions of Edinburgh, London, Boston and Baddeck, to name but a few places. It is surprising that Alec Bell has not been more highly acclaimed - his passion for and dedication to his work, his futuristic ideas (e.g. "Correspondence between distant places will in future be carried on electrically instead of by mail.") and his successes are not as well known to the average person. Yes, he is the inventor of the telephone, but how many of us know of his extensive work with the deaf (which included Helen Keller), his "apparatus" used to detect bullets, his Silver Dart, and other numerous inventions? One must read the book to fully appreciate such an inquisitive mind. And of course, the devotion of his Mabel was instrumental in his success; a touching love story. We should be grateful to Charlotte Gray for providing this opportunity to get to know such a fascinating man. Thoroughly enjoyable and most highly recommended.
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on September 2, 2006
Charlotte Gray is a first rate Biographer, and she proves it once again in this outstanding biography of Alexander Graham Bell. Subtitled, "Reluctant Genius", Bell was just that. Best known for the invention of the telephone, Bell was widely known for his work with the deaf, including Helen Keller, and his work on the first engine powered flight. He could be tenacious when on the trail of something new, but thanks to his wonderful wife, Mabel, herself deaf, he remained grounded, for the most part, and made many contributions to the 20th century and beyond. Definitely one of the great men of the 19th century. And Charlotte Gray is one of the great Biographers of the 21st!!
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on February 16, 2012
Provides insight into Alexander Graham Bell his life, wife and associates. Well written to engage the lay reader. Good descriptions particularly of the "Athens of the North" as Boston titled itself and the complete blindness to the power of the telephone in the days of telegraphy.
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on September 10, 2015
Very inspiring and moving. Great Canadian hero story.
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on May 4, 2015
Wonderful book! Historical and well told.
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