Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air

Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air


By (author) Richard Holmes

List price $35.00

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  • Publisher: Pantheon Books
  • Format: Hardback | 404 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 236mm x 38mm | 839g
  • Publication date: 29 October 2013
  • ISBN 10: 0307379663
  • ISBN 13: 9780307379665
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, black & white plates, colour plates
  • Sales rank: 469,506

Product description

**"Kirkus" Best Books of the Year (2013)** **"Time Magazine" 10 Top Nonfiction Books of 2013** **"The New Republic" Best Books of 2013** In this heart-lifting chronicle, Richard Holmes, author of the best-selling "The Age of Wonder," follows the pioneer generation of balloon aeronauts, the daring and enigmatic men and women who risked their lives to take to the air (or fall into the sky). Why they did it, what their contemporaries thought of them, and how their flights revealed the secrets of our planet is a compelling adventure that only Holmes could tell. His accounts of the early Anglo-French balloon rivalries, the crazy firework flights of the beautiful Sophie Blanchard, the long-distance voyages of the American entrepreneur John Wise and French photographer Felix Nadar are dramatic and exhilarating. Holmes documents as well the balloons used to observe the horrors of modern battle during the Civil War (including a flight taken by George Armstrong Custer); the legendary tale of at least sixty-seven manned balloons that escaped from Paris (the first successful civilian airlift in history) during the Prussian siege of 1870-71; the high-altitude exploits of James Glaisher (who rose) seven miles above the earth without oxygen, helping to establish the new science of meteorology); and how Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jules Verne felt the imaginative impact of flight and allowed it to soar in their work. A seamless fusion of history, art, science, biography, and the metaphysics of flights, "Falling Upwards" explores the interplay between technology and imagination. And through the strange allure of these great balloonists, it offers a masterly portrait of human endeavor, recklessness, and vision. (With 24 pages of color illustrations, and black-and-white illustrations throughout.)

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Author information

RICHARD HOLMES is the author of "The Age of Wonder, " which was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and the National Books Critics Circle Award, and was one of "The New York Times Book Review"'s Best Books of the Year in 2009. Holmes's other books include "Footsteps, Sidetracks, Shelley: The Pursuit" (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award) "Coleridge: Early Visions" (winner of the1989 Whitbread Book of the Year Award) "Coleridge: Darker Reflections "(an NBCC finalist), and "Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage" (winner of the James Tait Black Prize). He was awarded the OBE in 1992. He lives in England.

Review quote

"Gripping...Meticulous history illuminated and animated by personal passion, carried aloft by volant prose." -"Kirkus" "In the same month that Julian Barnes published "Levels of Life," with its melancholy meditations on balloon flight, Richard Holmes presents a full-blown, lyrical history of the same subject, investigating the strangeness, detachment and powerful romance of 'falling upwards' into a seemingly alien and uninhabitable element. Holmes lovingly charts a course from the Montgolfier brothers' first hydrogen-fuelled flights in the 1780s to the use of balloons by fugitive East Germans in the 1970s and the latest forays by polar explorer David Hempleman-Adams, a history full of awe and inefficiency...Holmes is a truly masterly storyteller ." -"London Evening Standard" "Ballooning was among the numerous bold scientific adventures outlined in Holmes's multi-award-winning best seller, "The Age of Wonder." Here Holmes details its history and consequences, starting in the late 1700s and proceeding to the seven-mile-high flights of James Glaisher, FRS, which launched the new science of meteorology." -"Library Journal" "(Holmes) has a rare and infectious capacity for wonderment...dazzling...I felt I was flying--with the sensations of hilarity, ecstasy and terror that are rightly provoked by our escape from gravity...while I was reading Holmes's heady, swoopingly, aerodynamic book." -"The Observer" "Richard Holmes's captivating and surely definitive history of the madness of pre-Wright brothers ballooning." -"The Times" "This is a book in which the delight the author clearly took in researching and writing it carries over to the reader...puckish is its pleasure in its details and in its gusts of digression...he has a lovely wit and ease of address...above all what Holmes teases out...is the very interesting idea that ballooning gave us, quite literally, a different point of view....it offers a wholly novel experience of sublimity