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Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen and Blasting into Space [Paperback]

Sir Richard Branson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 2011

As far back as stories go, pioneers have reached for the skies. In the last two hundred years, they have mastered the air and made the modern world possible. Today they are bringing outer space within our reach. They're inventors and toymakers, amateurs and adventurers, visionaries, dreamers and, yes, crackpots. Some have called them irresponsible, even dangerous. But Richard Branson has met many of them. He has worked with them, funded them, and flown with them. He admires them, and trusts them, and thinks they and their kind are our future.

In this book Richard Branson looks at the history of flight through the stories and people who have inspired him throughout his life. In these pages you will find tales of miraculous rescues; of records made and broken; of surprising feats of endurance and survival, including some of his own adventures, as well as developments in the future of air travel (and space travel). It is a story of pioneers, and of course it includes the world famous Montgolfiers and the Wright brothers, but he also wants to describe some of the lesser-known trailblazers. People like Tony Jannus, who in 1914 created the first scheduled commercial flight in the world, flying his passengers over the waters of Tampa Bay at an altitude of just fifty feet! The 'bird man' Leo Valentin, who in the 1950s jumped from 9,000 feet with wooden wings attached to his shoulders. And Branson's friend Steve Fossett, who dedicated his life to breaking records and having adventures.

This is their story. It is also, in a small way, his own.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753519879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753519875
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 227,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Branson was born in 1950 and educated at Stowe School. It was here that he began to set up Student Magazine when he was just 16. By 17 he'd also set up Student Advisory Centre, which was a charity to help young people. In 1970 he founded Virgin as a mail order record retailer, and not long after he opened a record shop in Oxford Street, London. During 1972 a recording studio was built in Oxfordshire, and the first Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded "Tubular Bells" which was released in 1973. This album went on to sell over 5 million copies. Since then many household names, including Belinda Carlisle, Genesis, Phil Collins, Janet Jackson and The Rolling Stones have helped to make Virgin Music one of the top six record companies in the world. The equity of Virgin Music Group - record labels, music publishing, and recording studios was sold to THORN EMI in 1992 in a US$1billion deal. The Virgin Group has now expanded into international music Megastores, air travel, mobile, financial, retail, music, internet, drinks, rail, hotels and leisure, with around 200 companies in over 30 countries. Richard is married with two children and spends most of his time at his home on Necker Island.

Product Description

Book Description

Paperback edition of this thrilling and very personal history of flight by the world-famous adventurer and businessman, Richard Branson

From the Inside Flap

As far back as stories go, pioneers have reached for the skies. In the last two hundred years, they have mastered the air and made the modern world possible. Today they are bringing outer space within our reach. They're inventors and toymakers, amateurs and adventurers, visionaries, dreamers and, yes, crackpots. Some have called them irresponsible, even dangerous. But I have met many of them. I have worked with them, and funded them, and flown with them. I admire and trust them, and I think they and their kind are our future.

In this book I look at the history of flight through the stories and people who have inspired me throughout my life. In these pages you will find accounts of miraculous rescues; of records made and broken; of surprising feats of endurance and survival, including some of my own adventures, as well as developments in the future of air (and space) travel. It is a story of pioneers, and of course it includes the world-famous Montgolfiers and the Wright brothers, but I also want to describe some of the lesser-known trailblazers. People like Tony Jannus, who in 1914 created the first scheduled commercial flight in the world, flying his passengers over the waters of Tampa Bay at an altitude of just fifty feet! The 'bird man' Leo Valentin, who in the 1950s jumped from 9,000 feet with wooden wings attached to his shoulders. And my friend Steve Fossett, who dedicated his life to breaking records and having adventures.

This is their story. It is also, in a small way, my own.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Every page is packed with facts 26 Nov 2010
Format:Hardcover
I can't begin to imagine the hundreds of hours of research that went into this book which deals with man's efforts to get off the ground from the very beginning up until the present day and then the forecast for the future. Branson demonstrates his passion for flying in the many forms and carries the reader along with him with some entertaining parts. If you are a Branson fan you'll enjoy this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Reading 19 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Really a good book to motivate yourself and others. A good book for my collection and frequent reading. Nothing compares to this
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reach for the skies 19 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We borrowed this book from the library, and so enjoyed it that we decided to get it for our son for Christmas. He was very pleased.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it 3 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a nice review of the history of flight through the eyes of the pioneers. Branson tells how individuals can do things that rock the world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting into Space. Entrepreneurial look at the history of conquering the skies!! 30 May 2013
By Aistis Zidanavicius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Today is science fiction of yesterday and tomorrow is science fiction of today.

Hot air balloons, zeppelins, bird-men, first attempts to fly, parachutes, first planes, first airlines, spaceships, trips to the space, future of air travelling and much much more you will be able to know going through the pages of Reach For The Skies.

Reach For The Skies is a beautifully written history of the evolution of the men's attempts, fails and successes to conquer the skies. The author of the book is my favorite billionaire Sir Richard Branson. As he loves to fly himself, it is very interesting to see this history of the airship through his eyes. I really enjoyed finding out how all that what we now have in air traffic was developed. Branson presents the facts in a very nice way where you can see people's visions, attempts, persistence, fails, successes and finally where all that led to.

Not much time have passed since first attempts to fly were made. It's only a little more than two hundred years since first hot air balloon lifted from the ground and now we already have spaceships, which can fly to other planets. The same is with the travelling speed. It changed dramatically in just a couple of decades. Everything developed so fast, that it's hard to imagine where we are going to be in another one hundred years. Branson himself established the company called Virgin Galactic, which can take you to the space and everybody can become an astronaut. It's already possible!

It's also a huge opportunity for new businesses. It might be difficult for many of you to see it in a business way, but some people are already doing it. As I mentioned before one of them is Richard Branson. Moreover, space hotel is being made for those who want to spend some time watching the earth from the skies. Many other opportunities are opening and author gives us a look through all the history to the future. One more interesting fact I found out in this book was that the first airlines were established even before first airplanes were really made to fly. That's the vision! Now is the next step. All of that you will be able to read in Reach For The Skies.

So where is your ceiling? The Moon? The Mars? or maybe something much bigger..
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, Readable Ride into the Sky 15 Jun 2011
By Dave English - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are a lot of aviation history books, and if you are really interested in the subject many of them are much better than this one. But so many of them are a little dry, and this has something unique - Branson's voice. "My version of the history of flight . . . Everything in this book is true enough--but it doesn't try to tell the whole story." It is an enjoyable, readable ride focusing as the subtitle states on balloons, birdmen and space. Like early barnstormers (or Wernher von Braun appearing on Disney TV shows) the story is part sales pitch. Can't afford $200,000 for a Virgin Galatic sub-orbital ride into space? You'd love a Virgin balloon flight! But the passion and insider viewpoint also drive a more personal, easy to read, ride around the sky.

UK readers may recognize the title as being the same as Paul Brickhill's biography of RAF fighter pilot hero Douglas Bader. It's not an accident. As a kid Branson played with Bader's false legs and learnt life lessons from the famous Spitfire pilot. If there had been more personal stories, more insights straight from Branson about flying with Steve Fossett or Burt Rutan I'd have given it five stars. As it is, the book is good just not great. While no coauthor is listed, my guess is that he had considerable editorial help putting the book together. It's nicely illustrated and fully indexed. However, sometimes the joins start to show. Consider these couple of sentences from Tom Vanderbilt's book Survival City (2010):

In 1858, Gaspard Felix Tounachon (known as "Nadar"), sailing 258 feet above the valley of Bièvre, captured a daguerreotype of the Earth below, blurred by the vibrations of the balloon. "We have had bird's-eye views seen by mind's eye imperfectly," he wrote. "Now we will have nothing less than the tracings of nature itself, reflected on the plate."

Now compare to Branson's Reach for the Skies (2011):

In 1858, the photographer Nadar (his real name was Gaspard Felix Tounachon) sailed 258 feet above the valley of Bièvre in France and captured a daguerreotype - an early photograph -- of the Earth below, blurred by the vibrations of the balloon. "We have had bird's-eye views seen by mind's eye imperfectly," he wrote. "Now we will have nothing less than the tracings of nature itself, reflected on the plate."

Still, I really enjoyed reading a (mostly) fresh perspective on some of the more thrilling stories of ballooning and birdman, and look forward to watching Virgin Galactic blast off.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars five star rating 9 May 2013
By John Sisk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting into Space
Richard Branson

I received the book on time and it was in good condition.

It is a great book and full of good points.

A great addition to my personal library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here to inspire. 11 Jan 2013
By Rick L. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Richard Branson is a very interesting man. He is not a know it all but a does it all. This mans life is amazing. He has such great interest in the world around him and it just so happens he likes what I like; Music and aviaton. This guy rocks in both. Super read. Thanks, Rick L.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hero of our time 7 Sep 2012
By Victor Clough - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of Branson since I was a teenager buying 45's (you have to be the right age to know what one of those are I guess) He seems to be all that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are but without the baggage that makes them un-likeable (Give Gates his due he has come good of late). Being British I guess I could claim some bias in my views as well. I have read all that Branson has published and this book was no exception An inspirational man and an inspirational book.
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