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To Reach the Clouds [Hardcover]

Philippe Petit
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Feb 2003

One night in 1974, a young Frenchman secretly - and illegally - rigged a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. At daybreak, he gave the high-wire performance of all time, making eight crossings over the course of an hour, 110 floors up above the earth, as a hundred thousand people gathered on the ground to watch.

In To Reach the Clouds, Philippe Petit re-creates a six-year quest to realise his dream, an adventure as thrilling as the walk itself. In an unforgettable memoir he tells the story of how he conspired, connived, improvised, and insisted his way to this 'coup', abetted by a motley crew of accomplices, the occasional miracle, and his own unflagging passion. He reveals himself to be not only a virtuoso of the air but also a bold and inspired performer on the page. Animated by never-seen photographs and Petit's ingenious sketches, To Reach the Clouds is a tour de force of the imagination and a serenade to his beloved towers.

'Philippe Petit planned and executed the perfect crime by walking on a high wire between the twin towers - and the whole world loved him for doing it.' Guy F. Tozzoli, President, World Trade Center Association

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (17 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571217702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571217700
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 263,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


A beautifully written heart-stopping thriller, infused with poetry and the spirit of a monomaniac artist possessed of total tunnel vision and determination. -- Scotland on Sunday, 2 February 2003

An incredibly audacious magical tale of the impossible. For a guy who walks the walk, he can definitely talk the talk. -- Debra Winger

How good that he has sat down now to give us this lively and often heart-stopping account of how he achieved his masterpiece. -- Paul Auster

Just looking at the photographs in Philippe Petit's superb To Reach the Clouds is enough to make the palms sweat. -- Publishing News, 24 January 2003

One of the most eccentric stories you'll ever read. -- Marie Claire, March 2003

Philippe Petit is an artist whose theater is the sky. In this absorbing book, he reveals himself to be equal parts Houdini, Nureyev, and Da Vinci. -- Robin Williams

Reading this book is a compelling, thought-provoking, and at times maddening experience … Still, it contains some heart-stopping moments. -- Evening Standard, 3 February 2003

Remarkably the book is as astonishing and beautiful as the act itself ... An act of beauty in the face of death. -- The Times, 19 February 2003

This book is as awe-inspiring as are his accomplishments on the wire. -- Milos Forman

This is an extraordinary book. It describes an act of such spectacular defiance and lunacy that it takes your breath away ... as gripping as any thriller. -- Independent, 19 February 2003

Book Description

Now the smash-hit documentary film Man on Wire. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely staggering 11 May 2004
This book is unlike anything I have ever read and will remain with me longer than almost anything else, it is written in a style similar to Baricco, which means the style of writing may not suit everyone, but I thought it was beautifully written, funny and highly emotional. Nothing should detract from the fact that this man walked (stood, sat, danced, lay) on a wire half a mile in the air. The feat itself is imcomprehensible and without photos you would never believe it had happened. The audacity behind the feat is almost as amazing as the feat itself.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edge of the seat poetry 25 Feb 2003
By A Customer
This unusual little book gripped from start to finish. The writing is, quite simply, beautiful - the pictures atmospheric. Throughout the book, Petit's project appears doomed from every direction - all those around him (and, at times, even Petit) appear convinced that he will die in his attempt to cross between the Twin Towers, but he is driven on by his dream. The book gives a peek into the mind of the tightrope walker and the tensions between the artist and engineer cohabiting therein. Petit clearly loved the Towers and his comments on their destruction are poignant.
This book is a thriller, an architectural romance and a transcendental journey - altogether an irresistible read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most exciting book 4 Mar 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the most gripping book I have ever read. Right from the start his style of writing sucks you right in. It is very interesting to see how the whole thing was planned over a matter of years. When it comes to the actual walk itself I couldn't believe how nervous I was. You really are on the edge of your seat, gripping the book and turning pages as fast as is possible!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect accompaniment to the 'Man on Wire' film 14 Feb 2009
If you thought the film 'Man on Wire' was good, treat yourself and get this too.

Philippe Petit's writing style is warm, engaging and enthralling. There is no sense of unnecessary repetition of the film. Indeed, the book provides delightful detail of some aspects of 'le coup' that the film misses. You'll understand why Petit's safety relied on the use of gasoline, what it was that fell from the tower just before the walk, and why there was no movie footage of the walk itself.

Perhaps the most precious gift of this book is the description by Petit of his thoughts and feelings as he experiences the wire walk.

Impossibly daring and uniquely beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High-wire brilliance - superb read 14 Aug 2009
By Verve
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't even begin to tell you how compelling I found this. I'm really not a big fan of non-fiction, but this totally blew me away - and yes, lucky I'm not a high-wire walker. Anyway, excuse the lousy joke, but this is a seriously brilliant and breathtaking read. No wonder it keeps being unavailable, I guess they're reprinting like crazy. Anyway, after you get hold of a copy, if you then fancy a bit of fiction, I highly recommend this:
Soothing Music for Stray Cats by Jayne Joso, also brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic thriller documentary 12 Jun 2009
I bought this book after watching the film "Man on Wire" which blew my mind. I was fascinated by this maverick Philippe Petit and how one man could become so passionate about one thing and devote his life to it.
The book reads like he speaks on the film, flowing trains of thought and quite poetically descriptive. A wonderful testimony to an incredible feat in history which is hard to put down. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read 6 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with the other reviewers that it is difficult to put this book down, his determination to set up this feat has to be admired; and the pictures towards the end made me feel a bit giddy! You cannot doubt his bravery although my impression of him when I finished the book was that he was a self-centred attention seeker with very patient friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a poetic caper story 10 Sep 2008
This is a lovely book. Written almost in the style of an "oceans eleven" style caper the story of the set up for this escapade takes up the majority of the book, where the conspiracy to thwart the security on the twin towers in 1974 has many humerous and thrilling elements. The actual tightrope walk is written as a poetic piece, a total change of pace that is stylistically interesting and sets up the eventual capture after the walk as a return to the crime like escapade style.

A lovely book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Having seen the film I was not disappointed to read the book. I just don't know how anyone can DO IT.
Published 16 months ago by F CHAPMAN
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!!
This is not the kind of book that I normally would read but having seen the (stunning) film late one evening I was intrigued to find out what this adventure was really like written... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mike Coussens
5.0 out of 5 stars Book to reach the clouds
Loved it,hooked on the film and this was a great read! The book is a real page turner! Highly recommended!
Published 21 months ago by Mr. Simon E. Edser
5.0 out of 5 stars And Beyond
This book is sheer magic- we share each moment of Phillipe Petit's obsession with the walk between the Twin Towers. Read more
Published on 25 May 2012 by Mrs. M. Spotswood
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most inspiring acts of the 20th Century
Philippe Petit's story is an inspiration to mavericks and dreamers everywhere. It's the blueprint for any 'vision' for a project. Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2011 by William Cohen
5.0 out of 5 stars Literally the most enjoyable book I have ever read... Beautiful!!
Literally the most enjoyable book I have ever read... Beautiful!! All I will say is if you are a passionate person with any interest in how amazing once in a lifetime things can be... Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2011 by RJC
5.0 out of 5 stars Man on Wire
This book can only be described as un-put-downable affording inspiration as an example of what it takes to achieve the 'impossible' .
Published on 27 Oct 2010 by Maul Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilirating, uplifting, beautiful and poetic.
One of the best books i have ever, ever, ever read. Found it a few years ago and have evangelicised on it ever since! Truly uplifting, beautiful, and poetic. Read more
Published on 18 Oct 2010 by Paul Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking book!
I had already seen the video "Man on Wire" which had me spellbound from start to finish and which prompted me to buy the book. I was not disappointed! Read more
Published on 22 April 2010 by Varnesy
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
This book is as breathtaking,exciting and captivating as the film version!Petit is a living legend.
Published on 5 Nov 2009 by DigSarahDig
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