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Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air Audio CD – Audiobook, 29 Oct 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (29 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1482930331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1482930337
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.8 x 15 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,549,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

SELECTED AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY:

JIM CRACE, GUARDIAN – ‘A whole wide world of significance’

SARAH SANDS, NEW STATESMAN – ‘Sheer delight’

MICHAEL PRODGER, EVENING STANDARD – ‘Picaresque history’

DAN JONES, DAILY TELEGRAPH – ‘Tremendously inventive’

LEV GROSSMAN, TIME MAGAZINE – ‘Thrilling history’

CHLOE SCHAMA, NEW REPUBLIC – ‘Unadulterated delight’

KIRKUS – ‘Gripping’

MAIL ON SUNDAY – ‘Tragic’

‘A book as delightful as it is unexpected … [an] extraordinary cabinet of drifting aerial wonderment, a book that will linger and last, as it floats ever upward in the mind’ Simon Winchester, Wall Street Journal

‘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. He lovingly charts … a history full of awe and inefficiency … A truly masterly storyteller’ Evening Standard

‘Endlessly exhilarating … packed full of swashbuckling stories, as well as fascinating historical accounts of the use of balloons. It is also a singularly beautiful book, wonderfully designed and illustrated and quite clearly a product of love’ Mail on Sunday

‘What Holmes teases out … is that ballooning gave us, quite literally, a different point of view … This exhilarating book, wonderfully written, generously illustrated and beautifully published, captures all that and more’ Spectator

‘Holmes conjures an extraordinarily vivid, violent, thrilling history, full of bizarre personalities, narrow escapes and fatal plunges. A peerless prose artist, infectiously curious’ Time Magazine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Richard Holmes is the author of the prize-winning and best-selling ‘The Age of Wonder’, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2009 and winner of the Royal Society Prize for Science writing. He is the author of many other prize-winning books including ‘Shelley’, ‘Coleridge’, ‘Dr Johnson & Mr Savage’, and the classic work, ‘Footsteps’. He lives in Norwich and is married to the novelist Rose Tremain.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a thoroughly researched account of the historical events that took mankind into the air. The oceans and the land had been and were being explored. The sky was the last pioneering frontier. Richard Holmes has lovingly written an entertaining journey into the origins of successful flight. A balloonist himself, he describes the venture as 'the mental release, the physical heart-lift, and the calm perilous descent'. Ballooning has involved adventure and expectations ranging from science, war, exploration, travel (steering a hazard), communication and even an air rescue operation in Paris. The bravado of the early exponents exposed to the unknown effects of altitude and destination are delineated with both tragic and humorous undertones.

From the first cross-channel success in 1785 to the first non-stop round the world flight in 1999, the author fills in the gaps. Ballooning from it's advent and intent is now largely a leisure industry not withstanding the enthusiasts. The author states that this book is 'not really about balloons at all. It is about what balloons gave rise to'. The spirit of adventure and the romanticism that authors and film-makers have developed is vivid as the dream-like description of the exhilaration of looking-down on the ground below. Not for my head for heights, but clearly popular.

A wonderful book, lavishly illustrated and a joy to possess and to read again and again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a really good read. Some chapters are more interesting than the others with the military aspect of ballooning providing the more interesting chapters. I found the accounts of the American civil war and the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War to have been the most fascinating although the closer chapter about Salomon Andree was the most compelling even though I was familiar with the story of this tragedy.

I would say that this is an ideal holiday read. It is not too technical and cram-backed with fascinating and eccentric characters. The stories are quite staggering with accounts of pioneers like Glaisher and Nadar offering alternative approaches to what could be achieved with a balloon. The colour illustrations are lavish but the whole book is also peppered with black and white illustrations. As well as balloonist, a host of other characters like Custer , Zeppelin and Victor Hugo crop up so that the book also takes on board the character of social history as well as looking at the more important and interesting journeys. Thankfully the book isn't too heavy of technical detail and is by no means specialist. I would have liked to have learned a bit more about the evolution of airships but hopefully this is something that this author can turn his attention to in the future. All in all, this was a very interesting account of something about which I previously knew very little.
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Format: Hardcover
Holmes is an excellent author. I came to know him via his superb book, The Age of Wonder, and have long intended, since so thoroughly enjoying that, to read more by him. Although he's written many other books (mostly biogs of Romantic writers) reading this was, finally, my fulfilment of that aim.

Part history, part compendium of pen-portraits, and part billet-doux to ballooning as the conjunction of science, adventure and romance, this is both very different to The Age Of Wonder and yet very similar. Using the development of ballooning - or the first century (give or take a few years) of that story, roughly 1870-1900 - as the thread makes for a very different and singular line through history, but Holmes' panache as a writer, and the grand yet grippingly detailed sweep through time and place, all conspire towards a great read.

Holmes' vivid narrative takes in everything from science to adventure, with such major events as the American Civil War and the Franco Prussian war woven into the fabric, painting vivid portraits of the men - and women (such as tragic French heroine Mme. Blanchard, and plucky British aerial acrobat Dolly Shepherd) - along the way. Many of these characters are fabulous, and include numerous familiar names, from pioneers like the Montgolfier brothers, via luminaries like Benjamin Franklin, to numerous writers, such as Verne, Poe, Dickens and Hugo. Some are most familiar for reasons other than their balloon connections, like Custer and the flamboyant Felix Nadar. And then there are those less widely known who nonetheless figure large in the world of aerostation, like Green, Glaisher, Flammarion and many others.
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By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the author, Richard Holmes, says in the epilogue this book is not a conventional history of ballooning. It is instead about the spirit of discovey itself and the extraordinary human drama it produces. And there is human drama here aplently. I found the stories of the balloon enabled airlift of Paris, when the city was besieged by the Prussian army in 1870, and the brave (or possibly foolhardy) attempt to balloon to the North Pole carried out by the Swedish team led by Saloman Andree in 1847, particularly moving and fascinating.

The ballooning tales described here include some of the first flights, altitude records, long distance travel, and the military use of balloons in the American Civil War.

I have never ballooned before but this book has made me want to enjoy that experience as soon as possible - but hopefully with much less drama than is recounted in these fascinating pages.
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