Falling Upwards by Richard Holmes
How We Took to the Air

87%

7 Critic Reviews

An unconventional history of ballooning, this quirky, endearing, and enticing collection melds the spirit of discovery with chemistry, physics, engineering, and the imagination.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

**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.)


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Richard Holmes

See more books from this Author
Richard Holmes is Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia, and editor of the Harper Perennial series Classic Biographies launched in 2004. His is a Fellow of the British Academy, has honorary doctorates from UEA and the Tavistock Institute, and was awarded an OBE in 1992.His first book, 'Shelley: The Pursuit', won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. 'Coleridge: Early Visions' won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year, and 'Dr Johnson & Mr Savage' won the James Tait Black Prize. 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections', won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He has published two studies of European biography, 'Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer' in 1985, and 'Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer' in 2000. His most recent book 'The Romantic Poets and their Circle' was published by the National Portrait Gallery in 2005. He lives in London and Norwich with the novelist Rose Tremain.
 
Published April 25, 2013 by William Collins. 416 pages
Genres: Travel, Action & Adventure, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, History, Biographies & Memoirs, Sports & Outdoors, Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Young Adult. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Falling Upwards
All: 7 | Positive: 7 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jul 07 2013

The biographer of two great Romantics...relates yet another romantic tale—the story of the human passion to fly up, up and away in a beautiful balloon...Meticulous history illuminated and animated by personal passion, carried aloft by volant prose.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Aug 26 2013

An unconventional history of ballooning, this quirky, endearing, and enticing collection melds the spirit of discovery with chemistry, physics, engineering, and the imagination.

Read Full Review of Falling Upwards: How We Took ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by PAUL ELIE on Nov 15 2013

There is something both exotic and magnetic about such people.” They are “artists of the air.” By the time you reach the book’s bittersweet conclusion you are convinced of this...

Read Full Review of Falling Upwards: How We Took ... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by David Simpson on May 17 2013

...drone pilots take no risks, a fact that will undoubtedly make the subjects of Holmes's book seem all the more glamorous and admirable in their pursuit of knowledge, fame, fortune, military superiority or sheer excitement.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Peter Conrad on Apr 20 2013

...Falling Upwards kept me company on a trip across the Atlantic in a 747...I realised that during those eight hours the only time I'd felt I was flying...was while I was reading Holmes's heady, swoopingly aerodynamic book.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Carolyn Haley on Nov 01 2013

It’s hard to compose facts and figures into a volume that reads as easily as a novel, loaded with derring-do and emotion. Mr. Holmes has succeeded at that challenge, profiling an important but underexamined aspect of human history that is uplifting in all its forms.

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Financial Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Prodger on May 10 2013

Appropriately, his prose is lighter than air, elegantly traversing aviators and eras. It means that as his balloonists embark on journeys full of danger and wonder, the reader is suspended in the basket alongside them.

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