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To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers

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An artist of the air re-creates his six-year plot to pull off an act of incomparable beauty and imagination

One late-summer day, a feat of unimaginable audacity was perpetrated on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The year was 1974. A hundred thousand people gathered on the ground to watch in awe as twenty-four-year-old high wire artist Philippe Petit made eight crossings between the all-but-completed towers, a quarter mile above the earth, over the course of nearly an hour.

Petit's achievement made headlines around the world. Yet few who saw or heard about it realized that it was the fulfillment of a dream he had nurtured for six years, rekindling it each time it was in danger of expiring. His accomplices were a motley crew of foreigners and Americans, who under Petit's direction had conpired, connived, labored, argued, rehearsed, and improvised to make possible an act of unsurpassed aerial artistry.

In this visually and verbally stunning book, Petit tells for the first time the dramatic story of this history-making walk, from conception and clandestine planning to the performance and its aftermath. The account draws on Petit's journals, which capture everything from his budgets to his strategies for rigging a high wire in the dead of night between two of the most secure towers in the world. It is animated by photographs taken by two of Petit's collaborators, and by his own wonderfully evocative sketches and unquenchable humor.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Philippe Petit

44 books49 followers
Philippe Petit became famous in August 1974 for his high-wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. His walk is known as the "artistic crime of the century". Petit has performed high-wire walks around the world, and a 2008 documentary based on his adventure, Man on Wire, won numerous awards and critical praise.

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5 stars
450 (38%)
4 stars
450 (38%)
3 stars
206 (17%)
2 stars
49 (4%)
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16 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 201 reviews
Profile Image for Diane in Australia.
668 reviews786 followers
February 3, 2021
Interesting book. In 1974 Philippe walked a high-wire strung between the towers of the World Trade Center. In this book he lets us in on all the planning, the preparations, the mistakes, the angst, and the thrill of making his dream come true. Nice photos, too.

4 Stars = Outstanding. It definitely held my interest.

Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,652 reviews1,484 followers
February 26, 2015
The book is written with excessive tension and in a frenetic tempo. Does this express the feeling of the high-wire artist himself, or is it to increase the suspense of the book? The high-wire artist himself wrote this book, 27 years, after the feat. And what was that feat? In August 1974 the twenty-four year old Frenchman, Philippe Petit, fixed a tight-rope between the Twin Towers in NYC then under construction. This was 1353 feet above ground, 110 floors up. Just to think of this makes me feel ill. Of course none of this was done with permission. Philippe traversed the rope not once, not twice, but eight times - at dawn, with thousands of spectators watching from below. He wanted the publicity.

I would recommend the book to those of you who like a book filled with tension. Exactly how the high-wire feat was executed is followed step by step. Planning is disorganized, so the telling is disorganized too. Arguments and betrayals. You learn about the six years from the initial inspiration to its execution, the execution itself, how the authorities behaved afterwards and what Philippe Petite came to do in the following years. How he came to write this book, his thoughts on the 9/11 and the rebuilding of the Towers - all of this is covered. The latter chapters, after the spectacle itself, are more calmly presented. This leads me to believe that the author chose to make the earlier writing exciting, and I personally did not like the frenzy of this. The narrator of the audiobook, Andrew Heyl, further increases the tension and frenzy through his narration.

Having completed the book, I know the full story, but I don't feel I understand the man. Asked why he did it, his reply was approximately, "I see three oranges and I have to juggle them; I see two towers and I must walk!"

There were terms used that were never explained, although you do end up understanding how it was done. I wanted to know what happened to Barry, who worked on the 82nd floor and helped them. Why isn't this told?

The book does tell you about the event, but how it was written was more to excite than to inform. What you are looking for should determine whether you want to read the book or not. I appreciated Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, on this very same feat, much, much more.
Profile Image for Paul.
207 reviews9 followers
July 28, 2011
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. No other book has ever had my heart pumping with excitement as much as this. Even though [from the cover alone] you know that "he does it" - the suspense when I turned the pages just before he steps on the wire was incredible! So glad the film has been such a success, Petit deserves high praise indeed!
Profile Image for TrudyA.
111 reviews55 followers
July 19, 2014
Even though I knew the outcome of Petit's attempted "coup" before I began reading this book, his account was unbelievably filled with tension. I highly recommend this to anyone intrigued by obsession, tenacity, achievement, and/or funambulism (and possibly lunacy). What a thrill!
Profile Image for Léá.
207 reviews37 followers
March 14, 2022
*** I won a free copy of this book via a giveaway by the publisher on Instagram ***

To Reach the Clouds is an autobiographical recounting of the six-year plot to rig a highwire between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in order to orchestrate an act of unsurpassed aerial artistry. This highly illegal endeavour was planned and executed by high wire artist Philippe Petite, in conjunction with a motley crew of accomplices united by a single daring and dangerous vision.

I have to admit that this is not ordinarily the sort of book that I would read, however I am quite glad I picked it up as it was a lot more interesting and intense than I was expecting. This book and its creator certainly seem to be equal parts audacious, arrogant and insane, but nevertheless this is an intriguing and compelling read. The intricacies of the planning and the numerous problems encountered during the preparation phase, as well as the determination and tenacity of those involved are almost unbelievable. The richly detailed and incredibly complex account of the events leading up to the ‘coup’ is utterly impressive and there is a level of beauty and eloquence to the writing which I really wasn’t expecting to find in such a book. The actual recounting is interspersed with relevant documents, plans and photographs which really adds to the story and helps the reader to understand the sheer audacity and scope of this endeavour. Philippe Petite is also an intriguing individual, his obsession with the ‘coup’ borders on fanaticism and I’m not entirely certain that he isn’t a megalomaniac or a narcissist (or possibly just a lunatic).

However, of course, none of that is really the point, is it? This story is about a daring act of artistry, a reminder that sometimes you must have a vision and strive to achieve it with reckless abandon. That you must reach for the sky, with the single goal being to create something beautiful. It is a reminder that the greatest power of such art is in its ability to amaze and unite people, to build a bridge strong enough to walk across where previously there was only an empty void, to find beauty and meaning in humanity's desire to reach higher and higher into the sky, on our ability as humans to come together to rise up against immeasurable odds. And if that is not part of the legacy of the twin towers story, then I certainly do not know what is.

Definitely worth a look, I found this to be a surprisingly worthwhile read.
Profile Image for George.
802 reviews83 followers
January 24, 2016

“…the artistic crime of the century!” (p. 177)

“…the most splendid performance ever offered by a street-juggler/ vagabond/ high wire artist.” (pp. 190-191)

“The wire waits.” (p. 166)

Pity the fool born with an obsession for adventure, a passion for perfection, and a sterling integrity. Philippe Petit, a hero-in-high-standing of mine, is just such a fool.

For the life of me, though, I can draw absolutely no direct recollection of his greatest adventure ever—his high-wire dance between the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, in August of 1974. Where was I? How did I miss that?

It wasn’t until I read Colum McCann’s novel, Let the Great World Spin, in 2010 that I became enthralled with Petit, and his walk in the clouds—on a thin cable, above 1,350 feet of nothingness.

As for Petit’s recollections, his memoir of the event, To Reach the Clouds: My High-Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, this blurb says it best: ‘Reads like a thriller written by a poet.’ —Newsday (p. 219)

Recommendation: YES!

“Inundated with astonishment, with sudden and extreme fear, yes, with great joy and pride, I hold myself in balance on the high wire. With ease.” (p. 166)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition, 219 pages
Profile Image for Victor Casas.
202 reviews52 followers
November 8, 2015
Es un libro diferente así que debe de ser calificado de manera diferente...

Creo que es menester mencionar que CREO que este libro entre en la categoría de "Novela histórica" y el producto se me hace medianamente bueno. Creo que en mi calificación influyó lo mucho que me gustó esta historia y como fue plasmada en la pantalla grande y simplemente tenía que saber más. Si hablamos de lo que ocurre en este libro (los HECHOS) puedo decir que todo me parece extraordinario. Sin embargo, creo que no aporta tanto como yo esperaba y debido a que esta escrito por el mismo Philippe petit hay cuestiones que en ocasiones lo hacen un poco tedioso. Aun asi, creo que cumpe lo que es y lo que es se resume como un excelente complemento a la pelicula y a una hermosa historia que puede estar a la mano de cualquiera que siga teniendo esa pregunta de "¿Qué mas paso?" creo que las palabras estan de mas con este libro. Me gustó mucho pero tambien creo que tambien pudo haber sido mucho mucho mejor.
Profile Image for Carolee Wheeler.
Author 8 books42 followers
December 3, 2011
Even though I knew what had happened, the book is written in such a way that we are privy to all of Petit's grandiose plans, his crushing doubts, and his ecstatic mind-babble once "the coup" is realized. The building and building and dashing and building again creates a palpable tension so that, EVEN THOUGH I KNEW WHAT HAD HAPPENED, I was still holding my breath as I read of his first steps on to the wire. Something all people of ideas should read.
March 20, 2019
"Wirewalker, trust your feet! Let them lead you; they know the way."

If you have seen the movie, The Walk, then you probably know about Philippe Petit. (P.s. I think the movie actually underexaggerated his story!) If I give a story no stars it is because I think it is a story of great poetry, one too difficult to express in systematic rating. And this is one of those stories, brimming with arrogant poetry. Philippe Petit is a radical dreamer, I think. As far as safe things to say about this book go, that is the safest. He is a dreamer, a planner, an ambition.

He writes with a vision.

"Now imagine!"

"You know the day I soar to meet you, Gypsy, they may say of me, 'He learned to walk in mid-air.'"

"After a while, with rebellion in my blood, I wrote, 'As an artist, my mission is to create,' and went back to writing."

A salute to the daring of a man who walked between the clouds.
Profile Image for Guy.
669 reviews31 followers
January 26, 2023
"When I see tree oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk."

Written in a delirious, out-of-breath cadence, Philippe Petit's account of how he prepared and executed a tightrope walk between the WTC towers on 7 August 1974 contains a combination of madness and intensity that lends the book an unstoppable, manic energy. Perhaps he slipped a bit with the bombast in the pages where he describes the actual walk, but that's a minor quibble. This one's a joy to read, a vital poem with the force of a hand grenade.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
263 reviews
November 1, 2014

This is a coffee table book, large size, glossy photos.

I picked it up because, after reading Let the Great World Spin, I was curious about Philippe Petit's high wire walk between the World Trade Center towers back on August 7, 1974. I wasn't expecting a lot, but it was a "better read" than I anticipated. Also, due both to his descriptions and his photos, it's the only book I've ever read that made me feel dizzy and queasy.

His chapters are brief, ranging from one paragraph to two pages, and they each focus on one aspect of the walk: his past experiences as a high wire walker, his past in France, his learning about NYC, his problem with recruiting trustworthy friends to help him set up the rigging, how the rigging was set up, how he feels up on the wire, etc.

It's hard to get a good feel for him as a person: arrogant? obsessive? kind to those who earn his trust? a cad in his treatment of his girlfriend? an egomaniac? an intelligent protector of the natural world? His is the only book dedication I've seen that excoriates people: after a list of true friends, he wrote "As for the false friends who helped and gave up, who helped and betrayed, they are merely guilty of not having had enough heart to move mountains. I forgive you. This is why I changed your names and blackened your eyes in the photographs - to confuse the gods. Perhaps they will not recognize you". Interesting...harsh.

I liked learning the details of the planning and execution of the walk. It reads at times like a manual for terrorists - after 9/11, no public building would be so vulnerable to security breaching (I hope). The technical details: the cavalettis (guywires), the pole, the bow and arrow method of stringing wire from one building to the other, catenary curves, etc. - all fascinating to me. There are other high wire walkers, but none that I know of who have executed feats like this, clandestinely and illegally.

The courtroom scene, when he is taken in right after he completes his walk, is fun because it is so close to what was written about it in Let the Great World Spin. While he is waiting his turn to be sentenced, the judge is passing judgment on three prostitutes. You feel like you know what's going to happen to those prostitutes when they leave the courtroom, even though the other book was a novel. (Petit gets let off with a community service sentence.)

I only visited the World Trade Center towers several times: once or twice to visit my uncle's office there (thank you Jack for all your help with my grad paper!), once as a tourist, taking the elevator to the roof observation deck. The panic-y feeling I got on the roof, the fact that I couldn't stand up there without holding onto the center column..... the thought of Petit joyfully doing handstands on the edge of that roof....we are alien creatures to each other.

When Petit added an afterword to this book, the WTC towers had fallen. He compared the towers' iconic importance to NYC to that of the Campanile (bell tower) in St Mark's Piazza to Venice. When that structure collapsed in 1902, there was a strong feeling that it had to be rebuilt: Com’era, dov’era – as it was, where it was. (The rebuilding of the bell tower was completed within ten years.) Although Petit suggested several modifications, he hoped for dual towers that would send the message "We shall not be doomed".

(Reading this book made me wonder what I was doing at the time that prevented me from being more aware of or interested in this event. [Paying attention to the Nixon resignation saga maybe?] And now.....plan to watch the documentary Man on a Wire.)
Profile Image for Ioana.
153 reviews
August 25, 2019
2002, Walking in the clouds

With moments of hair raising beauty, Philippe Petit’s valiant story on how he bridged the 60 meters gap between the two giants of the WTC with his wire is like no other I’ve ever read.
The contrast between elaborate, painstakingly laborious years of preparations and the chilling madness of his pursuit is haunting. His obsession is relentless, his drive unrivaled, his desire undying. He flirts with the impossible (if only love was like that!).

Is he scared?, I ask myself with perverse curiosity. Yes, he’s scared for his life. He is made of flesh and bones, I learn with stupefaction. So many things can put him under an endless sleep, a feeble wind gust, a splinter, a sway, a harmonic oscillation, a moment of doubt. 400 meters above ground, he hesitates for a second and wishes he’d give up on the coup. But he does not give up. I am near him, so powerful is his writing. I clench, but in a moment of supreme beauty, I watch with him the ants and then the clouds, uplifted, suspended on our backs on an unintelligibly thin wire, high on life. In that moment we are romantics, poets, magic waste. We breathe in light and taste the clouds. With their sun and sky, they are tangibly alive, their vital essence obscured no more by my untrustworthy, nearsighted eyes. Maybe that Matloff guy isn’t crazy after all.

Connected by a funambulist’s elegant walk in the clouds, the towers fall apart 27 years later, united by another cloud, but one of dust, smoke and death. I often wondered who was the falling man from the North Tower. Is it wrong to feel that there was so much beauty in his fall? How can death be beautiful? I watch and watch and try to understand.
Profile Image for Ceyrone.
295 reviews18 followers
March 21, 2021
To reach the clouds is an amazing read and even though you know the outcome, the tension is just so high, it leaves you on the edge of your seat. Philippe Petite is audacious, arrogant and insane but it’s just so compelling and makes for a very quick read. He had no set plan, things kept going wrong and even his accomplices weren’t completely on board with this idea, adding to the tension of the story. The writer and high wire artist is an intriguing guy, his obsession with the ‘coup’ borders on fanaticism, but you would have to be to accomplish what he did. In 1974 Philippe walked a high-wire strung between the towers of the World Trade Center. The recounting of his experience is interpreted with documents, plan, sketches and photographs which adds to the overall story and allows the reader to get an understanding of the magnitude of this endeavour.

‘When the towers again twin-tickle the clouds, I offer to walk again, to be the expression of the builder's collective voice. Together, we will rejoice in an aerial song of victory. I will carry my life across the wire, as your life, as all our lives, past, present, and future -the lives lost, the lives welcomed since. We can overcome.’
Profile Image for Michelle Welch.
Author 7 books4 followers
January 8, 2015
I had already seen part of "Man on Wire," the documentary about this same highwire walk between the World Trade Center towers, before my ebook service suggested this book to me. The documentary is amazing; reading Petit's account of his walk in his own words is even more so. Gorgeously written, the book brings to life the audacity of the plan and its breathtaking conclusion, and offers a heartfelt commemoration of the twin towers.
Profile Image for t6ika.
26 reviews1 follower
July 30, 2020
Petit’s description of high-wire walking is pure. But frightening, too.
Also this book is filled with the excitement and generosity that comes within anything that has to do with circus.
I 100% agree; this is a story about the perfect crime.
The best part, huh? It’s a real story.
Profile Image for Reda Shokr.
Author 1 book49 followers
April 25, 2021
"سأل الممكن المستحيل: أين تقيم؟ فأجابه: في أحلام العاجز." طاغور
فيليب بيتيت / بوتي حسب طريقة النطق؛ السائر على الحبل والذي يعد أعظم فنان في هذا المجال، المغامر الأقوى والأصدق في السير على الحبل. الجميع يعرف قصة سير فيليب الأشهر، حتى لو لم يقرأ عنه لابد أنه شاهد فيلم "السير" الذي يحكي قصته وحكاية السير بين أطول برجين في العالم، برجي مركز التجارة العالمي.
بينما يمارس فيليب شغفه اليومي بالمشي على حباله، يصاب بألم حاد في أسنانه يدفعه لعيادة الطبيب، حيث يطالع الجريدة ويقرأ عن إقامة برجين في مدينة نيويورك، هما الأطول في العالم، حتى يقرر فيليب، دون امتلاك أدوات أو معرفة بالبلد أو بلغة أهلها، أن يكون أول وآخر من يسير بحبله بين هذين البرجين، فيخرج دون أن يعالج أسنانه، مقرراً رسم خطته في الذهاب إلى نيويورك، وفي يوم الأربعاء السابع من أغسطس لعام1974، تتوقف الجموع في شوارع مانهاتن، لمشاهدة حدث غريب في السماء، ليس سوبر مان بالتأكيد، ولكنه فيليب بوتي السائر على سلك عالٍ ممدد على ارتفاع 1300 قدم في الهواء بين البرجين التوأمين في مركز التجارة العالمي القديم.
يقول فيليب: "قصتي هي خرافة، شاب يبلغ من العمر 17عاماً لديه ألم في أسنانه، يذهب إلى طبيب غير مألوف، تقع عيناه على صفحة في جريدة فيها صورة لبرجين على وشك البناء سيكونان الأطول في العالم، فبدأ الحلم يغزو رأسي، وتحت غطاء العطس، مزقت الصورة، وأخذتها متناسياً ألم أسناني."
وفي الحقيقة لم تكن هذه المرة الأولى التي يتحدى فيها فيليب السلطة والمستحيل فقد سار بين أبراج كنيسة نوتردام في عام 1971، وسار بين اثنين من أبراج ميناء سيدني عام 1973.
في كتابه "الوصول إلى السحاب / الغيوم" – والذي بُني عليه أحداث فيلم السير – تفاصيل الخطة من لحظة الوقوع في غواية الحلم حتى لحظة تحقيقه؛ مرورا بالصعبات والعقبات المحبطة التي واجهته. عرفت الكتاب بعد مشاهدة الفيلم وبدأت في قراءته متوقعا أن حجم الكتاب صغيرا، ولكني تفاجأت به يتعدى الخمسمائة صفحة! فماذا يمكن أن يقال أكثر مما قيل في الفيلم؟! ولكني رأيت هوس الحلم وطرد كل مستحيل من قاموس الإنسان حرفيا بداية من معرفة دخول البرجين واستكشافهما وانتهاء إلى ادخال معدات ضخمة للسير وكيف يمكن ربط الحبل بين البرجين في توقيت بعينه.
"الأمر في الحقيقة بسيط للغاية، يجب أن تعيش على حافة الحياة، يجب أن تمارس التمرد، وترفض أن تسير وفقاً للقواعد، وترفض القيود على نجاحك، وترفض أن تكرر نفسك، لرؤية كل يوم، كل عام، كل فكرة، كتحدٍ حقيقي، ومن ثم ستعيش حياتك على حبل مشدود."
هذا كتاب عن الحياة بكل تفاصيلها ويجعلك تقف أمام أهدافك وخططك التي تقول بأنك تريد تحقيقها. يقيس مدى الصدق في نواياك؛ فقد كان الأمر يعد انتحار لفيليب ولأصدقائه، ولكنه صمم وأكمل الطريق. ومن الطريف أنني كنت أقرأ الكتاب على الموبايل وكنت كلما أحسست بان الأمر بعيد وصعب التحقيق؛ ابتسمت ابتسامة ذات معنى وقلتُ لنفسي: تقرأ عن رجل سار على ارتفاع مهول وحقق المستحيل وتعجز أن تكمل الكتاب! ويروي الكتاب وصاحبه أهمية الصداقة وأن الصديق الحقيقي هو الذي يؤمن بك مهما بدى الأمر بعيدا لغيره وكذلك يحكي قصة الأصدقاء الزائفين الذي يتركونك في نصف الطريق ويرجعون. يقول فيليب عن أصدقائه: "كانت العناية الإلهية متجسدة في أصدقائي الواقفين على أسطح البرجين؛ (جان لوي)، منذ البداية كنت كريما، ومندفعا، ووفيا بشكل بديع للقضية؛ لقد أخذت المغامرة أكثر من مرة بتصميم لا هوادة فيه. (جان فرانسوا)، ابتسمت وضحكت في طريقك إلى الجريمة الفنية للقرن! أنت لا تعرف شيئا عن السلك، ولا عن ناطحات السحاب، ولا عن مدينة نيويورك، نعم، ولكنك قفزت دون تردد تطالب بحقك في تحمل المسئولية، سوف تستمر في حمايتي حتى نهاية الأمر، ونعم، أنت لا تهتم بالعواقب."
التفاصيل في الكتاب تعكس مدى استحالة إتمام الأمر فعلا وكيف كانت صعوبة الدخول والخروج من الأبراج وكيفية التحايل على الأمن والخطة الكاملة، ولكني لا يمكنني أن أسرد كل ما قرأته في أكثر من خمسمائة صفحة أكثر من أربعمائة صفحة عن التخطيط والتغلب على العقبات المتكررة بداية من اللغة التي لا يجيدها فيليب حيث أنه ولد في باريس وتعلمها واتقانها إلى شراء معدات بعينها والرسومات الكثيرة والاسكتشات غير المحدودة للبرجين وانتهاء إلى كيفية دخولها ونصبها فوق سطح البرجين وربطهما ببعض.
بعد أن حيّاه الجمهور، ولحقت به شرطة المدينة، أعاد بوتي المشي على حبله 8 مرات، متناسياً الجرح الذي أصاب قدمه، والشرطة التي تنتظر لحظة القبض عليه، متماهيا مع الطيور في السماء. بعدها يقرر الاستسلام للشرطة، ويتلقى حكم القضاء بصدر رحب، حيث حُكم عليه، بتأدية عروض المشي على الحبل مجاناً في حدائق نيويورك العامة، ليحصل بوتي بعدها على مسكن بمدينة نيويورك التي وقع في غرامها.
"غمرتني الدهشة والخوف الشديد المباغت، نعم، بفرح وفخر عظيمين؛ أحافظ على توازني على الحبل العالي. وهناك شعور غامض يدغدغني – الرغبة في التحليق. بدأت المشي، ولكن جسدي لا يزال بلا حركة. هل هذا هو الخوف؟
كتاب جميل
February 1, 2017
Man on Wire by Philippe Petit is the first-hand account of Philippe’s death-defying high- wire walk across the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. It is the non-fictional story of the years of preparation, practicing his craft and setbacks all leading up to his walk across the sky between the towers, 110 stories up, on a summer morning in 1974.
The author, Philippe Petit, used plentiful literary techniques to tell his story from his perspective in vivid detail. In particular, Petit used a ton of figurative language to tell his story. There are many examples of figurative language throughout the book, and he tended to use a lot of similes, metaphors, imagery and personification.
I enjoyed reading this entire book but the part I liked the best is towards the end of the story, as Petit describes what he was thinking about before and while he was out on the wire that day. He is able to illustrate a picture in our imaginations that being up in the clouds was like leaving the world and entering another. He lets his feet and courage lead him across the wire eight times, and even lying down on it at one point. When he describes walking on the wire, he talks like he is not a human. This part of the story is my favorite because during this part, he finally achieves what he had spent years planning, and he describes in unique, vivid details on what it was like for him up in the sky.
I think that Man on Wire by Philippe Petit is great, well written, and interesting throughout the entire book. The book is especially important now that the twin towers are no longer there. No one can ever attempt the feat that he achieved making this book important. Petit pays tribute to the towers and the end of the book, along with an inspiring message on how we should unite and rebuild together. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading, non-fiction books, and inspiring stories. I enjoyed reading this entire book, especially towards the end when he completes his walk on the wire.
Profile Image for Kim Olson.
161 reviews3 followers
November 8, 2013
Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between the twin towers is one of the most dazzling things I've ever seen. It was an impossible feat--dancing over a vibrating and sagging strand of wire, between two towers that sway (as towers are built to do), with the wind gusting. Even though he pulled it off, and I've seen it, I still know that it was impossible. It was a moment of magic.

As incredible as his wire walk was, planning and pulling off the escapade was nearly as impressive. He and his team had to outwit World Trade Center security, haul scads of heavy cable and other equipment up to the rooftop, and rig up the whole thing. This book chronicles the months of planning that went into the coup, as Petit called it, as well as the walk itself. (His description of the walk is pure poetry.)

This book essentially tells the same story as the documentary Man on Wire (highly recommended), but goes into greater detail than the film. I'll admit that I've long been fascinated by this story, and who wouldn't be? It has so many elements to it--Petit's driving obsession, the complexity of the plan, the zillions of opportunities for something to go wrong, and finally, a performance like none other.

To Reach the Clouds, which is written almost like a diary, includes photographs and Petit's planning sketches. And it's an entertaining read, written in Petit's distinctive voice, with his sense of tongue-in-cheek whimsy coming through on nearly every page. Loved it.
Profile Image for Nigel.
Author 4 books7 followers
April 21, 2016
The 2008 documentary 'Man on Wire' showed at the Edinburgh film festival and I have it on good authority that Sean Connery, president of the festival and present at the showing along with Philippe Petit, said it was the best cinematic experience of his life. I saw the film soon after and could understand why. So when the Hollywood remake came out last year I wasn't inspired to think about it. A book tied to a film also has a commercial ring to it but I did want to read what Philippe Petit wrote about his feat so I gave this a go. A brilliant high-wire artist and most unusual character, the Frenchman Petit has written an outstanding work that reflects beautifully the so-far-out-of-the-ordinary nature of what he accomplished - that feat that stopped New York one morning in 1974 when thousands of people in the streets couldn't believe their eyes. Read it and be inspired!
Profile Image for Terry Cornell.
387 reviews36 followers
August 27, 2016
I can't believe what a fast read this was! The best description I've seen is 'A thriller written by a poet'.
The story of Phillipe Petit and his wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. It begins with his early life and how he came to have this idea/dream. Then proceeds to the planning, information and equipment gathering for this unauthorized performance. At the end Petit writes of the process of putting together his story, written after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Not only is it Petit's story, but the story of two majestic icons. It includes photos taken by his fellow conspirators. I first became aware of this story after seeing 2015's 'The Walk' starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit. For the most part the movie follows the book to the letter, and is equally as nail-biting. Read one, watch the other.
Profile Image for Nickie Cleaver.
454 reviews20 followers
March 19, 2016
This guy was crazy! I had never heard of him or this story until seeing the movie "The Walk". Everything depicted in the movie really happened! I was amazed at how close the movie was to the book.

I just can't get over the fact he was able to pull this off, and walk between them 8 times!! It's just incredible. He had a dream, and he accomplished it, most people don't get that opportunity.

I loved the way it was written, no unnecessary background, just the facts. I loved it! This book has inspired one of my favorite movies of the year!

You are truly amazing Philippe Petit!
Profile Image for Dani C..
3 reviews
May 18, 2019
Conquistar la cima es algo que nos decimos todos los días como si de un anhelo se tratase, pero olvidamos que la vida es mucho más que soñar; este libro crea una nueva perspectiva de la vida en quien lo lee, un cambio en nuestra mente, nuestra forma de pensar. Disfrute este libro y creo que lo leí en el momendo adecuado, siento que transmite un bello mensaje a las personas y ese mensaje puede ser interpretado de varias maneras, solo depende de tí encontrar lo que buscas.
1,047 reviews11 followers
January 15, 2011
This was a blast to read and very well written. I never knew much about this walk, but I did recall the event. I had no idea that something like this was far from spontaneous! This author is a real "project manager"! Fun to read.
Profile Image for Charlotte Lawrence.
15 reviews4 followers
August 22, 2021
How could this book be anything less than 5 stars?
Everything about this book, the story, the man, the very coup itself, is simply amazing. It's inspirational, magnificent, and emotional.
I've been a huge - I don't know if fan is the right word to describe it - but I've been hugely in love with this story ever since I first heard about it after watching The Walk years ago. I believe every word Philippe says when he states that he is a poet, writing in the sky. To me, he is an artist and every step is the equivalent of a brushstroke across a canvas.
I admire Philippe Petit so much, he is a great inspirational figure. For me, he shows that nothing is impossible; having a strong passion to pursue your dreams is the key to having a life wish (not a death wish.) He shows me that you need to be strong and work hard to accomplish your deepest desires, it's okay not to be okay, and when in doubt, try again. He shows me that if you are able to dream, then dream BIG!
“I know it's impossible. But I know I'll do it!”
When he speaks about looking out into the void, one foot on the wire and one foot on the South tower, he speaks about the very notion of shifting his weight. His weight is resting on his right foot, the foot connected with the tower, the foot that connects him to material and surface. His left foot stands on a line that will lead him into the abyss, lead him into the void, into the unknown. If he so much as shifts his weight from his right foot to his left, then he begins his journey on that path. Without possibly realising it, Petit has created a metaphor that can be registered in almost all aspirations of our lives. To have our weight resting on familiar ground, somewhere we know we'll be safe, where our other foot dares to point to a path of uncertainty, our desires? He shifted his weight, perhaps we could too, so it can lead us down a path that could lead to something better.

In memorial of the lives lost to the tragic event that happened, resulting in the twin towers collapsing and hundreds of people to lose their lives, Petit recalls that day with deep sadness. He declares that what was once his towers, that morning, they became our towers.

“When the towers again twin-tickle the clouds, I offer to walk again, to be the expression of the builder's collective voice. Together, we will rejoice in an aerial song of victory. I will carry my life across the wire, as your life, as all our lives, past, present, and future -the lives lost, the lives welcomed since.
We can overcome.”
Profile Image for Trisha.
666 reviews36 followers
August 14, 2020
After reading Let the Great World Spin which began with a man walking between the Twin Towers on a tight rope I was curious about the actual event that Colum McCann used as a pivotal point in his novel. So I was happy to discover this book by Philippe Petit, the man who was crazy enough to pull off the actual walk.

If his book makes anything clear at all it’s the fact that Philippe Petit must indeed have been crazy. Crazy, arrogant, conceited, and completely focused on himself and his obsession with the Twin Towers and his dream of walking between them on a cable suspended a quarter of a mile above the ground.

Just as amazing is the fact that he managed to pull it off without having fleshed out every tiny detail ahead of time. Other than being obsessed with the idea for years he couldn’t seem to put together a coherent and consistent plan for how he was going to do it. Much depended on spur of the moment inspiration, and last minute improvisation. Even his accomplices weren’t always on the same page when it came to actual details. They were a mixed bag of quarrelsome friends, acquaintances and willing strangers and how on earth they managed to get all the equipment lugged to the rooftops of the two towers and installed without knowing exactly what they were doing is a mystery. Equally mystifying is how all this could possibly have been done without any of them being detected by security guards.

Somehow it all happened and the book is an interesting account of what was involved – although I found the hand sketched diagrams hard to decipher and was thoroughly confused by the constant reference to tools, equipment and structural procedures that needed to be put in place in order to secure the cable. I suspect it would have been easier to understood if I was an engineer.

While certainly not one of the best books I’ve read lately, it was a rather fascinating companion piece to Colum McCann’s wonderful novel.
25 reviews3 followers
April 4, 2022
This book is a wonderful little account of Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, which took place in the early morning of 7 August, 1974, around 16 months after the towers were officially opened.

I was drawn to it because I have a fascination with the World Trade Center complex and its history. In that respect, Petit's performance was an important milestone: it was the first of several events in the 70s that had a positive impact on the public's perception of the towers, which initially was very disdainful. At first glance, the incident may appear frivolous or haphazard, but as the book details, achieving the feat—or the 'coup' as Petit referred to it—took months of careful planning, in which he and his crew spent lots of time scouting and infiltrating the site. This was entertaining to read, but it also gave valuable insight into the inner workings and day-to-day life in the early days of the towers, which is a nice treat for people inclined as I am.

Reading the book also had the side effect of endearing me to Philippe Petit as a person. I got the impression of someone very cheeky, but in an entertaining, playful way, and a non-conformist who was passionately determined to follow his unusual dreams and way of life, no matter what. In addition to that, he seems undeniably brave and courageous. Due to the clandestine and time-constrained nature of the coup, the wire wasn't mounted in a completely safe or optimal way, but Petit still decided to take the only chance he knew he was going to get. Oh, and he's a good writer too!

Overall, the book is just very entertaining and quick to get through, with lots of nice pictures and illustrations. Highly recommended.
1 review
December 4, 2017
Do you have a dream? If yes, this book would be perfect for you. This book tells us the story of Phillippe Petit which taken from the real story. The story starts when Phillipe Petit was still on the streets doing attraction to get money. Someday, he went to the dentist and when he was waiting in the line he found a newspaper featuring the twin towers. Just like being struck by lightning, Phillipe Petit found his dream to walk between these two towers.
This book is really good if you like to know how a man achieve his dream. I personally recommended this book because even though many people already know who is Phillipe Petit but when you read this you still feel the thrill of how Phillipe Petit achieve his dream through his hard work. If I were to say what is the strong point of this book I would say I love how the book written as if I was there experienced it by myself. On the other hand, the weak point that I actually think the biggest weakness of this book is the systematic of the chapter, sometimes you will be confused because there are many chapter that not related to each other.
In conclusion, even with the pros and cons of this book I would still recommend it because it’s good to read and there are so many inspirations for you to actually find this book useful for any people who wants to achieve their dream. Keep dreaming maybe your dream will come true someday!
253 reviews
February 4, 2021
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Philppe’s “walking” feats are unquestionably astonishing and you can’t help but think he’s a bit crazy to do these things. His writing is incredible, especially if you know his second language is English and it makes me wonder if he had ghost writer help him. Halfway through the book, I realized, I do not like this guy. He’s egotistical, self-centered and a narcissist. He treated his friends horribly and they were only trying to help him. He could have never been my friend for it would have been a one-way relationship only. Hopefully, in the years since, Philippe has matured and discovered that the world does not revolve around him. I think maybe he has by what I’ve read about him in his later years.
Profile Image for Michael Baggetta.
86 reviews19 followers
December 15, 2021
I had a chance to meet Philippe Petit in person and received an autographed copy of his book. I saw him rehearse on the wire at the UPAC theater in Kingston NY. earlier this year. This meeting made it actually very special for me to read his amazing story of how he planned and executed his 8 trips across the cable between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in NYC in the early morning hours of one day in August 1974! I highly recommend reading his amazing book, "To Reach The Clouds," as he re-creates his 6 year quest to realize his ,"impossible," ambition of wire walking between the Twin Towers in NYC!
Profile Image for Karen.
2,056 reviews
June 6, 2018
The best thing I can say about this book is that it was mercifully short. Petit is no doubt a very talented man. However the book was remarkably dull and Petit portrays himself throughout as a deeply unpleasant person, often behaving like a petulant man-toddler. Annie has supported him all the way and this is the thanks she gets - "I send Annie back to France. I don't want anything to dull the splendour of my newfound fame, to slow the unrestrained and joyous tempo of my new beginning." Based on what I read in the book he appears to match half of the traits on the 20 point psychopath test.
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