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Chasing the Sun: A Cultural and Scientific History of the Star That Gives Us Life
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Chasing the Sun: A Cultural and Scientific History of the Star That Gives Us Life

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  165 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
The Sun is so powerful, so much bigger than us, that it is a terrifying subject. Yet though we depend on it, we take it for granted. This book is a cultural and scientific history of our relationship with the star that gives us life.
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published May 6th 2008)
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Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
"Once upon a time we thought that we were the centre of the universe and that even the sun revolved around us...
Thousands of years later we know that our earliest, most basic idea about our place in the cosmos was false, and that that cosmos is vastly larger than we ever dreamed. We are mere specks..."

Richard Cohen took eight years to write his account of the sun. The sun's biography, in fact. He looks at the myth, the legend, the science. Also the social cont
Kelly Furniss
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very different choice for me as I don't normally pick much non-fiction but I enjoyed this thorough comprehensive study on the sun and looking at how the sun has been analysed and used in mythology and cultures through history and explored in artistic form through eg. poetry, music, photography, visual arts and literature. Then turn the subject on its head and we get the nitty gritty of complex science, solar physics, facts and figures.
So trying to accumulate all this in to an interes
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book, and the author definitely should be commended on the variety of different considerations and aspects of human thought about the sun that he covers. A couple of things mar this book, though, and stopped me from giving it 3 stars (I would have given it 2.5 if that were available). First, there were a number of clear astronomical mistakes, even though in the acknowledgments the author said that experts read over the book. For example, at one point he claims that at the equinox ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
To be honest, I wouldn't have naturally picked this up on my own steam. It was mentioned in a group here on GoodReads in a challenge thread and caught my eye. After looking into it a bit, I figured it might be right up my alley because it covers a wealth of subjects through the lens of it's specified solar theme and has the twist of "popular science" thrown in. I'm a pop science junkie. Let's blame Bill Nye. Or, you know, thank him.

I think I was hoping for more author personality. It felt a bit
Cassandra Kay Silva
The opening chapters and the final chapters were pretty good, they were more science packed. The middle chapters included things like "Opera's devoted to the sun" and "Art devoted to the sun" etc. which in general I wouldn't have minded but he went through the artists so quick and with so little emphasis that I felt like I was reading lists in the middle of this book which was a total throw off, especially the "songs devoted to the sun" section. They were also not in my opinion as well written a ...more
book of the week - a combination of pop-science, myth, historical trivia and travel.
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascination rendition of the significance of the Sun to humanity since the ascension of human consciousness to the mythology developed by us throughout historical times. Worth reading it!
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything you wanted to know about our star and then some. An interesting and dense read it covers science, religion, anthropology, health, fashion, energy and everything in between that is related to the sun. A biography of the Sun
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Wow! this was thorough! super readable and packed with facts about the sun from every possible field of study. took forever to read but well worth the library fines.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done.
Kathy  Olivos
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un libro maravilloso que NECESITO sea parte de mi colección personal. Recomendado absolutamente.
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the Museum of Natural History, and when I finally got to reading it I can only phrase this text as a long string of disappointments occasionally interspersed with interesting facts. Once in a while, the author would say something that was fascinating and engrossing, and sometimes it even continued for a full chapter; rarely longer. I feel like he could have presented his many facts in a more interesting manner, but that's not the major problem I have with this book, even ...more
Rachel Rogers
I've been gradually making my way through this book; it's what I read when trying to fall asleep and didn't have any other books to work on. Which makes it sound like it was really boring. Parts of it were fascinating; parts extremely boring, others felt...pretentious. I anticipating something akin to Dava Sobel's Planets but this read far more like a dissertation where the author didn't know where to stop his research. The chapters on the sun and religion were a little dry but Cohen came into h ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First book I have given up on in a long time. That is not something I'd normally want to do, or to admit to if I did. I'm really sad as the book seemed to have a lot of promise.

What the author has done is start with an interest in the Sun. OK, fair enough.
He then went to a lot of specialists and asked for them to tell him what they knew. Seems reasonable.
Then he wrote a book about what he found out. Should be good.

Sadly the book is really just a regurgitation of what he was told with none of hi
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history

This book is long, a comprehensive list of human cultures around the globe and there connection to the sun. I thought it would be more science oriented, but in the end it washer about human cultures and their activities and how those things relate to the sun. It did have some good moments, however, I really had to plow hard to get to some of them. The section on the sun and literature was a particular bore. I did find the historical overview of the science of learning about the sun to be intere
Mike Smith
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a thoroughly researched, densely packed book that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Sun. Cohen explains how our knowledge and perceptions of the Sun have changed through the last three millennia or so. He describes how we've thought of the Sun in science, religion, art (including visual arts, literature and poetry, and music), and politics, and probably a few perspectives I've missed. It's very well written, although it sometimes gets technical, whether he's writ ...more
(NB: My copy of this book has 574 pages; the text concludes on page 511, and the remainder is notes, etc.)

In some ways I feel like this book was expressly designed for someone like me. I enjoy reading both history and (pop) science -- this book has both, with generous helpings of mythology, art, literature, and so on. The author takes his subject to include almost anything about the sun and humanity's relationship to it, and this leads to frequent tangents. Which, honestly -- I love. If you're i
Richard Williams
interesting genre, a bit more involved than mere popularization of science, like one i read a few months back on chlorophyll, revolves around everything you want to know about the sun, from a variety of perspectives.

chapters on science, beginning and end of book were interesting, chapters on literature etc, the middle dragged and put me to sleep, which probably says more about my interests than the interest level of the writing.

chapter on calendars worth anyones time, rest of book worthwhile to
Eric Mccutcheon
I am giving this book three stars because of the amount of information that it contained. I learned a lot reading it. However, it was a very difficult book to read. Apparently the author felt it necessary to include every single piece of information he gathered during research. He jumped from topic to topic. It was difficult to get into and more difficult to sludge through. I would not recommend this to others. It was clear reading this book that the author was very impressed with himself and ho ...more
Stephen Palmer
Oct 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
A good book, but it suffered I thought from a tendancy in modern non-fiction to essentially be collections of knowledge linked by a theme. There was no personality of the author in the book. Not that you necessarily need that, but this is not the first book that, though erudite, seemed to be a posh wikipedia of a work.

I felt this too about "Jerusalem," which, though it had an obvious theme, was to my eyes a chronological collection of bad men doing bad things to one another, with little about th
Jun 11, 2011 rated it liked it
A wide-ranging book covering many subjects, some more related to the sun than others. Unsurprisingly, given the variety of the subject matter, I found some chapters fascinating (the ones about science and the history of science, in particular) others somewhat intersting (for example the older history of sun worship) and some of no real interest at all (such as the chapters on the sun as inspiration in art, theatre, opera etc).

Overall definitely worth reading though.
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gone, borrowed, jean, cosmology
An epic story indeed. This book was too big for bedtime so I left it in the living room and read a chapter or a few pages when I felt like it. The best chapters were brilliant - and I can imagine that all the chapters were good but that for each individual different chapters might be the ones to spark the imagination because it covers so many different areas - science, history, culture, art, religion (to name a few!).
Sep 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This encyclopedic work covers any and every scientific and cultural aspect relating to the sun. He includes western, Chinese, Indian, Mayan ideas about the sun. He covers art, music, folk lore. The book is all inclusive. If you are well read you may have come across most of these thoughts before but it is interesting to see them organized in one cohesive volume. I liked the book.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I got to the part about mythology and said "Hey! There's nothing about Perkunas and the nine suns!" and felt disinclined to continue. (Though in the author's defense, what surviving mythology there is about Perkunas is rather fragmentary and confusing.) Interestingly, there's also a Chinese myth about nine suns.

Start date approximate and probably wrong.
Susanne Marie
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is truly a history of the sun and our relationship with it since earliest times. The encyclopedic wealth of information is told in rich, engaging narrative style. This is a valuable choice for readers of science, astronomy, history, culture, religion,- our physical world and humankind's beliefs surrounding it.
Ryan Mishap
A throwback book of scholarship, like when scholarship wasn't limited to the academies, but any curious wanderer with the means and leisure time could pursue subjects and write about them.
while full of interesting information, Cohen manages to make this read like a boring history book in parts--better when he's writing first person when visiting places. Just too damn long of a book, really.
Jan 03, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Cohen was aiming for a comprehensive book about all topics related to the sun- the sun in art, music, etc. but he included anything remotely tangential to the sun which made the book seem like just a random listing of sun references. There was no overall narrative thread. The science chapters were most interesting although not very well written.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In "Chasing the Sun", Richard Cohen presents to us a masterpiece of the history and impact our little star has had on the influence of mankind throughout history to the present. This is a very good read for one to understand the influence the Sun has had on all the myths, religions, and progression of mankind in influencing the evolution of mankind. An interesting read.
Margaret Sankey
Yes, someone has written a social history of the sun, including the religious and scientific movements with the sun at their centers--with forays into Incan sacrifices, Islamic observatories, Chinese astrology, "Sun Kings," eclipse panics, solar flares setting off naval mines and buildings oriented to catch light in specific ways.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I heard a good interview with the author on Rick Steve's podcast, but the book just turned into this long list of everything that could be connected to the sun. If it was about half as long it could have been okay, as it is it lost me a short way in.
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