The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars

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In this acclaimed volume, prizewinning poet and nature writer Christopher Cokinos takes us on an epic journey from Antarctica to outer space, weaving together natural history, memoir, and in-depth profiles of amateur researchers, rogue scientists, and stargazing dreamers to tell the riveting tale of how the study of meteorites became a modern science.

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The Fallen Sky

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Overview

In this acclaimed volume, prizewinning poet and nature writer Christopher Cokinos takes us on an epic journey from Antarctica to outer space, weaving together natural history, memoir, and in-depth profiles of amateur researchers, rogue scientists, and stargazing dreamers to tell the riveting tale of how the study of meteorites became a modern science.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Greek word for "meteor" means "high in the air," but Christopher Cokinos's search for their meaning led him to search for their traces all over the earth. The wide-ranging author of Hope Is the Thing with Feathers has covered the globe from Greenland to Antarctica; from American deserts to Australian wilderness. Cokinos's exhaustive pole-to-pole meteorite research doesn't prevent him from tapping natural history, folklore, and biographical sources to flesh out the stony stories of this alluring outer-space debris. Artfully written; if you have ever wished upon a falling star for a first-rate book about them, this is it.
Kirkus Reviews
Sprawling adventure memoir and natural history of meteorites from Cokinos (English and Creative Writing/Utah State Univ.; Hope Is the Thing With Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds, 2000). In his quest to understand the passions of the opportunists, innovators and romantics that popular the history of meteorites, the author traverses the globe, tracing their footsteps, absorbing their stories and, ultimately, understanding their obsession. Cokinos follows meteorites to Greenland, New Zealand, Europe and Antarctica, and in each location comes away with a stronger sense of how these mysterious chunks of space rock have affected humanity-including the still-looming, though remote, possibility of a future catastrophic impact. Carrying 4.5 billion-year-old material, meteorites provide scientists with the opportunity to examine ancient organic matter and deduce important developments of the primordial universe. Some researchers even suspect that meteorite impacts, such as the one that caused the Lake Acramen crater in Australia, "sparked the first extensive rise of complex life on Earth." Throughout his well-paced narrative, the author's naturalist tendencies bloom in his lush descriptions of his surroundings. The last section, which details an arduous trip to the far frontiers of Antarctica, is a thrilling account of the extreme psychological and physical endurance required to complete such field research. His emotions sharpened in isolation, Cokinos writes in awe of the similarities between mountains in Greenland and the South Pole, and meteor craters in Arizona and Australia. He's also amazed by the almost identical way different indigenous groups spiritualize meteorites, and bythe insistent pull of home wherever his research took him. It's a unique thrill to be the first human to step on a certain sheet of ice or to touch the oldest known meteorite, but Cokinos concludes that "the marvels of adventure are nothing beside the clarities of home."The author's enthusiasm is infectious in this chronicle of astronomical passion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585427208
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/30/2009
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Cokinos is an award-winning writer and poet, and a professor of English at Utah State University. He has received the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Glasgow Prize for an emerging writer in nonfiction, and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

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(3)

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 14, 2010

    Christopher Cokinos: Enlightenment on an Astronomical Scale

    At the risk of sounding like a major science nerd, I'll admit that I began reading The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars simply because this book fits my interests. However, Christopher Cokinos completely blew my mind BEFORE I was through the introduction, which provides a new perspective on dust, something that I never imagined I would appreciate. It brought entirely new meaning to the phrase "all we are is dust in the wind"!
    Cokinos took an extremely innovative approach to the writing of this book; he approached it not as an informational non-fiction book but as an entire sensory experience. By telling the stories of the discoveries of meteors and relating the effect they had/have on people, Cokinos takes something one-dimensional and makes it into an experience for the reader.
    If you're thinking about reading this book, be aware that Christopher Cokinos is not one of those historical fiction writers who fill in all the holes their research left. He presents only what his research supports, and because of this, the book sports quite a few cliffhangers (which is absolutely killing me, I'm pretty sure tonight I will dream up various endings!). One thing I love about non-fiction is that the writers typically have to really experience what they're writing about, really immerse themselves. Cokinos is certainly an excellent example of this; he traveled all over the world to gain the experiences and research he relates in this book.
    On a side note, I'm not quite sure what I think of Cokinos' writing style. His insertions about his divorce sometimes seem somewhat fabricated to go along with whatever is happening in the people's lives he is researching. The contrast between these very personal statements and the scientific matter that constitutes most of the book is so stark that his personal comments come off as somewhat comical, though the matter of them certainly isn't.
    Overall, this book was AMAZING. It's one that I'll definitely read at least once more to further grasp the awesome amount of information contained in it. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in meteors, particularly anyone who doesn't want to read the dry, purely scientific version of the information. The added depth provided by the narrative on the lives of people involved with meteorology made this book an excellent read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    The Fallen Sky: Educational and Enlightening

    Christopher Cokinos has created a compelling, and yes, intimate book on a subject that many might consider extremely interesting but a bit dry. The Fallen Sky: an Intimate History of Shooting Stars is the kind of book that is can actually appeal to a wide range of readers. Cokinos' unique style combines history, science, and personal narrative to tell a story that is at once intensely personal, totally relatable, and incredibly educational.
    Going into the book with absolutely no previous knowledge of "space rocks," their composition and formation, or even much about the universe outside of our little solar system, I'm amazed at how much I learned from this book. I'm also amazed that Cokinos manages to weave all of that information into such a fascinating personal story so skillfully; the reader is privileged to get a glimpse of Cokinos' own history as well as the histories of the other "meteorite hunters" that he researches.
    The unique narrative also explores our personal and collective relationships with meteorites and shooting stars in general, and this is something I found particularly special about the book. Not only does Cokinos provide fascinating scientific facts about "the fallen sky," but he also takes the time to look at the sociological and anthropological phenomena that surrounds a meteorite when it plummets to the earth and is subsequently "discovered." But taking into account the human side of the story, Cokinos helps us create a connection with that unknown world of space, stars, and rock that teaches us not only about the universe, but about ourselves as well.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Anonymous Jan 9, 2013

    This book is useful for general meteor history and information about meteorite falls. However, the strange writing style made it difficult for me to finish. The author spent entirely too much time writing about his divorce and his new wife. At one point he felt it necessary to tell the reader about making love to his new wife after visiting a meteorite fall site. I don't need this kind of information in a book about meteorites. At fimes I had trouble understanding his point because of his fu fu writing style.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Poorly written

    Interesting topic with a weirdly personal backdrop that was very distracting.

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    Posted August 13, 2011

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