Chasing the Sun

The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life

In the grand tradition of the scholar-adventurer, acclaimed author Richard Cohen takes us around the world to illuminate our relationship with the star that gives us life. Drawing on more than seven years of research, he reports from locations in eighteen different countries. As he soon discovers, the Sun is present everywhere—in mythology, language, religion, politics, sciences, art, literature, and medicine, even in the ocean’s depths. For some ancient worshippers, our star was a man abandoned by his spouse because his brightness made her weary. The early Christians appropriated the Sun’s imagery, with the cross becoming an emblem of the star and its rays, and the halo a variation of that. Einstein helped replicate the Sun’s power to create the atomic bomb, while Richard Wagner had Tristan inveigh against daylight as the enemy of romantic love. In this splendidly illustrated volume packed with captivating facts, extraordinary myths, and surprising anecdotes, Cohen not only explains the star that so inspires us, but shows how multifacted our relationship with it has been—and continues to be.

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A book of wonders . . . Displaying a brilliant surface sheen of solar materialism, myth, metaphysics and metaphor, the intention and achievement of this book is to irradiate the dazzled reader.
The Times, (London)
Cohen’s charm and erudition keep Chasing the Sun consistently lively, and the pages fly by like a dinner with a master raconteur. . . . A richly satisfying read . . . Cohen’s mission is accomplished. We are left sharing . . . his wonderment at all that modern science has taught us about the sun.
The Sunday Times, (London)
★ Cohen (By the Sword) visited eighteen countries to gather information for this ambitious and unusual literary opus. . . . Cohen was compelled to write ‘the sort of book I’d like to read,’ a risky position for a writer seeking a broad readership, but one that more than pays off.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
An unflinching, spellbinding account . . . Cohen’s work is prodigious, audacious, and dazzlingly illuminating.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Dazzling . . . an epic synthesis of science, anecdote and poetry. Cohen tells a good tale and is equally good on science and literature.
The Independent, (London)
Richard Cohen’s exhaustive story of the sun takes us from its beginning to its end, touching on just about everything that has anything to do with the sun in between, from ancient sun worship to modern sunbed worship, the history of astronomy to the future of solar power. Here is the story of the sun in all its splendour. Perfect for brightening dark winter evenings.
New Scientist
Chasing the Sun is a warming book for short winter days, blending myth with history and science, and guaranteed to please and fascinate almost any reader.
Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
[A] spirited panoramic survey . . . Cohen is cheerfully digressive, covering topics such as nudism, quantum theory, albinos, the rise of khaki uniforms, vampires, seasonal affective disorder, life at the bottom of the sea, and the curiously worded abdication of divinity by the emperor of Japan after the Second World War. . . . Embedded in the footnotes are some of the book’s most memorable details.
The New Yorker
A glorious literary orbit around the Sun . . . This extraordinary book is informed by the most prodigious reading, and the most fabulous detail. . . . His chapters on the Sun in literature and art are mesmerising. . . . At every point, the footnotes, asides and interrogations throw up the unexpected and the delightful. . . . Some will call it eccentric in its discursiveness: a better word would be concentric. The journey is unpredictable, but always at a proper distance from its subject. It’s a glorious literary walk in the Sun.
The Guardian, (U.K.)
Encompassing history, science, culture, and wonderful stories, this is a read that is enthralling.
San Francisco Book Review
Mighty, lively, thoroughly readable . . . Cohen leaves no sunbeam unturned in this dazzling history of our solar system, and the epic human efforts to understand it. . . . The science Cohen recounts is mind-boggling.”
Metro, (U.K.)
Cohen . . . is an endurance scholar, unstoppably curious and gifted, with both lucidity and elegance of expression. . . . It would be impossible for anyone to emerge unenlightened from this dazzling book. The footnotes alone are worth the price.”
Melbourne Age
To write yet another work about our nearest star is a formidable challenge that author Richard Cohen takes up with aplomb. Chasing the Sun paints a fascinating and far-reaching scene that incorporates nearly all aspects of solar phenomena. . . . The narrative is liberally sprinkled with personal anecdotes, which is largely what makes the book so enjoyable. . . . A marvellous read.
Nature
Unfailingly riveting.
The Boston Globe
Cohen’s book is inspirational. It masterfully pulls the mere astronomer away from narrowmindedness. It should help us share our meagre understandings of our central star with the multitude of other people who appreciate the Sun in vastly different ways. Read this book. You will enjoy every page and it will broaden your horizons hugely.
Astronomy Now
The sun is a big subject, and Richard Cohen does it wonderful justice in this encyclopedic compendium that sees him visit dozens of countries, read hundreds of books and consider our star from every conceivable perspective—and some that are barely conceivable. Beautifully illustrated, this is not a book to be read at a sitting, but it is endlessly informative and diverting.
The Telegraph, (U.K.)
★ A remarkably comprehensive and engrossing synthesis of the sun’s influence on science, art, religion, literature, mythology and politics. . . . Ever enthusiastic, Cohen provides illuminating personal anecdotes, but he includes just the right amount of detail, never allowing the material to sprawl untethered. Apollo, Ra, Inti or Huitzilopochtli—all would rock with delight at Cohen’s sweeping endeavor.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
An encyclopaedic plum pudding of a compendium . . . beautifully illustrated . . . endlessly informative and diverting.
The Sydney Morning Herald
A quite extraordinary book, which I absolutely loved. I found it impossible to
read in a few sittings, but sort of sat around regularly sun-bathing in its information afterglow. It’s a dazzling solar encyclopedia; but also a fabulously provoking history of discoveries, dreams, and delusions. I shall bask in its shimmering digressions, crazy cross-references, and dizzy overviews for many moons.
Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder