Chasing The Sun: The Epic Story of the Star that Gives Us Life

Richard Cohen, Random, $35 (624p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6875-3

Cohen (By the Sword) visited 18 countries to gather information for this ambitious and unusual literary opus, including Peru, where he witnessed the reenactment of an Inca ceremony welcoming the summer solstice, and Japan, where he climbed a snow-covered Mt. Fuji. He hunted the mythology embedded in the works of Shakespeare, Nabokov ("I must be the only person to have read Lolita for its Sun images"), Dante, Chaucer, and other authors, and personally examined the orientation of the Egyptian Pyramids and European cathedrals. This vast effort touches on the modern age shepherded by Copernicus and Galileo, and the author labels 200 discoveries related to solar energy in the 1870s a "scientific revolution" which would lead directly to the hydrogen bomb. He goes on to sound a cautionary note on climate change extremism, warning that there is still no consensus on the influence of solar cycles on climate (he goes so far as to raise the possibility of another ice-age). 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. (Nov.)