Skip to main content

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Few phenomena inspire more awe than lightning. Streaking across the sky, it daunts us with its power and amazes us with its beauty. In Lightning, Derek M. Elsom explores this natural phenomenon and traces the long history of our study of it. From early civilizations’ assumptions that it was the work of gods, through eighteenth-century scientific analyses (and, yes, Ben Franklin’s kite), Elsom tells about our efforts to understand and explain lightning. He explores the many surprising folklore beliefs about lightning protection and contrasts these with today's scientific approaches. Alongside scientific explorations, he also tracks the path of lightning through our culture, from myths and legends to art and design. In addition, Elsom offers handy tips for avoiding getting struck by lightning.
Beautifully illustrated with stunning photographs and artistic renderings, this striking book will appeal equally to weather buffs and folklorists, scientists and artists. 

240 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 x 8 1/4 | © 2015


Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

Reaktion Books image

View all books from Reaktion Books


“One of a series of books on natural phenomena that traces a history of the topic through cultural superstitions, scientific discoveries, and depictions in literature and the arts, illustrated by beautiful colour photography. From odd warding customs, the gods of antiquity and ball lightning to lighting marks, St Elmo’s Fire and solidified lightning (fulgurites), Derek Elsom maintains our interest throughout, making this very accessible to everyman . . . an excellent introduction to one of the mysterious forces of nature.”

Fortean Times

“The phenomenon of lightning has long frightened and fascinated humanity. As part of Reaktion’s “Earth” series, this book explores the scientific and social aspects of this natural occurrence. . . . This book, beautifully illustrated with many color photographs, provides an excellent, basic overview of the subject. ”


“This is the best book I have read on the subject of lightning  and is very reasonably priced, so I can unreservedly recommend  it to all readers.”

International Journal of Meteorology

Table of Contents

1. Weapon of the Gods and Goddesses
2. Fear of Lightning: Thunderbolts, Witchcraft and Protective Charms
3. The Science and Nature of Lightning
4. Lightning Threats to People and Activities
5. Lightning in Literature, Art and Popular Culture
Gods and Goddesses of Thunder and Lightning
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press