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Nature and Culture

Among the rarest things on earth, meteorites carry an air of mystery and drama while having left a pervasive, outsized mark on our planet and civilization. In Meteorite, Maria Golia tells the long history of our engagement with these sky-born space rocks. Arriving amid thunderous blasts and flame-streaked skies, meteorites were once thought to be messengers from the gods. Worshipped in the past, now scrutinized with equal zeal by scientists, meteorites helped sculpt Earth’s features and have shaped our understanding of the planet’s origins. Prized for their outlandish qualities, meteorites are a collectible and a commodity, objects of art and artists’ desires and a literary muse; and ‘meteorite hunting’ is an adventurous, lucrative profession for some and an addictive hobby for thousands of others.           

A richly illustrated, remarkably wide-ranging account of the culture and science surrounding meteorites, Golia’s book explores the ancient, lasting power of the meteorite to inspire and awe.

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


Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

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“It is pretty feeble merely to accept that meteorites come from the sky without considering the variegated significance of the falling rocks. Meteorite does a splendid job in countering the widespread lack of curiosity by illustrating the religious, social, literary, artistic, political, economic, and even culinary impact of meteorites, with the help of reportage and anecdote as well as site photographs and portraits. . . . Golia writes vividly and wittily and her text is fully but discreetly referenced. . . . And if meteorites are exploited to sell chocolates, ale, and face powder, they also tell us, as she puts it, that the universe is grand past all imagining.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Book of the Month. . . . In Meteorite we are introduced to the science and culture surrounding the rocks from space that we know as meteorites but that were once looked upon as being messengers from the gods. In this well-researched and copiously-illustrated book, the author looks back in time to discover how the arrival of these celestial visitors induced a sense of awe and wonder in our ancestors. . . . Golia introduces us to a large number of meteorite aficionados and scholars, hunters and collectors, including the meteorite enthusiast and former punk rock musician Geoffrey Notkin who, we are informed, once said that ‘’like the sound of the ocean in a seashell, meteorites carry within them a faint murmur of infinity.’ Notkin’s words sum up the fascination we have with meteorites, a fascination which this book brings across very well.”

BBC Sky at Night Magazine

“Enjoyable survey . . . shows that meteorites still occupy an anomalous space where science, myth, art, commerce, and apocalypse collide . . . Meteorite is an object of beauty, with the sumptuous colour illustration we have come to expect from Reaktion’s natural history monographs. The images include ancient artefacts, pulp illustrations, ethnographic tableaux, and stunning aerial photography of craters, but focus primarily on the meteorites: portraits that reveal the patterns sculpted by heat and g-forces in their passage through the atmosphere and precision-cut magnified sections that turn their fine-grained structures into kaleidoscopic works of art.”

Fortean Times

“Golia blends the magic of meteorites across time and ownership. The book is filled with stories, examples, and exceptional pictures. At no time does it go overboard into heavy science, which makes it a great read for the casual meteorite aficionado. . . . In fact the book is filled with the litterati and glitterati of meteorites, both intellectual and commercial. The tales of science are as thrilling to uncover as the auctions stories. Whether through poetry, paintings, or pop culture, Golia drills home the interaction between everything meteorite in a precious tome of some 208 pages.”

Martin Horejsi, Meteorite Times

“This is an extremely well-researched book, with its focus away from the scientific details and squarely on the place of meteorites in various aspects of human culture. Despite a lifetime’s interest in astronomy, I hadn’t previously seen most of the images beautifully reproduced on the very high quality paper. I found the depiction of meteorites and their craters within artworks, especially those by tribespeople, fascinating. . . . The book renewed my interest in meteorites in general—a success for any book. . . . There are plenty of amusing and well-told stories in there, too.”

Astronomy Now

Meteorite, part of Reaktion’s “Earth” series, is not a typical book about these fascinating objects. Instead of focusing entirely on the scientific study of meteorites, the book begins with an overview of the long history of direct sightings of meteorite falls that were not believed. The work is filled with high-quality color illustrations, many of which are images of meteorites and craters caused by impacts. However, it also addresses meteorites in mythology, history, and art, including images interspersed throughout the text of artwork made from or about meteorites.  Golia, a writer based in Egypt, has not neglected the science, although it is not the main emphasis. Even those familiar with the science of meteorites are likely to find something new to them in this exhaustively researched work. She also manages to provide insight into the economics of meteorite falls. . . . Overall, this is a fantastic book analyzing meteorites in many different contexts, providing the reader with a rich overview. . . . Highly recommended.”


“This is a beautifully written, well-researched book that looks at the science, history, and social aspect of meteorites. Here is the story of stones from space, and I recommend it to anyone interested in these fascinating bits of other worlds which have landed here on Earth.”

Christopher P. McKay, NASA Planetary Scientist

“Golia has brought to her truly wonderful subject a matching spirit of wonder and has explored the science and magic, art and uses of ‘lightning rock,’ ‘iron rain,’ and sacred betyls, with passion, wit—and fiery compression.”

Marina Warner, author of Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale

Table of Contents

1. Alpha and Omega
2. Fallen Gods
3. To Have and To Hold
4. All Things Said and Done
5. Strange Landings
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements

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