Book Review Thursday: The Wright Brothers


I have to admit that, despite the fact I love reading history books, this is my first David McCullough book.  I’ve certainly heard of him, knew of his reputation for excellence, and wanted to read his books, but never opened one until this past week.  Suffice it to say, I am now a fan of David McCullough, adding him to the growing list of my favorite history authors: Erik Larson, Bill Bryson, Pope Brock, Candice Millard, Hampton Sides, Simon Winchester and more.

This book has rightly earned Amazon’s Best of May 2015 designation.  Of course, no one can expect otherwise from McCullough, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.  Many books have been written about the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who dared to dream they could fly.  I can’t say that I’ve read any books devoted exclusively to their story, although Birdmen by Lawrence Goldstone extensively covered the Wrights, their various rivalries and struggles to defend their patents in court.

McCullough tells the brothers’ story and uses as his main source the Wright Papers, which included personal diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, letters and correspondence between family members, friends and business associates.  The use of these types of sources make the story compelling since it is drawn directly from the historical files.

Perhaps a unique feature of this particular book on the Wright brothers is how McCullough highlights the accomplishments of their sister Katherine.  She seemed to be the “glue” that held everyone together.  She strongly believed in what they were doing, their biggest cheerleader who later traveled with them to Europe as their assistant.

As one glowing review stated, this is a “profoundly American story” – two brothers, not satisfied to just earn a living as Dayton, Ohio bicycle mechanics, took it upon themselves to learn everything they could about aviation.  With just a basic public school education, the two brothers read extensively.  Their upbringing as the sons of Bishop Milton Wright provided no doubt contributed to their success as well.

I’ve seen McCullough’s THICK books in stores and would shy away from them thinking I didn’t have time to undertake the weighty tomes.  This one is only 337 pages and that includes all the documentation.  It was both an engaging and easy read.  Every time I picked it up, it was hard to put down.

If you’re a fan of David McCullough, you must read this book.  Anyone interested in the history of flight will surely find this a great read.  Recommendation:  pick up a copy and start your summer reading!

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.


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