The Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers

by David McCollough

Overview: The #1 New York Times bestseller from David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize—the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly—Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two brothers—bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio—changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe that the age of flight had begun, with the first powered machine carrying a pilot. Orville and Wilbur Wright were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity. When they worked together, no problem seemed to be insurmountable. Wilbur was unquestionably a genius. Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen. That they had no more than a public high school education and little money never stopped them in their mission to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off, they risked being killed.

In this “enjoyable, fast-paced tale” (The Economist), master historian David McCullough “shows as never before how two Ohio boys from a remarkable family taught the world to fly” (The Washington Post) and “captures the marvel of what the Wrights accomplished” (The Wall Street Journal). He draws on the extensive Wright family papers to profile not only the brothers but their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them. Essential reading, this is “a story of timeless importance, told with uncommon empathy and fluency…about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished…The Wright Brothers soars” (The New York Times Book Review). .

Judy Stanton (10/25/17): If history was written as well as this in school history books, more students would be interested in learning about the past. David McCullough drew from thousands of letters and documents to provide vivid details that engaged the reader in the Wright Brothers' pursuit of building the world's first flying machine. For those interested in the science and engineering, there is that. But there is also great character development that gets the reader into the thick of the Wright family, the brothers, sister and father, who had very strong interfamily relationships. Wilbur and Orville are no longer just names, but intelligent, determined, focused young men who literally took their passion to new heights. McCullough doesn't make light of their trials and tribulations, of those who would belittle them and try to take credit for their work, as well as the time, strength and tenacity it took to fight numerous patent lawsuits. They were not college educated, not wealthy, and not government funded, but they were exceptional people who would not be deterred from the confidence they had in themselves, and their ability to make their dream a reality.
Rating: *****

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