IN A NUTSHELL
- The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, narration by the author (Simon & Schuster audio, 2015)
- In 40 words or less: There’s far more to the Wright brothers’ story than the first flight at Kitty Hawk. McCullough brings the family to life and sets them in the context of their times. His narration provides the gravitas the story deserves.
- Genre: History/Biography
- Locale: Ohio/NC/Europe
- Time: Late 19th – Early 20th centuries
- Read this to understand the genius and persistence of the Wright brothers and the family that inspired and stood behind them in their work.
Several things need to work well for an audiobook to be a good choice – the subject, the reader and the quality of the material. When you are choosing a book for more than one person to listen to on a road trip, the stakes are higher. Knowing that our tastes differ, I had several selections. The Wright Brothers was not the first pick but within minutes we were hooked.
Orville and Wilbur Wright’s successful flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 is credited with launching the age of flight. The brief paragraphs about this achievement in most history books tell of brothers that began as bicycle builders who parlayed their mechanical knowledge to create the first successful airplane. The brothers and their siblings were raised in a household where reading books on all subjects from classical philosophy to mathematics to contemporary literature was the primary activity. Throughout their lives, Sundays were reserved for reading and contemplation, a tribute to their minister father who instilled in them their love of learning and persistence of purpose.
The flight at Kitty Hawk was barely heard of beyond those working on the project for more than five years. Politics and scientific jealousies sent the Wrights to Europe looking for support and a market when U.S. government officials created stumbling blocks or ignored them outright for several years. Throughout it all, the Wrights remained fixtures in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio and maintained their bicycle shop as an ongoing concern. From beginning to end, their sister Katharine provided personal support and business guidance critical to every success they had, often sacrificing her own aspirations.
David McCullough’s deep and expressive voice is perfect for telling the story as he wrote it. The only downside to listening to the audiobook is the lack of photos and a map. I had given an autographed copy of the book to my father, so upon our arrival at his home, I was able to look at the photos. Having a map handy is a great reminder of the very narrow spit of land that was so important to the birth of modern aviation.
Whether your interest is in history, aviation, the power of genius or just a great story, David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers will fit the bill.