The Wright Brothers by David McCullough Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

the-wright-brothers-by-david-mcculloughThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough; Simon & Schuster, 2015. 320 pages; $30.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult.

This is McCullough’s tenth work of nonfiction and he has acquired a well-deserved reputation for turning impeccably researched facts into enjoyable narratives. This latest book is not a birth-to-death biography of the Wright brothers (it ends in 1910, thirty-eight years before Orville’s death). It focuses instead on the two things Wilbur and Orville wanted to accomplish in their lifetimes: They wanted to invent a flying machine and they wanted to be given the credit for doing so. The opening section of the book is slow but the tension builds as Wilbur and Orville battle weather, mosquitoes, and mockers before their successful manned flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. The tension is almost as great for several years after that successful flight as they perfect their Flyer and try to convince the newspapers, the scientific community, and the military that their invention is the real McCoy. This is the most American of stories and the Wright brothers are the most American of heroes: hardworking, tenacious, moral, creative, practical, and insistent on financing their entire endeavor with money generated at their thriving bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. Though not quite up to the standard of some of McCullough’s earlier biographies (John Adams, for example) it’s an inspiring read that pulls back the curtain on how humans, who weren’t meant to fly, did it anyway.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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