Review: “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

indexThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages.

I spent last Thursday evening at our school’s University Days, the event when high schoolers from all over come to our college and consider whether they want to be students here. While I was wandering around the gym, looking at the exhibits from the various academic departments, I visited my friends in the history department, who were playing Trivial Pursuit. I am pretty good at the game, specifically the history questions, and ended up winning quite a bit of candy. The reason why I am is because I love history and love to read books like this one.

David McCullough is one of those authors who is tried and true; once you find him, you know what you will get every time, and he never seems to let you down. The guy, after all, has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his books. The Wright Brothers is the fourth book of his that I have read. I recommend his great book 1776. In addition, I have read his books John Adams and The Johnstown Flood, also good books. McCullough knows how to tread the fine line between doing incredible amounts of research without being bogged down by it and letting it stop him from telling a good story.

And The Wright Brothers is an entertaining story. I mention them in my steampunk novel Tom Horn vs. The Warlords of Krupp, but now that I have read this book, it makes me want to go back and revise how they are presented. Wilbur, the older brother, is the one in charge who was the first to fly. Wilbur became a magnet to the ladies in later years, especially in the year he spent in France teaching others how to fly. Oroville was the younger one, and though he stayed in the U.S. for most of the time, he broke flying records and survived an otherwise fatal crash in Maryland.

The book also talks about their family, about their younger sister Katherine, how close they were to each other and the fact that the two brothers never married. When Katherine got the opportunity to marry at age 54, Oroville flew into a rage, even though he knew and liked the man who would be her husband.

The book is a very fast read, and I enjoyed it immensely. I give it five out of five stars.