Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Title: The Wright Brothers
Author: David McCullough
Read by: David McCullough
Simon & Schuster
Length: 10 hours and 3 minutes
Source: Review Digital Audio from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

I have been fascinated with the Wright brothers since I was a kid.  Who has not seen the film footage of the brothers flying and not been fascinated?  How could bicycle builders from Dayton Ohio solve the problem that humankind had been puzzling over for millennia?

David McCullough’s biography of the two Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, answers that question – perseverance and a naturally mechanical ability.  I was intrigued to learn about how Orville and Wilbur inherited their mechanical aptitude from their mother, Susan, who built them intricate toys and who tragically died young.  Wilbur was smart and outgoing with big plans to attend Yale until a hockey accident took out his front teeth and made him withdraw from society.  Wilbur and Orville built printing presses and bicycles, but soon became obsessed with flight.  Through massive research, tinkering, practice with gliders, and many tests using a wind tunnel, the brothers were able to finally solve the mystery of flight.  They also recorded everything each step of the way to help with improvements and to prove that they were the sole inventors of their aircraft.

Once their aircraft took off, the Wrights had problems proving they were legitimate.  Orville stayed behind in the United States to show the military what their plane could do while Wilbur traveled to France.  Both men became international superstars along with their sister Katherine.  Once the world saw that flight was possible, the limits were endless for what could be done.  Sadly the two were not businessmen and spent their time after this trying to defend their patents rather than in innovation and Wilbur died young.

My own Great-Grandfather, Ward Stone, was part of aviation in the 1920’s and it is family legend that he had a pilot’s license that was signed by Orville Wright.  After Ward’s death in the 1970’s, this artifact along with others disappeared with his young third wife.  Ward Stone opened that Stone Aircraft Company in Detroit in 1928, but the depression soon ended the fledging company.  He taught aviation at Case Technical School in Detroit and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (picture below)

I found this audiobook to be really interesting and shared the facts with my students and husband.  I loved that the author was the narrator of this novel, David McCullough sounds like a Grandfather telling you a story.

Overall, the Wright Brothers is an intriguing look at two aviation pioneers.


  1. I am also fascinated by the Wright brothers, Laura, and their story. This sounds like an excellent audiobook. Wonderful review!

  2. I like David McCullough, and like you, have always been fascinated by the story of the Wright Bros. How cool is it that you have a personal connection through your great-grandfather to this part of American and world history!

    Sounds like a wonderful book, and I think the audio format would be a good choice for this type of book.

    Great review.

  3. Thanks! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one fascinated by the Wrights. The audiobook was a great choice for this particular book, I thought it was very interesting to learn new facts each time I listened to it. I noticed this is one of the best biography / history books for the year in the semi-finals for Goodreads right now!