Monday, August 29, 2016

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough - Really Good

Thanks to the Los Gatos Library, I just finished The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough.  This is the 2nd book that I've read by this author. The 1st one, 1776, bored me to no end.  This one was the exact opposite.  It matches the same pattern I had with another author of history, Erik Larson.  I didn't much care for The Devil in the White City (except for the chapters about the serial killer!).  But In the Garden of Beasts was one of my top 6 books of 2011.  It's funny to see the same thing happen twice.  Regardless, it did.

The Wright Brothers really surprised me.  The 1st half went along nicely. I was enjoying it.  And then the 2nd half took off (pardon the pun).  It was not only super interesting.  But it was also very emotional.  I couldn't believe that I was tearing up pretty regularly.  I was OMGing and WOWing and getting chills all over the place.  We all know about Kitty Hawk in 1903.  What most of us don't know (and the reason for reading the book) is how they got there and, just as importantly, what happened in the years following.  I found myself feeling very tense quite a few times.  Seems crazy, yes?

I'm not going to go through any chronology here.  You have to read the book (which I highly recommend) in order to see that.  What I will do is list just a few of the "firsts" (besides the 1st flight) that took place with either Wilbur or Orville.  Because the French were also very active in aviation and were also trying to have "firsts," the Wright Brothers accomplishments are even more impressive:

1.  1st to have a passenger
2.  1st to have a female passenger (in order to avoid having her skirt billowing up for all to see, she tied a rope around the bottom - a French fashionista created a whole new look, called the hobble skirt, based on that rope)
3.  1st to fly over a city (NYC)
4.  1st to have motion pictures taken from a plane
5.  And, sadly, the 1st death

There are a lot more significant people in this book than just Wilbur and Orville:

1.  Their father, Bishop Milton Wright, was a very religious man, a preacher who traveled extensively, and who taught his kids how to lead exemplary lives.
2.  Their mother, Susan Koerner Wright, died at 27.
3.  Their sister, Katharine, played a very important role in the professional and personal lives of Wilbur and Orville.
4.  Charlie Taylor both ran Wilbur and Orville's bicycle shop in Dayton while they were off to various locations working on their planes, and also, as an engineer, was instrumental in making their planes go.
5.  There were many people who aided them in their efforts in various locales who not only offered physical help but also acted as inspirations for the 2 brothers.

As I hope you can see, this is a book well worth reading (3.5/4).  And if you do read it in the next few weeks, and if you live in the South Bay Area, you may want to come to the Los Gatos Library at 6:30 on Tuesday, September 20, for the next book club meeting.