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The Wright Brothers Hardcover – May 5 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition / First Printing edition (May 5 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476728747
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476728742
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #36,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A story of timeless importance, told with uncommon empathy and fluency. . . . A story, well told, about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished. . . . The Wright Brothers soars.” (Daniel Okrent The New York Times Book Review)

“David McCullough has etched a brisk, admiring portrait of the modest, hardworking Ohioans who designed an airplane in their bicycle shop and solved the mystery of flight on the sands of Kitty Hawk, N.C. He captures the marvel of what the Wrights accomplished and, just as important, the wonder felt by their contemporaries. . . . Mr. McCullough is in his element writing about seemingly ordinary folk steeped in the cardinal American virtues—self-reliance and can-do resourcefulness.” (Roger Lowenstein The Wall Street Journal)

“The nitty-gritty of exactly how [the Wrights] succeeded is told in fascinating detail.” (Buzzy Jackson The Boston Globe)

“Few historians have captured the essence of America — its rise from an agrarian nation to the world's dominant power — like David McCullough. . . . McCullough has defined American icons and revealed new dimensions to stories that long seemed exhausted. . . . An elegant, sweeping look at the two Americans who went where no others had gone before and whose work helped create a national excellence in aviation that continues today." (Ray Locker USA Today)

"McCullough’s magical account of [the Wright Brothers'] early adventures — enhanced by volumes of family correspondence, written records, and his own deep understanding of the country and the era — shows as never before how two Ohio boys from a remarkable family taught the world to fly." (Reeve Lindbergh The Washington Post)

“[McCullough] takes the Wrights’ story aloft. . . . Concise, exciting, and fact-packed. . . . Mr. McCullough presents all this with dignified panache, and with detail so granular you may wonder how it was all collected.” (Janet Maslin The New York Times)

“David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is a story about two brothers and one incredible moment in American history. But it’s also a story that resonates with anyone who believes deeply in the power of technology to change lives – and the resistance some have to new innovations.” (Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google)

"McCullough vividly re-creates the failures and disappointments as the Wright brothers puzzle out the scienceof bird- and insect-wing design. . . . [McCullough] continues to deliverhigh-quality material with familiar facility and grace." (Larry Lebowitz The Miami Herald)

"An outstanding saga of the lives of two men who left such a giant footprint on our modern age." (Booklist (starred review))

“[An] enjoyable, fast-paced tale. . . . A fun, fast ride.” (The Economist)

"[A] fluently rendered, skillfully focused study. . . . An educational and inspiring biography of seminal American innovators." (Kirkus Reviews)

"McCullough's usual warm, evocative prose makes for an absorbing narrative; he conveys both the drama of the birth of flight and the homespun genius of America's golden age of innovation." (Publishers Weekly)

“We all know what they did and where they did it — Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But McCullough digs deeply to find out how they did it, and why they did it, and what happened to them in the years that followed.” (Harry Levins The St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"A compelling, upbeat story that underscores the importance of industriousness, creative intelligence and indomitable patience.” (Doug Childers Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"Pleasurable to read. . . . McCullough has a gift for finding the best in his subjects without losing perspective on their flaws." (Margaret Quamme The Columbus Dispatch)

“A master storyteller. . . . The brothers’ story unfolds and develops with grace and insight in a style at which McCullough is simply the best.” (David Henricks The San Antonio Express-News)

About the Author

David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Greater Journey, 1776, Brave Companions, The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, and The Wright Brothers. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
David McCullough brings out the human elements of this amazing story so well. Wilbur and Orville Wright are no longer names of inventors after I read this book. They are brothers and sons, friends and neighbours. They are two men who ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, as ordinary outwardly as any other men in Dayton. They are two men who observed the birds - really observed them - and decided, "Yes. It can be done. We can fly." But they were also special men: intelligent, even intellectual, and gifted with their hands. Determined, though they suffered from depressions and frustrations. Their sister Katherine was the only college graduate in the family - and a high school Latin teacher at that. Latin? That's what only boys were allowed to learn a generation or two before hers. And now She was Teaching it. What a new century the past century was. The auto, the airplane, the wireless and women teaching Latin. All three yelled at each other, loved each other fiercely, were there for each other in sickness and in health, even when they were not together physically. Kate rooted for her brothers. By the middle of the book, so did I.
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By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 31 2015
Format: Hardcover
David McCullough's research and writing skills (especially storytelling) are again obvious in this, his tenth and latest book. In my opinion, what differentiate McCullough from other historians in his generation are his skills as an anthropologist. He establishes a deep human context for two brothers who co-own a bicycle shop in Ohio and dream of creating a craft that, once aloft, can propel itself for extended periods of time and distance. His scope is narrower than in any of his nine previous books. That is, his primary focus is on Orville and Wilbur Wright and their efforts to design and build, initially, what they envisioned as a "glider-kite."

These items in McCullough's narrative were of special interest to me:

o Wilbur and Orville Wright never married because Wilbur was "woman-shy" and Orville would not marry until his older brother did.

o According to McCullough, they "worked together six days a week, ate their meals together, kept their money in a joint bank account" and even, according to Wilbur, "thought together."

o Also, "The difficulty was not to get into the air but to stay there." The Wrights built their first aircraft from split bamboo and paper. Kitty Hawk (North Carolina) had open space and an ample supply of a precious commodity: wind. The idea was to master gliding, after which Wilbur reckoned it would be easy to add a motor. "Maintaining equilibrium was the key--not much different than riding a bike."

o At the conclusion of Part I, McCullough summarizes the significance of successful experimentation, to date, in Kill Devil Hills: "They knew exactly what they had accomplished. They knew they had solved the problem of flight and more. They had acquired the knowledge and the skill to fly.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although The Wright Brothers has it’s moments (e.g., the demonstration with the piece of paper; the comment that despite the fact that people had been trying to fly for centuries there had only been 5 minutes of controlled flight), the pace of the book was dragged down by McCullough’s tendency to dwell on minutiae while failing to explain why the important was important.
Anyone hoping to understand how the Wright Brothers struck on the notion of controlled the shape of the wing or, perhaps more importantly, stuck with the notion through the long hours of trial-and-error. Nor will one understand why, after centuries of using sails as a source of power, there was so little understanding of air flow over surfaces that the Wright Brothers had to build their own wind tunnel and begin anew. One will, by contrast, be informed of the menu for the celebratory banquets or the diet at Kitty Hawk.
I heard an interview of McCullough in which he described this book as part of his American Trilogy; I think HST was much better.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
McCullough describes a fascinating family (not just the famous brothers) in his usual readable style. As a lifelong aviation enthusiast (and pilot) I thought I knew a lot about the brothers, but I discovered much that was knew to me in this engaging account. Highly recommended, even if you have no particular interest in airplanes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another gem from David McCullough. Fascinating story of two amazingly gifted - and brave - people. You find yourself wondering how they didn't die in the earliest airplane crashes. A fine portrait of Orville and Wilbur that also answers to a good degree why the Wrights did essentially nothing for two years after the first flight and why Wright aircraft development ground to a halt. They were not only very inventive, they were also suspicious and paranoid in that they just didn't want anyone else in on flying. My only complaint is that the book loses momentum in the last quarter and ends entirely with Wilbur's death (from typhoid) in 1912. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This fine work confirms McCullough's standing as one of the leading historians of his times. In the same vein as his accounts of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, McCullough combines an intricate understanding of the technicalities with the storytellers ability to weave the many strands together in a magnificent and highly legible tapestry.
He makes a compelling case that this was one of the most important developments of the 20th century, with all the more impact as it came in its first decade. A brilliant account.
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