Martin's Must Reads: 'The Wright Brothers'

Apr 2, 2019


“In as strong a photograph as any taken of the brothers together, they sit side by side on the back porch steps of the Wright family home.  The year was 1909, the peak of their fame. Wilbur, with a long poker face, looks off to one side, as though his mind were on other things, which it most likely was. Orville gazes straight at the camera, one leg crossed nonchalantly over the other.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those words, plus the photograph, begin David McCullough’s book The Wright Brothers.

McCullough has written a very readable account of the lives of two remarkable brothers. Did you know that they started out as bicycle mechanics and used the earnings from their company to fund their initial experiments of flight? Did you know that their father was a clergyman and their sister was a huge asset to them as their popularity grew? Do you know why they chose Kitty Hawk for their flying experiments? Did you know that Wilbur was unquestionably a genius and that Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen?

This book answers all these questions and more. As one reviewer wrote, “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.” This book is a story of men of exceptional courage and determination, far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity.  And, if you experience it as an audiobook as I did, you will discover that McCullough is the perfect narrator for his book.

If you’re interested in the history of flight or love McCullough’s writings, then you must read The Wright Brothers by David McCulllough.