I’ve been a fan of David McCullough’s books for a long while. My aunt and I used to read them together, but they are too hard for her to follow now. So I continue on by myself. It makes me sad that she can’t remember them, and that we can’t read these together anymore–not even listening to an audiobook. Even so, we do try to enjoy mysteries, fiction, and animal stories together. Something with a lot of humor is a hit.
In the spirit of soldiering on, a collection of most of his books is on my eReader, just waiting to be dived into again. I have always loved history, and McCullough, twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is a favorite author. He is a very detailed researcher. The people he writes about are not just wooden figures with familiar names; he brings them to life. And he covers that life from birth until death, in all its ups and downs and emotions. Readers feel like they are living it with them.
Afterward, in silently reading the notes and bibliography, I think about how cool it must be to be in research libraries and actually review primary sources. I also think about everything that goes into writing a book and having it edited and proofed.
This time with McCullough’s new title, The Wright Brothers, I decided to listen to the audiobook version for the pleasure of hearing the author read it. Once again, historical figures come to life, and readers are introduced to their sister, Katharine, and the rest of the family. While the print version is somewhat shorter than his other works, it is no less rich in detail, regardless of format. The audio version strongly engages readers, even if replay is sometimes a necessity. Even if you aren’t an expert on planes, science, and aeronautics, the book is very accessible.
McCullough offers a brief history of flight and humans’ fascination with it. Readers also learn about Wilbur and Orville’s love for gadgets from an early age, and how well educated they were–including self-education. As they worked to build a flying machine, they also ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. Obviously, this was no small feat to do both.
As readers follow their successes and failures, it hits you how dangerous the enterprise is. At various times you are holding your breath, The description and events at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, are also illuminating. Nothing was easy, and it took some time before the locals accepted them. Most of all you feel like you’re flying with them.