The Wright Brothers

  • by David McCullough
  • Narrated by David McCullough
  • 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story behind the story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.
On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright's Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. The Age of Flight had begun. How did they do it? And why? David McCullough tells the extraordinary and truly American story of the two brothers who changed the world.
Sons of an itinerant preacher and a mother who died young, Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up on a small sidestreet in Dayton, Ohio, in a house that lacked indoor plumbing and electricity but was filled with books and a love of learning. The brothers ran a bicycle shop that allowed them to earn enough money to pursue their mission in life: flight. In the 1890s flying was beginning to advance beyond the glider stage, but there were major technical challenges the Wrights were determined to solve. They traveled to North Carolina's remote Outer Banks to test their plane because there they found three indispensable conditions: constant winds, soft surfaces for landings, and privacy.
Flying was exceedingly dangerous; the Wrights risked their lives every time they flew in the years that followed. Orville nearly died in a crash in 1908 but was nursed back to health by his sister, Katharine - an unsung and important part of the brothers' success and of McCullough's book. Despite their achievement the Wrights could not convince the US government to take an interest in their plane until after they demonstrated its success in France, where the government instantly understood the importance of their achievement. Now, in this revelatory book, master historian David McCullough draws on nearly 1,000 letters of family correspondence plus diaries, notebooks, and family scrapbooks in the Library of Congress to tell the full story of the Wright brothers and their heroic achievement.


What the Critics Say

"David McCullough's reading of his new biography of the Wright Brothers is a stellar production on every count, and a supremely satisfying listening experience. McCullough's calm, avuncular voice, familiar to millions from his PBS productions, is for many of us the voice of history itself." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Untapped Potential

I enjoyed McCullough's interpretation of the Wright Brother's endeavors in building a flying machine but I couldn't help feeling like there was more to know. What McCullough has presented here was insightful, fair, and properly organized; much like you'd expect from him. I'm only hesitant to give it five stars because the story really ended with Wilbur's death when I, in particular, wanted more on the period afterwards. I suppose the art sort of left the brother's hands in the First World War but I was hoping McCullough would spend some time speaking on the early uses of aviation. That said, I really can't fault the story of this book much at all. I felt McCullough treated the story and facts for what they were and never seemed to make any outrageous or shortsighted claims.

The performance, on the other hand, was not entirely to my liking. I think McCullough would be a pleasant conversationalist but was not my favorite orator here. Performance is pivotal to an audiobook's success and I wasn't as fond of McCullough's voice in this book. However, I was able to swiftly complete this book in a few days without any real complaint. If you listen to the sample and find it charming, buy the book.

The purchase was well worth it to me.
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- C. James Gradwell

To soar like a bird

I had not read anything about the Wright Brothers since high school. When I saw that one of my favorite authors David McCullough had a new book out I rushed to buy it.

I am amazed at how much scientific study and experimentation the brothers did even before they started to build their craft. McCullough goes into depth about their early life. He provides a detailed glimpse of the Wright family including Sister Katharine.

Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903, off the outer banks of North Carolina at Kitty Hauk were the first to pilot a machine that took off under its own power into the air in full flight and sailed forward with no loss of speed and landed at a point distant from its start. In Dayton their practice field was just a cow field so they had to learn to turn the plane and fly in circles, they were the first to do this flying a motorized plane. Charlie Taylor worked for the brothers in their bicycle shop and he build their lightweight engine for the Wright Flyer.

I find it interesting that at the same time as the Wright Brother there was also George Eastman, Isaac M. Singer, Edwin Land, Henry Ford and other great inventors, it was the high point of the age of invention.

McCullough did an enormous amount of research into the family correspondence, diaries, and lab notes to prepare for writing this book. The book is well written, another great book form the author. The author narrated his own book.

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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-05-2015
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio