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


“The Wright Brothers” must have wondered—Birds fly, so why can’t I? David McCullough writes and narrates a memoir of the Wright Brothers that perfectly turns wonder into reality. Orville and Wilbur Wright are the first to design, build, and fly an airplane that demonstrates human control of flight. They were not the first humans to fly, but they were the first to fly like birds; i.e. flying with nature, and intent. Before the Wright brothers, flying is left to man’s faith in God and luck; after the Wright brothers, flying is firmly within the grasp of humanity.

Two farm boys are raised in a family of seven (a mother, father, sister, and four brothers). Neither Orville, or Wilbur are college graduates. Both are born to a mother (Susan Catherine Koerner) who graduates from Hartford College as the top mathematician in her class. This is a woman who becomes a housewife to an ordained minister. She exemplifies independence, intelligence, persistence, and selflessness. Through nature and nurture, Orville and Wilbur become the talk of Dayton, Ohio, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Paris, Washington DC, and, eventually, the wide world.

McCullough implies “The Wright Brothers” story is proof of the truth of the American Dream. With hard work, persistence, and intelligence, success is every American’s opportunity. In history, ghosts of past and present, challenge that belief. But, for white Americans in the early twentieth century, the dream is made real by McCullough’s entertaining and informative story about the Wright family.
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I am so surprised by how much I disliked this book. The narration was my biggest stumbling block. This is a perfect example of the problems that can happen when the author narrates his own book. I have loved many of McCullough's other books--with particular favorites being John Adams and Truman. However, these were both books that the author did not narrate himself. If you are a McCullough fan be sure to listen to the sample first. Also, be aware for me it wasn't just the narration, I thought that the writing sounded tired and worn out as well. The whole experience was slow, tiresome and really sad. Can't recommend.
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- Sara

Book Details

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