The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
(The Diaries)

75%

42 Critic Reviews

The Wright Brothers will bring this story to a wider audience, providing a good level of detail and showing everyone what methodical determination can accomplish.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

The #1 New York Times bestseller from David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize—the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly—Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two brothers—bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio—changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe that the age of flight had begun, with the first powered machine carrying a pilot.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity. When they worked together, no problem seemed to be insurmountable. Wilbur was unquestionably a genius. Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen. That they had no more than a public high school education and little money never stopped them in their mission to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off, they risked being killed.

In this “enjoyable, fast-paced tale” (The Economist), master historian David McCullough “shows as never before how two Ohio boys from a remarkable family taught the world to fly” (The Washington Post) and “captures the marvel of what the Wrights accomplished” (The Wall Street Journal). He draws on the extensive Wright family papers to profile not only the brothers but their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them. Essential reading, this is “a story of timeless importance, told with uncommon empathy and fluency…about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished…The Wright Brothers soars” (The New York Times Book Review).
 

About David McCullough

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David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history” and “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.Mr. McCullough’s most recent book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, the #1 New York Times bestseller, has been called “dazzling,” “an epic of ideas…history to be savored.” His previous work, 1776, has been acclaimed “a classic,” while John Adams, published in 2001, remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time. More than three million copies are in print and it is presently in its eighty-second printing.In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, “As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breathe, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character.”Mr. McCullough’s other books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. His work has been published in ten languages and, in all, more than 9,500,000 copies are in print. As may be said of few writers, none of his books has ever been out of print.Mr. McCullough is also twice winner of the prestigious Francis Parkman Prize, and for his work overall, he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award and the National Humanities Medal. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received forty-seven honorary degrees.In a crowded, productive career, he has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television—as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries, including Ken Burns’s The Civil War. His is also the narrator’s voice in the movie Seabiscuit.John Adams, the seven-part mini-series on HBO, produced by Tom Hanks and starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, was one of the most acclaimed and talked about television events of recent years.A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress.Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he graduated with honors in English literature. He is an avid reader and traveler, and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in art and architecture. He is a devoted painter as well. Mr. McCullough and his wife, Rosalee Barnes McCullough, have five children and eighteen grandchildren.
 
Published May 5, 2015 by Simon & Schuster. 336 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jul 05 2015
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Wright Brothers
All: 42 | Positive: 36 | Negative: 6

Kirkus

Good
on Mar 03 2015

McCullough marvels at their success despite a lack of college education, technical training, “friends in high places” or “financial backers”—they were just boys obsessed by a dream and determined to make it reality. An educational and inspiring biography of seminal American innovators.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jun 19 2017

evident admiration for the Wrights leads him to soft-pedal their crasser side, like their epic patent lawsuits, which stymied American aviation for years. Still, 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.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Mar 06 2015

His evident admiration for the Wrights leads him to soft-pedal their crasser side, like their epic patent lawsuits, which stymied American aviation for years. Still, McCullough's usual warm, evocative prose makes for an absorbing narrative...

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Daniel Okrent on May 04 2015

David McCullough is interested in only one thing, namely how it was possible that two autodidacts from Ohio managed to satisfy a longing that the species had harbored for centuries. “The Wright Brothers” is merely this: a story, well told, about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by The Associated Press on May 04 2015

At times the book delves into the overly technical aspects of flight, which may be unavoidable for such a book, but can nevertheless be challenging. Still, a reader comes away from "The Wright Brothers" inspired and humbled by the duo's upstanding character and immense wisdom...

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on May 03 2015

Mr. McCullough presents all this with dignified panache, and with detail so granular you may wonder how it was all collected.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Paul W. Jameson on May 05 2015

The Wright Brothers will bring this story to a wider audience, providing a good level of detail and showing everyone what methodical determination can accomplish.

Read Full Review of The Wright Brothers (The Diar... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Star Tribune

Below average
Reviewed by Bob Hoover on May 15 2015

Although this new biography, “The Wright Brothers,” refreshes their often-told story in McCullough’s upbeat, minutely researched manner, something’s lacking — interesting characters.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on May 08 2015

A wonderful book and a great testament to what really constitutes American genius --- the power of experimentation and the perseverance to continue moving forward even after failure after failure strike --- THE WRIGHT BROTHERS is a fabulous flight indeed.

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The Economist

Above average
on Apr 25 2015

This sentimental approach is at the heart of the book. “The Wright Brothers” lacks the heft of Mr McCullough’s two Pulitzer prize-winning works, on the American presidents John Adams and Harry Truman. He skims past the complexities in the service of a fun, fast ride.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Jeff Labrecque on May 21 2015

Though the book is a bit thin when covering their rivals and the ruthless quest to finish first, McCullough, using family letters, provides an intimate portrait of the brothers who went from fixing bikes to socializing with kings. As always, his lyrical prose transforms history into a delightful yarn.

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Booklist Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Alan Moores on Jun 12 2016

As ever, the author masterfully sets period and place in our mind’s eye—especially their middle-American hometown of Dayton, Ohio, and a nearly uninhabited Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Jay Freeman on Apr 15 2015

This is an outstanding saga of the lives of two men who left such a giant footprint on our modern age.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by David Bruce Smith on May 11 2015

In his earlier works, David McCullough reprised John Adams, and removed residual taint from Truman’s legacy, but with the permanently popular Wright Brothers, every single boy or girl who once-upon-a-time imagined scaling the atmosphere will feel it — now — as he or she is gently levitated by McCullough’s prose.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Keith Herrell on May 05 2015

The story of the brothers’ single-minded quest to master the skies is a compelling one, made even more compelling by McCullough’s sure-handed storytelling skills.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Ray Locker on May 09 2015

All of this is told by McCullough is his trademark graceful style and with a justified appreciation of what the Wright Brothers did and why it matters.

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Oregon Live

Above average
Reviewed by Glenn C. Altschuler on Jun 10 2015

In awe of the ingenuity of the Wright brothers, McCullough also celebrates them as human beings...What is clear, however, is that Orville and Wilbur were American heroes from an era, long since passed, when two men who ran a bicycle shop could teach the world how to fly.

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Newsday

Above average
Reviewed by Tom Beer on May 26 2015

McCullough brings to the story an attention to detail and no-nonsense tone that the Wrights' themselves would have admired.

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The Miami Herald

Good
Reviewed by LARRY LEBOWITZ on May 07 2015

There is a comfort in the consistency of his output, as he continues to deliver high-quality material with familiar facility and grace.

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Salon

Above average
Reviewed by Rasha Madkour on May 04 2015

At times the book delves into the overly technical aspects of flight, which may be unavoidable for such a book, but can nevertheless be challenging. Still, a reader comes away from “The Wright Brothers” inspired and humbled by the duo’s upstanding character and immense wisdom...

Read Full Review of The Wright Brothers (The Diar...

St. Louis Today

Above average
Reviewed by Harry Levins on May 09 2015

...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.

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National Review Online

Good
Reviewed by LEE HABEEB & MIKE LEVEN Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418906/how-wright-brothers-reinvented-american-dream-lee-habeeb-mike-leven on May 27 2015

Those lessons may be the best things we learn from this remarkable story: that you don’t need fancy degrees or social status to achieve great things, that work is fun, that money isn’t everything, and that there is something unique about this thing we call the American character.

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BuffaloNews.com

Good
Reviewed by Edward Cuddihy on May 03 2015

...the reader begins to understand that McCullough captured the essence of his characters perfectly. The old pro doesn’t need to romanticize, to fictionalize, to create the kinds of obligatory moments that TV docudramas live by. He only needs to tell it the way it was, with all its pondering, its rumination and its hesitancy.

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The Christian Manifesto

Good
Reviewed by Amy Drown on Apr 27 2015

You may know the ending, but this is a journey worth reading over and over again. And I guarantee, you’ll never look at an airplane the same way again.

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Bookin With Sunny.

Good
Reviewed by Neal Ferguson on Dec 09 2015

...he doesn’t show the reader how the Wrights were important in the science of flight beyond their early experiments with wind tunnels, wing design, and the like. This cavil aside, McCullough’s biography of Orville and Wilbur Wright, lucidly written and presented, captures the restless spirits of the two brothers.

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HistoryNet

Good
Reviewed by Walter J. Boyne on Jul 02 2015

In short, this book will fix the Wrights in the general public’s mind as far more approachable than has been portrayed in previous works. Delightful to read...

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TimesUnion.com

Good
Reviewed by Frank Robinson on Dec 22 2015

Reading David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers, was a similarly emotional experience. This is the essence of why I am so proud to be a member of the human species.

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Biographile

Above average
Reviewed by Matt Staggs on May 11 2015

...opens the door to a past when only madmen dared to take to the skies, and any claims of successful manned flights were treated with the same degree of skepticism as Bigfoot and UFO sightings.

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Coachella Valley Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Heidi Simmons on Jul 22 2015

Wilbur died in 1912 of illness and Orville lived until 1948. I enjoyed getting to know the Wright family and their incredible contribution to mankind.

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Bismark Tribune

Good
Reviewed by ROBERT O. WEFALD on Jul 17 2016

This is simply an excellent and enjoyable book. I appreciated the irony as I read much of this book flying at 34,000 feet on a Delta A320 from New York to Minneapolis.

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Men Reading Books

Good
Reviewed by Midwest Dave on May 08 2015

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough is a delightful story of two self-educated, industrious brothers from Dayton Ohio who at the turn of the twentieth century changed life as we know it by inventing, building, and flying the first airplane.

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https://www.bostonglobe.com

Below average
Reviewed by Buzzy Jackson on May 23 2015

While there is much to like here, McCullough’s gee-whiz attitude toward America’s favorite flying Boy Scouts does feel a bit retro...But perhaps the book’s scope and ambition befits its subjects.

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She Treads Softly Blog

Good
Reviewed by Lori L on May 09 2015

McCullough includes numerous photos and excerpts from newspapers and letters throughout the book that are credited. As is my wont, I was thrilled to see the extensive Source notes, Bibliography, and index.

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Laura's Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Laura on Nov 04 2015

I was intrigued to learn about how Orville and Wilbur inherited their mechanical aptitude from their mother...I found this audiobook to be really interesting and shared the facts with my students and husband.

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Book Rap

Above average
on Jun 14 2016

I, probably like most of you, take flying for granted. I am more concerned about the arrival time, legroom, and how I should occupy myself during the flight. David McCullough’s book provides an unforgettable tribute to the brothers from Dayton, Ohio who made all of our flights possible.

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http://www.theepochtimes.com

Good
Reviewed by Chelsea Scarnegie on Jan 31 2016

Because McCullough brings a genuine humanity to our understanding of Wilbur and Orville, they could very well have been our brothers. They could have been us. They were, after all, just a couple of boys from Ohio.

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Words Written Down

Above average
Reviewed by Dave on May 31 2015

The details from McCullough were interesting and what struck me about Orville and Wilbur's story from the book was how the brothers knew that while the calculations and technology had to be right to enable human flight, what was just as important was practice, through many hours spent flying, they were become proficient at it.

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http://chathamcommunitylibrary.com

Good
on Jan 15 2016

In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers’ story...

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Junkyard Wisdom

Excellent
Reviewed by Roy Goble on May 18 2015

This is easily the best history book I’ve read all year. It’s history told the way we can all understand it...

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Junkyard Wisdom

Good
Reviewed by Roy Goble on May 18 2015

Can we all just admit David McCullough is the greatest living historian? His books combine the scholarly work of a brilliant academic with the comfortable style of a story your grandparents would tell. His latest, The Wright Brothers, continues the tradition.

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The Curious Wavefunction

Above average
Reviewed by Wavefunction on May 10 2015

McCullough's account of the Wright brothers, as warm and fast-paced as it is, was most interesting to me for the lessons it holds for the future.

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http://www.malwarwickonbooks.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Mal Warwick on Jun 15 2015

He combines great skill as an historian with a superior command of the English language. As a result, his books read more smoothly than most novels. The Wright Brothers, McCullough’s latest, rises to the same level. Highly recommended.

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