Book Review: The Wright Brothers

There are two types of biographies in the world. Those that painstakingly gather the facts — at least as they are presented — culling through clippings of newspapers, other biographies, relevant papers and autobiographical content or “second-hand” content. They then churn these facts together in a timeline and spew them back out into a biography that reads as interestingly as a Wikipedia page might.

wright bros.jpgThen there are biographies that are written with a little more flair and voice, unabashedly casting opinion while presenting fact. I look to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, as an example.

If you prefer your history lessons read to you by the voice of Ben Stein as Ferris Buehler’s high school teacher …

“Anyone?”

… then you’ve found your informative biography of the Wright brothers with McCullough’s work. You’ll learn about their formative years with their preacher father teaching them the importance of not settling; their work ethic as they built bikes and created a successful bike business; their intense curiosity and fascination with birds and flight; and their trials and errors as they wound their way into creating man’s first successful flying machine.

The facts are all here, as are commentaries and dates and quotes and timelines. What I felt lacking, however, was a little heart.

We never experienced the flights with these brothers, or felt the fear of failure, or the scrutiny of the masses. It was reported, but never felt. I learned a bit about the brothers, but after reading this, they still remain as foreign and unknown to me as learning the facts about a land I have yet to visit. Biography or not, I want to be transported somewhere when I’m reading, taken from my world into another. For me, this biography never left the ground.

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