Humans have always had a desire to fly. From Leonardo da Vinci and his studies and drawings of flight to Orville and Wilbur Wright's flying machine to Amelia Earhart and her famous disappearance, the world has always craved learning about those daring individuals who have risked life and limb to soar. The recent release of Mira Neer's biopic Amelia has set off a new wave of interest in aviation pioneers. Here are a few fabulous flying titles that should satisfy the inner pilot in all of us.
Leonardo's Machines: Da Vinci's Inventions Revealed (David & Charles. 2006. ISBN 978-0-7153-2444-8. pap. $24.99) by Domenico Laurenza and Mario Taddei showcases da Vinci's famous drawings and designs, including some very unique flying machines. This fascinating book provides detailed views of both da Vinci's original notebooks and what his flying inventions would look like if they were created today.
Noah Adams takes us on a journey to explore the lives of the Wrights (Orville, Wilbur, and their sister, Katharine) in The Flyers: In Search of Wilbur and Orville Wright (o.p. but widely available). Part biography, part travel narrative, part pilgrimage, Adams's work takes the reader on a captivating ride from Kitty Hawk, NC, to the family cemetery in Dayton. With subtle detail and a deft hand at unraveling family dynamics, this portrait of the Wrights is at once a musing reflection on family and a guidebook to history.
A. Scott Berg's Pulitzer Prize–winning Lindbergh (Berkley: Penguin Group [USA]. 1999. ISBN 978-0-425-17041-0. pap. $18) is a compelling biography of the first man to fly across the Atlantic, a man whose personal tragedy was called the Crime of the Century, a man who was vilified during World War II, and who spent his later years as an environmentalist. Berg brings this complicated figure to life, fully illustrating his world and times and richly detailing early aviation.
The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart designed her own clothing and wrote articles and books. In The Fun of It: Random Records of My Own Flying and of Women in Aviation (Academy Chicago. 2006. ISBN 978-0-915864-55-3. pap. $16.95), first published in 1932, Earhart delights in telling her readers how she got into flying, why she flies, and the stories of other women aviators. Writing in an open and engaging style, she also urges all women to live the lives they fully imagine.
Like Earhart, Beryl Markham lived her life to the fullest. She grew up in East Africa, had affairs with royalty and a few famous great white hunters, trained racehorses, and was a bush pilot. She also wrote the fabulous West with the Night (North Point: Farrar. 1982. ISBN 978-0-86547-118-4. pap. $16), a beautifully written account of her life and her historic flight west across the Atlantic, praised no less by Ernest Hemingway.
Von Hardesty's illustrated survey Black Wings: Courageous Stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History (Collins: HarperCollins. 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-126138-1. $21.95) traces African American achievement in flight from the earliest days of exploration through the famed Tuskegee Airmen to today's astronauts. Great attention is paid to the Tuskegee pilots, who battled the Germans and then U.S. racism, but this book also details the first African American woman to fly in combat (during World War I) and the first African American to go into space.
Women have not had an easy time getting their wings, but they never stopped trying, as Leslie Haynsworth and David Toomey's Amelia Earhart's Daughters: The Wild And Glorious Story Of American Women Aviators From World War II To The Dawn Of The Space Age (Harper: HarperCollins. 2000. ISBN 978-0-380-72984-5. pap. $14) reveal. Mixing these stories with the chronicle of flight in general, the authors paint a vivid picture of the obstacles that women faced in their collective quest to take to the skies.
From the arresting cover image to the layout of panels, Air. Vol. 1: Letters from Lost Countries (Vertigo: DC Comics. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4012-2153-9. pap. $9.99) by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker immerses the reader in a world of oddity and flight. Inked with a sensibility of design and color that furthers the story's oddly dreamscape feeling, this graphic novel tells the tale of Blythe, a philosophy major flight attendant with a fear of flying. She meets a mysterious stranger who leads her to a hidden country, a cast of really interesting characters, and secret organizations.
This column was contributed by Melissa Aho, MA, MLIS. She is a student helicopter pilot and the Evening & Circulating Supervisor, Bio-Medical Library, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
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