Fate is the Hunter, by Ernest Gann. Perhaps the greatest-ever pilot adventure book — as relevant to today’s piloting joys and challenges as when it was written, decades ago.
Wind, Sand and Stars, and anything else by Antoine de Ste. Exupéry (except maybe Flight to Arras). No one beats Saint-Ex for capturing the magic of flight.
West with the Night, by Beryl Markham, first person to fly solo westbound across the Atlantic. Suspenseful, inspiring, and wonderfully written. (Note her tie-ins to the movie, Out of Africa.)
Listen! the Wind, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Any pilot who has ever waited out weather will appreciate this eloquent book.
North Star over My Shoulder, by Bob Buck. Bob set the junior transcontinental speed record in a Pitcairn Mailwing in 1930, taught himself to fly instruments from a 25¢ booklet, and crowned his career as a jet captain. Experience the entire history of modern aviation through the eyes of this exceptional pilot and writer. (I had the privilege of meeting Bob several years ago. He died just last year at age 90.)
I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, by Jimmy Doolittle. What Doolittle accomplished in one lifetime is astonishing – the first outside loop, the first person to make an instrument landing, leader of the first WWII Tokyo bombing raid (flying B-25 land bombers off an aircraft carrier)… the list goes on and on.
The 91 Before Lindbergh, by Peter Allen. That’s right. Some 91 people flew the Atlantic before Lindbergh did. That should get your attention!
Antoine De Saint-Exupery: His Life and Times, by Curtis Cate. If you want to know more about Saint-Ex and the pioneering days of aviation, read this terrific book. Did you know that in the earliest days of European airmail, the planes were so unreliable that routes were flown by two airplanes, one full and one empty, so if one went down the other could complete the mission? And that over Saharan Africa airmen who survived crashes were often captured, tortured, and if they were lucky enough to live, ransomed back to their company by hostile Arab tribes? Although heavy on philosophy in sections, much of this book will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Hindenburg: an Illustrated History, by Rich Archbold. Don’t let the coffee-table-book format fool you, nor the title limit your expectations. This profusely illustrated work introduces the entire history of rigid airships, including fascinating coverage of the WWI Zeppelin bombing raids over England, the breathtaking Shenandoah break-up and crash over Ohio in 1925, the epic round-the-world flight of the Graff Zeppelin and of course, the Hindenburg. Did you know that Zeppelins made dozens of accident-free scheduled “airline” crossings of the Atlantic in the 1930s?
Some of these titles may be out of print, but you should be able to find them through the provided links. ©2012 Gregory N. Brown