Title: Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age
Author: Tom Crouch
Fun Fact: Early planes were catapulted into the air because they couldn’t achieve the speed necessary to leave the ground under their own power.
Review Summary: Lots of fun facts and interesting material, but the presentation was rarely fun or interesting. Not really narrative non-fiction, although advertised as such.
If you ever had a question about the history of flight, this book has the answer. Spanning the entire twentieth century and then some, Wings also crosses the globe, covering major advancements made by all nations without being too US-centric. Black and white pictures and quotes by early observers capture the awe inspiring first years of flight. When I finished, I had an excessive list of fun facts I wanted to share with you. I picked the one I did because I simply can’t imagine being launched into the air in the flimsy, uncontrollable, open-cock pits of the first planes!
As you might imagine, this is a pretty hefty tome covering massive amounts of material – a fact that wasn’t always handled well. The organization of the book drove me a little nutty, jumping from topic to topic with little continuity and much back-tracking in the chronological order of events. Some chapters included information grouped by date and others included information grouped by topic. A lot of these sections were simply packed with facts and figures, with very little of the narration promised by narrative non-fiction. I felt jipped. Occasionally we’d stay with a topic long enough for the subject to become engaging, but this book mostly made me want to go read other books to learn more about specific people and events.
Later in the book, characters and companies begin to make repeat appearances, which helps with the continuity problem. But at the end of the day, this was not the book I was looking for. I intentionally chose the book for its’ broad perspectives on aviation (something it does quite well!) but it turned out that I’m not especially interested in the broader view. It’s possible more narration and less fact-listing would have helped, but I think I’ll be a little wary of choosing broad over-views in the future. I’d much rather read a book the tells a limited but engaging personal story.
Who should read this? cover to cover? only someone who is very interested in a broad history of aviation, not someone looking for engaging personal narratives