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Acadiana Lifestyle

Books: Learn from the Masters

07/31/2015 08:10AM ● By Aimee Cormier

By Ray Saadi—Book Editor

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS By David McCullough, Simon and Schuster $30.00

If all you remember about the Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, is what you were taught in school: that two unknown brothers solved the mystery of flight by being the first to fly a machine with a man aboard on the Outer Banks of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, you’re in for an incredibly researched and beautifully written portrait of a most interesting family. Their father was a bishop in the United Brethren Church and their sister Katharine, a teacher, was their strongest supporter. When bicycling became a craze the boys were the first in America to build their own model, which they named “Van Cleve” after a great, great, great grandmother. That first flight at Kitty Hawk was in a glider with Orville at the controls on Dec. 17, 1903, but it was Wilbur’s flight at Le Mans, France on Aug. 8, 1908 in the “first practical airplane,” their “Flyer” that was hailed as “a triumph of aviation” by newspapers around the world. While the U. S. government dragged their feet on purchasing their planes, the French couldn’t wait, especially after Wilbur’s many dramatic demonstrations. Meanwhile, Orville made a number of extraordinarily difficult demonstrations of the plane for Washington brass and excited crowds, until a propeller broke sending the plane crashing to the ground and killing his passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, the first military fatality of the aviation age. Orville survived, but was in critical condition with a broken leg, hip and four broken ribs. Despite that, the government moved forward to buy the Wright’s planes. Katherine stayed constantly at Orville’s side and when he was well enough the two joined Wilbur in Europe where they were hailed and feted everywhere, not to mention being $200,000 richer. This is a wonderful story told as only McCullough can. Oh, if only history was this interesting in school. 

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME By Mark Haddon, Vintage $12.00 Paperback

Christopher John Francis Boone, an incredible 15-year-old autistic savant, discovers a neighbor’s dog mysteriously murdered during the night and determines to use the techniques of his hero, Sherlock Holmes, to find the killer. (The title incidentally comes from an Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story.) Found cradling the dog in his arms, the owner accuses Christopher of the murder, calls the police and he spends a night in jail. Further, he is forbidden to pursue his investigation. Nevertheless he eventually learns the identity of the killer, a discovery that sends him on a terrifying train ride, his first alone. Overwhelmed by the crowds, noises and smells, he shuts them out by calculating, in his mind, the prime numbers up to 7,057. This is a remarkable, wonderful and delightful book that I expect will soon be back on bestseller lists. I heartily recommend it to you.

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