The most recommended aeronautics books

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to aeronautics, and here are their favorite aeronautics books.
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Book cover of Slide Rule

Edgar Bradley Author Of Reliability Engineering: A Life Cycle Approach

From my list on inspiring a love for mechanical engineering.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t think I could have been anything else but an engineer. Following my father’s example, I have a love for moving metal things – both the physical/mathematical aspects and the practical aspects, that apprentices pick up. Engineering systems have personalities all their own – the noisy excitement of a racing motorcycle, the brooding, contented hum of a nuclear powerplant or the clanging and crashing of a steam locomotive in its overrun, literally with fire in its belly.

Edgar's book list on inspiring a love for mechanical engineering

Edgar Bradley Why did Edgar love this book?

As the title suggests, an engineer’s biography. But Nevil Shute was more than an engineer. He was an entrepreneur, starting his own aircraft manufacturing company, and a famous novelist, still in print today. But Slide Rule remains for me his masterwork, describing as it does the design and building of airships in the 1930s. 

It is a fascinating book about a technology that no longer exists. The design challenge was in creating a vehicle that, although made of metal, had to float in the air. This was achieved by making it very big, displacing the air inside it with a lighter-than-air gas, so that it could lift those pieces which had to be made of metal as well as a payload of persons or freight.

The design challenges were awesome. The metal parts, particularly the huge metal rings that formed the outline of the ship, had to be optimised for…

By Nevil Shute,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slide Rule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nevil Shute was a power and a pioneer in the world of flying long before he began to write the stories that made him a bestselling novelist. This autobiography charts Shute's path from childhood to his career as a gifted aeronautical engineer working at the forefront of the technological experimentation of the 1920s and 30s. The inspiration for many of the themes and concerns of Shute's novels can be identified in this enjoyable and enlightening memoir.


Book cover of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

John J. Geoghegan Author Of When Giants Ruled the Sky: The Brief Reign and Tragic Demise of the American Rigid Airship

From John's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Journalist Airship enthusiast White elephant technology expert Editor

John's 3 favorite reads in 2023

John J. Geoghegan Why did John love this book?

Rose does a fantastic job explaining how the airship, once considered the future of long-distance transportation, was overtaken by the airplane by recounting the pitched battle between Dr. Hugo Eckener, father of Germany’s Graf Zeppelin, and Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American Airways.

This book reads like an un-put-downable thriller sharing previously unknown information about the golden days of airship travel while revealing the fascinating character of two men who simply refused to give in. The chapters on how Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s Luftschiffbau Zeppelin rose to become the undisputed leader in commercial airship travel are particularly strong.

A two-thumbs-up and five-star recommendation.

By Alexander Rose,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empires of the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Golden Age of Aviation is brought to life in this story of the giant Zeppelin airships that once roamed the sky—a story that ended with the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg.

“Genius . . . a definitive tale of an incredible time when mere mortals learned to fly.”—Keith O’Brien, The New York Times

At the dawn of the twentieth century, when human flight was still considered an impossibility, Germany’s Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin vied with the Wright Brothers to build the world’s first successful flying machine. As the Wrights labored to invent the airplane, Zeppelin fathered the remarkable airship,…


Book cover of The Romance of Ballooning: The Story of the Early Aeronauts

Deborah Noyes Author Of Lady Icarus: Balloonmania and the Brief, Bold Life of Sophie Blanchard

From my list on being lighter than air and above it all.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an avid student of curious social history, I’ve wanted to tell the story of early flight for a while. A friend once took me up in a hot-air balloon for my birthday, and I’ve been a balloonomaniac ever since. I’ll never forget the awe I felt that morning in Vermont—the sensation of drifting softly above it all, passing spirit-like through orange-pink clouds just after sunrise with the muffled bark of a distant dog the only sound for miles. It was, to quote Sophie Blanchard, a “sensation incomparable.” 

Deborah's book list on being lighter than air and above it all

Deborah Noyes Why did Deborah love this book?

This oversized coffee-table book is an archival treasure trove: a collection of primary source materials—contemporary articles, letters, broadsheets, and other rare material—arranged chronologically and packed with line drawings and spectacular full-color plates. The author lets the painstakingly harvested entries speak for themselves, with little comment or imposed context beyond the archival images, and the result is a rich tribute to the art of ballooning and its practitioners. Beautifully curated and visually dazzling, this is a browser’s delight.

By Edita Lausanne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Romance of Ballooning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hard cover unique book fully illustrated about the romance of ballooning.


Book cover of Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Martha W. Murphy Author Of CRU Oyster Bar Nantucket Cookbook: Savoring Four Seasons of the Good Life

From my list on the eclectic reader of nonfiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a narrative nonfiction writer interested in a broad range of topics, including but not limited to: food and the people who bring it to us; travel and life in faraway places; human health and the role of medicine; memoir as one person’s story yet illustrative of the human spirit; and the unique and remarkable role dogs play in our lives. I am the same kind of reader: I read across a range of topics, mostly nonfiction. The bookshelves in my house and the record of titles I’ve checked out from my local library show an eclectic taste, as do the books I’m recommending here. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

Martha's book list on the eclectic reader of nonfiction

Martha W. Murphy Why did Martha love this book?

I expected a book of insider stories about the hidden world of commercial airline travel from the people who make it possible, but instead I found a beautifully written, lyrical, and awestruck look at what it means to travel high above the Earth’s surface day after day, zooming between cities on opposite sides of the world.

I have never had the physics of flight, gravitational pull, wind, storms, and clouds explained so clearly and compellingly. I frequently reread passages for their beauty and emotion and completely unique fresh perspective. I knew flying was a sophisticated skill, but this book made it clear how truly complex a pilot’s job is.

The author’s love of his hard-won occupation is enthralling, making this a book to share with aspiring aviators in your life.  

By Mark Vanhoenacker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Skyfaring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Sunday Times Bestseller**
**Book of the Week on Radio 4**

'One of the most constantly fascinating, but consistently under-appreciated aspects of modern life is the business of flying. Mark Vanhoenacker has written the ideal book on the subject: a description of what it's like to fly by a commercial pilot who is also a master prose stylist and a deeply sensitive human being. This is a man who is at once a technical expert - he flies 747s across continents - and a poet of the skies. This couldn't be more highly recommended.' Alain de Botton

Think back to when…


Book cover of Flight Not Improbable: Octave Chanute and the Worldwide Race Toward Flight

Markus Raffel Author Of The Flying Man: Otto Lilienthal-History, Flights and Photographs

From my list on daring adventures with historical content.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am working and lecturing on experimental aerodynamics since decades and started flying hang gliders and powered aircraft long ago. And the older I got, the more I became fascinated by daring adventures with historical content, especially related to the history of flight and the early aeronautical pioneers. But the most I was fascinated by Otto Lilienthal, the man who worked systematically towards flight before and finally succeeded flying with nothing else than willow wood, fabric, and steel wires, materials that existed already long before. Inspired by his attitude and courage I started investigating and flying museum made authentic replicas in California to prove their flying qualities a second time.

Markus' book list on daring adventures with historical content

Markus Raffel Why did Markus love this book?

This book focuses on Octave Chanute's work in aeronautics.

He is best known for his scientific and collaborative support of the Wright Brothers. But as the author clearly demonstrates, this engineer's contributions to the field of aviation have often been underestimated, even though almost every famous and not-so-famous aviation enthusiast contacted him and used the readily available drawings of his glider to build and then learn to fly their own design.

Chanute's biplane glider design, developed and first flown in 1896 in the Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan, proved to be a key step in the evolution of the flying machine.

By freely sharing not only drawings of the general design of this aircraft, but also the lessons learned, the biplane became the starting point or prototype for many experimenters and can be considered the foundation of the modern airplane.

By Simine Short,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flight Not Improbable as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a must-read for all those interested in the evolution of airplanes.

Its protagonist, Octave Chanute, is best known for his scientific and collaborative approach to the engineering problems related to the development of flight and for the support he gave to the many aeronautical pioneers, including the Wright Brothers. But, as the author clearly demonstrates, this engineer's contributions in the aeronautical field have frequently been underestimated, even though almost every famous and not so famous aeronautical enthusiast contacted him and used the readily available drawings of his glider to build and then learn to fly in their…


Book cover of The Tibbets Story

Robert O. Harder Author Of The Three Musketeers of the Army Air Forces: From Hitler's Fortress Europa to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

From my list on the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Why am I passionate about this?

In May 1968, I arrived at my first duty station as a new B-52 navigator-bombardier. Later, at the bar, I was hailed by a booming voice from behind the beer taps. "Hi ya, lieutenant!" Moments later, he asked what I thought of the USAF so far. I said I was career-minded. ‘‘Hell, only the pilots get promoted; navigators get diddley-squat. Get out as soon as you can.” After he departed, the bartender came over. “Know who that was, lieutenant? He’s Tom Ferebee, the man who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima." The colonel had both underscored my dismal career prospects and instilled a lifelong passion for the subjects discussed in this book.

Robert's book list on the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Robert O. Harder Why did Robert love this book?

While researching my book, I was fortunate to become acquainted with the Tibbets family, including his second wife Andrea Quattrehomme and his grandson Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV (USAF Ret.). Their co-operation, coupled with the details in this autobiography, was instrumental in revealing what the man was really like.

In 1937, Tibbets graduated from the Kelly Field, Texas pilot school, the “West Point of the Air." Among the first to deploy to Europe in 1942, he flew the lead plane in the initial heavy bomber raid against Fortress Europa. Additionally, he often flew as personal pilot to flag officers, including Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. After 43 combat missions he was rotated home to help development of the troubled B-29 program, which directly led to his selection as commander of the world’s first atomic bomber force.

By Paul W. Tibbets,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tibbets Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1 HARDCOVER BOOK WITH DUST COVER


Book cover of Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Vicky Fang Author Of Invent-a-Pet

From my list on inspiring girls in STEM.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love encouraging kids to explore engineering, design, and technology! I am a former Google product designer for kids and families. I started writing to address a growing need for coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. Stories are a wonderful way to demonstrate concepts and to invite kids to approach STEM with creativity and imagination. I picked a range of books for this post, from non-fiction to fantastic, because different kids will respond to different kinds of stories. Through these books, I hope that kids will find inspiration and tools for creative problem-solving, for STEM and beyond.

Vicky's book list on inspiring girls in STEM

Vicky Fang Why did Vicky love this book?

This non-fiction book about Emma Lilian Todd by Kirsten Williams Larson and illustrated by Tracy Subisak offers an inspiring story about a woman engineer inventing an airplane. The story and illustrations do a fantastic job of showing the real-world process of design thinking, with research and failures along the way. I love the themes of perseverance and the important message that great inventions build upon one another.

By Kirsten Larson, Tracy Subisak (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wood, Wire, Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book * NSTA Best STEM Book List

This riveting nonfiction picture book biography explores both the failures and successes of self-taught engineer Emma Lilian Todd as she tackles one of the greatest challenges of the early 1900s: designing an airplane.

Emma Lilian Todd's mind was always soaring--she loved to solve problems. Lilian tinkered and fiddled with all sorts of objects, turning dreams into useful inventions. As a child, she took apart and reassembled clocks to figure out how they worked. As an adult, typing up patents at the U.S. Patent Office, Lilian built the inventions…


Book cover of The Wright Brothers

Don M. Chance Author Of The Assignment

From Don's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Financial expert History fanatic Music nut Lover of inspiration Traveler

Don's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Don M. Chance Why did Don love this book?

I have always been a David McCullough fan, so I put this book on my list. And yet, I kept putting off reading it, as I didn’t think I would like it. But I finally did, and I thought it was great.

Most of us know a little of the story of how these two bicycle merchants from Dayton, Ohio turned their knowledge of two-wheelers into arguably the greatest technological achievement in human history. I bet you also didn‘t know the important role their sister played. Read it and find this out. And a lot more.

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wright Brothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The incredible true story of the origin of human flight, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot.

Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?

David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly human story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Far more…


Book cover of The Stars Beckoned: Edward White's Amazing Walk in Space

John Micklos Jr. Author Of Raindrops to Rainbow

From my list on recent picture books with a message.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written 60 books over the past 20 years. My titles include picture books, poetry books, and dozens of nonfiction books covering a wide range of history and social studies topics. My picture books deal with concepts such as counting and colors. I enjoy rhyming and wordplay and conveying ideas in simple terms. 

John's book list on recent picture books with a message

John Micklos Jr. Why did John love this book?

From the time he was young, Edward White loved outer space and dreamed of traveling there. In simple poetic language, this book tells how Edward’s life led him to serve in the U.S. Air Force and ultimately in the NASA program, where he became the first American to walk in space. Nonetheless, the book emphasizes that while he was always reluctant to stop doing anything related to outer space, he was eager to return from his journey to spend time with his greatest treasure of all—his family! Back matter gives more details about White’s life and a timeline of his accomplishments.

By Candy Wellins, Courtney Dawson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stars Beckoned as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Edward White

loved the night,

lived where stars were big and bright.

The evening sky -

so wide, so high.

Made him wonder. Made him sigh.

Edward White was the first American astronaut to walk in space. But before his spacewalk, he was just a boy who loved the stars. As he grew up, he would look up at the night sky in wonder - he knew that, one day, he would visit the stars themselves. In this touching and poignant picture book biography, we see how Edward's passion for the stars shaped the course of his life, and how…


Book cover of Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

Jean-Philippe Aumasson Author Of Serious Cryptography: A Practical Introduction to Modern Encryption

From Jean-Philippe's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Hacker Cryptographer Entrepreneur Nonfiction autho Avid reader

Jean-Philippe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jean-Philippe Aumasson Why did Jean-Philippe love this book?

I first read Rich's book ten years ago, and it forever changed my engineering approach.

Skunk Works was Lockheed Martin's advanced aircraft development program. It achieved unprecedented efficiency and innovation due to its selective staffing, minimal bureaucracy, and strong leadership.

Can you believe the U-2 spy plane was constructed in only 9 months? This was in 1955, without computers or any digital tools. Nowadays, 9 months is just about the time required for a medium-sized software development project. 

Here's an excerpt from the book that I often revisit where Kelly Johnson (Skunk Works' first director) imparts wisdom to Ben Rich (the book's author and its second director) regarding leadership:

"I'll teach you all you need to know about running a company in one afternoon, and we'll both go home early to boot. You don't need Harvard to teach you that. It's more important to listen than to talk.…

By Ben R. Rich, Leo Janos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skunk Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SKUNK WORKS is the true story, told for the first time, of America's most secret and successful aerospace operation. As recounted by Ben Rich, the operation's brilliant boss for nearly two decades, the story of Lockheed's legendary Skunk Works is a high-stakes drama of Cold War confrontations and Gulf War air combat, of extraordinary feats of engineering and human achievement against fantastic odds.
SKUNK WORKS is dramatic and immediate. Direct from the cockpits of these astonishing aircraft - U-2 spy-plane, SR-71 Blackbird and F-117 Stealth Fighter. It is a tribute to genius in the unrelenting contest for mastery of the…