The best airship books

7 authors have picked their favorite books about airships and why they recommend each book.

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Zeppelin Hindenburg

By Dan Grossman, Cheryl Ganz, Patrick Russell

Book cover of Zeppelin Hindenburg: An Illustrated History of LZ-129

A magnificently illustrated guide to the Hindenburg, written and compiled by three airship experts, this book is an amazing resource, not just for its selection of extremely rare photos but for the depth of knowledge that’s contained within. I would say that if you’re going to buy a single book specifically about the Hindenburg, I’d make it this one. It’ll tell you pretty much everything you need to impress people at parties while also introducing you to the Wide World of Zeppelin.


Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.


I wrote...

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

By Alexander Rose,

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

What is my book about?

Empires of the Sky brings the Golden Age of Aviation back to life by telling the story of the giant Zeppelin airships that once roamed the sky and ended with the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg. For decades, the airplane and the airship were rivals for technological superiority, and their greatest exponents fought a long duel for mastery of the air. The Zeppelin Company’s Hugo Eckener went head to head against Juan Trippe, the ruthlessly ambitious king of Pan American Airways, who believed his fleet of next-generation planes would vanquish Eckener’s coming airship armada. It was a fight only one man could win. Countering each other’s moves on the global chessboard, each seeking to wrest the advantage from his rival, the two men’s struggle was not only the clash of business, diplomacy, politics, and personalities, but of their vastly different dreams of our future.

Zeppelin!

By Guillaume de Syon,

Book cover of Zeppelin!: Germany and the Airship, 1900-1939

This is an academic book, one that’s engaging, fluidly written, and immensely interesting for anyone intrigued by the longtime German fascination with airships. Rather than the technical details, Syon’s broader focus is on what the wondrous technology meant to Germans and how it shaped their culture and history over the decades. His approach, in other words, puts Zeppelins into context. Put it this way, in 1938 a large-scale survey discovered that Count von Zeppelin, the inventor of the airship and dead for twenty years, ranked among the best recognized of German luminaries. His score was higher than even that of the immortal Beethoven at a time when the Luftwaffe-obsessed Nazis were trying to scrub any memory of their airships. Such a finding is impossible to explain unless you understand the cultural importance of the Zeppelin, making this book critically important. 


Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.


I wrote...

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

By Alexander Rose,

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

What is my book about?

Empires of the Sky brings the Golden Age of Aviation back to life by telling the story of the giant Zeppelin airships that once roamed the sky and ended with the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg. For decades, the airplane and the airship were rivals for technological superiority, and their greatest exponents fought a long duel for mastery of the air. The Zeppelin Company’s Hugo Eckener went head to head against Juan Trippe, the ruthlessly ambitious king of Pan American Airways, who believed his fleet of next-generation planes would vanquish Eckener’s coming airship armada. It was a fight only one man could win. Countering each other’s moves on the global chessboard, each seeking to wrest the advantage from his rival, the two men’s struggle was not only the clash of business, diplomacy, politics, and personalities, but of their vastly different dreams of our future.

Airshipmen, Businessmen, and Politics, 1890-1940

By Henry Cord Meyer,

Book cover of Airshipmen, Businessmen, and Politics, 1890-1940

This is a collection of ten essays about airship history, mostly concentrating on the business, political, and diplomatic angles. Zeppelins didn’t simply “exist” as objective bits of hardware, but were inextricably enmeshed in the controversies of their era, as Meyer ably and amply demonstrates. If you’re interested in the story-behind-the-story of Zeppelins, this is the book for you, though I’d perhaps wait to dive in until you’ve gotten your feet wet with some basic background reading. Particularly fascinating are Meyer’s investigations into the Zeppeliners’ visits to Detroit to see Henry Ford in the early 1920s, his comparative assessment of French and British airship engineering, and the sad fate of the very last German airship—no, the Hindenburg was not it—before they vanished forever in the age of the airplane.


Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.


I wrote...

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

By Alexander Rose,

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

What is my book about?

Empires of the Sky brings the Golden Age of Aviation back to life by telling the story of the giant Zeppelin airships that once roamed the sky and ended with the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg. For decades, the airplane and the airship were rivals for technological superiority, and their greatest exponents fought a long duel for mastery of the air. The Zeppelin Company’s Hugo Eckener went head to head against Juan Trippe, the ruthlessly ambitious king of Pan American Airways, who believed his fleet of next-generation planes would vanquish Eckener’s coming airship armada. It was a fight only one man could win. Countering each other’s moves on the global chessboard, each seeking to wrest the advantage from his rival, the two men’s struggle was not only the clash of business, diplomacy, politics, and personalities, but of their vastly different dreams of our future.

Giants in the Sky

By Douglas Robinson,

Book cover of Giants in the Sky: A History of the Rigid Airship

Robinson was among the finest of airship historians and his work is based on a firm research footing and deep personal knowledge (he also helped edit Harold Dick’s book and traveled round Germany in the 30s). This volume includes chapters on American and British airships, but the real meat is the material on their German counterparts. Sometimes, I’ll be honest, Robinson’s fondness for detail can be a little overwhelming, but there’s no doubt that he knows his stuff, especially on wartime Zeppelins and the bombing campaign. Warning: Giants in the Sky is long out-of-print, unfortunately, but copies are available (for a price).


Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.


I wrote...

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

By Alexander Rose,

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

What is my book about?

Empires of the Sky brings the Golden Age of Aviation back to life by telling the story of the giant Zeppelin airships that once roamed the sky and ended with the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg. For decades, the airplane and the airship were rivals for technological superiority, and their greatest exponents fought a long duel for mastery of the air. The Zeppelin Company’s Hugo Eckener went head to head against Juan Trippe, the ruthlessly ambitious king of Pan American Airways, who believed his fleet of next-generation planes would vanquish Eckener’s coming airship armada. It was a fight only one man could win. Countering each other’s moves on the global chessboard, each seeking to wrest the advantage from his rival, the two men’s struggle was not only the clash of business, diplomacy, politics, and personalities, but of their vastly different dreams of our future.

The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed

By John McPhee,

Book cover of The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed

When most people think of dirigibles, they’re reminded of either the Goodyear Blimp or (if they’re old enough) the crash of the Hindenburg. However, there’s a small band of fanatics who are dedicated to the quest for lighter-than-air flying. For these folks, the subject is more compelling than the Holy Grail, and they devote decades of their lives and the bulk of their resources to prove to the public that dirigibles should come back and replace jet aviation. A true story, and a fascinating read.


Who am I?

From an early age, it became obvious there were two types of people in the world. There were those who played it safe, who sold life insurance or worked for the government, who took their kids to soccer games and dutifully hosted Thanksgiving dinner. Then there were those who were haunted and driven by inner forces they couldn’t begin to understand. After realizing that I fell into the second category, I discovered many kindred spirits who had written books. While some of them sugar-coated their stories into “page-turners” or “beach reads,” the core of human obsession was unmistakable. I resolved to explore the outer edge of that obsession.


I wrote...

Friend of the Devil

By Mark Spivak,

Book cover of Friend of the Devil

What is my book about?

Joseph Soderini di Avenzano is America's most celebrated chef...Some believe he cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the twenty-fifth anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe. Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee and quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, Alessandra, unwittingly transforming himself into Avenzano’s rival.

When the chef invites David to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography, he gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex—shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; and the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As Alessandra plots the demise of the chef, David tries to sort out hallucination and reality, while Avenzano plays with him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

Hell Divers

By Nicholas Sansbury Smith,

Book cover of Hell Divers

Nick should be considered royalty when it comes to the post-apocalypse. He has numerous series with vastly different settings, but all of them are a masterclass in characterisation and story craft. His books draw me in with slick action and characters I care about from the get-go. He tackles the real issues without rubbing it in the reader’s face, and his work makes you question what you would do if the world went sideways.


Who am I?

I’ve long had a passion (read: obsession) with the apocalypse in whatever form it takes. I’ve written viral pandemics, zombie outbreaks, post-nuclear survival, dystopian totalitarianism, extinction-level-event, alien invasion, WW3… all of them have the theme of the great reset. The ability to reinvent yourself in the new world. The erasure of your life and the clean slate to try again and become who you want to be. I read and listen to this genre as well as write it because I'm passionate about the worlds writers create and the way their characters adapt to overcome the challenges my own have faced. As a former police officer, I’ve probably spent too many night shifts pondering the end of the world.


I wrote...

After It Happened: Survival

By Devon C. Ford,

Book cover of After It Happened: Survival

What is my book about?

Set in the UK in the immediate aftermath of a mysterious illness that swept the country and left millions dead, After it Happened follows the trials of a reluctant hero, Dan, and the group formed around him, including the fearless Leah. They must battle the elements, find sufficient supplies and equipment to survive, and protect themselves against the most destructive force on the planet: other people.

The Black God's Drums

By P. Djèlí Clark,

Book cover of The Black God's Drums

This one’s a little different – pirates sail the clouds instead of the ocean. In a world where Haiti won its freedom at a devastating cost, a young Black woman wants to earn a place on an airship, but can’t seem to find any way to prove her worth to the sky pirates she longs to join. Until she learns about a weapon called the Black God’s Drums, that someone plans to use to wipe New Orleans off the map. Add in the whispers of an orisha with its own agenda and a possible romantic attraction to the peg-legged Captain Ann-Marie, and you’ve got everything a pirate might want.


Who am I?

I grew up on the coast of South Carolina, where many of the Golden Age pirates were welcomed as business associates and charming guests by some of the most influential people of the day. They are, to this day, considered local heroes. I read everything I could lay hands on about them, fiction and histories, and I knew my first book would have to be about the pirate I always pretended I could be, if I’d only been born two hundred years ago.


I wrote...

Mad Kestrel

By Misty Massey,

Book cover of Mad Kestrel

What is my book about?

In a world where infants with magical powers are torn from their parents to be raised by the mysterious and powerful Danisoba, who have a monopoly on magic, Kestrel has managed to keep her abilities concealed―and herself free.

As the quartermaster of a pirate ship, Kestrel loves the freedom of living on the seas. But her way of life could end if anyone on board learns her closely guarded secret. When Kestrel's captain is led into a trap and is arrested, she gathers her crew and sets sail in relentless pursuit, even knowing that revealing her own magic ability may be her only means to save him.

The Guns Above

By Robyn Bennis,

Book cover of The Guns Above: A Signal Airship Novel

This novel begins in the fiery aftermath of a gruesome airship battle—and it only gets better from there. Our heroine, Josette, is a scrappy, hardworking airship captain who must contend with the undermining efforts of the fleet’s dubious general and his spies, all while fighting *actual* battles against an enemy that wants to blow her crew out of the sky. What really captured my attention about this book was the incredible descriptive voice displayed by the author: from the gory battle scenes to the complex inner workings of an airship, this is a truly immersive adventure. Josette is a smart, relatable heroine who pulls no punches and doesn’t let herself get sucked into the political minutiae, which keeps the story moving at a good clip. 


Who am I?

I grew up in Texas during a time when girls still had to wear poofy dresses and pantyhose, and boys got to have all the fun. The whole idea of traditional womanhood never fit me. It took a long time, but I finally reconciled with the fact that being able to run in heels and pop a grackle off the birdfeeder from thirty yards out are not mutually exclusive: a skill is a skill, and the injection of some femininity into a traditionally masculine feat can be wildly refreshing. We’ve only just begun to explore the genre of the fierce warrior woman—mine is merely one of infinite definitions.   


I wrote...

Harbinger

By Shae Ford,

Book cover of Harbinger

What is my book about?

A long and bloody rebellion wracked the six united regions of the Kingdom. Now the new King wields the vast and unvanquished army of Midlan and has granted a small group of thugs unbridled rule over the other regions. The King has also outlawed the practice of whispering—which is a problem for Kael.

It’s not like he asked to be born a whisperer. When he rescues a wounded girl from the perils of the Unforgivable Mountains, his luck only gets worse. She couldn’t have been just any girl: she had to be Kyleigh—the sword-wielding renegade knight with all of Midlan on her trail. She leads him on one mad quest after the next—eventually pulling off an act of such mischievous proportions that it threatens to change the Kingdom as they know it.

Pimp My Airship

By Maurice Broaddus,

Book cover of Pimp My Airship: A Naptown by Airship Novel

I don’t often read “steampunk” because it usually reflects the Victorian era of England or a ‘what if’ scenario involving the Confederacy and I’m just sick to death of the subjects. Along came “steamfunk,” an addition to the genre where the focus wouldn’t be on exclusively white characters, but Black sourced from the African continent. Then once upon a time, Broaddus cracked a joke on Twitter: “I’m going to write a steampunk story with an all-Black cast and call it ‘Pimp My Airship.’ To his chagrin (and eventual delight) several editors asked to see the story. The worldbuilding in this story is phenomenal. It take place in Indiana, part of an alternate history where England has established a “United States of Albion” and Native Americans have managed to retain a sizeable chunk of territory. There’s so much more to the book in relation to history and cultural norms. I thoroughly…


Who am I?

Errick Nunnally was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and served one tour in the Marine Corps before deciding art school was a safer pursuit. He enjoys art, comics, and genre novels. A graphic designer, he has trained in Krav Maga and Muay Thai kickboxing. His work has appeared in several anthologies of speculative fiction. His work can be found in Apex Magazine, Fiyah Magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, Lamplight, Nightlight Podcast, and the novels, Lightning Wears a Red Cape, Blood for the Sun, and All the Dead Men.


I wrote...

All The Dead Men: Alexander Smith #2

By Errick Nunnally,

Book cover of All The Dead Men: Alexander Smith #2

What is my book about?

Alexander Smith is a long-lived werewolf losing his mind to a supernatural Alzheimer’s. He hates magic, and vampires—excepting his adopted daughter, Ana, of course—so it makes sense in this sequel to Blood for the Sun that he’s coping with his daughter’s abduction, a guilty remnant of his past, and a vampire church named Our Lady of Perpetual Death that isn’t at all what it seems to be.

The Binding Tempest

By Steven Rudy,

Book cover of The Binding Tempest

I was hooked from page one and finished reading the book in just a few days. Although this is a complicated story, the description was vivid and clear. The plot was fast-paced and full of actions that will keep you on the edge of your seat most of the time.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by fantasy and sci-fi books since childhood – ever since I read Harry Potter and my parents took me to Disneyland Park. My parents had a giant library, and they used to encourage me to buy books and read them. I enjoy reading books that mix genres with unexpected twists and turns, and I am always on the hunt for a good story to enjoy and review.


I wrote...

The Crossing Gate

By Asiel R. Lavie,

Book cover of The Crossing Gate

What is my book about?

In the kingdom of Elpax, juveniles must walk through the mysterious Crossing Gate to become adults-and seventeen-year-old Lenora is determined that her third attempt at crossing to adulthood will be successful. Even though adulthood means facing horrible realities, such as sin-spots appearing on her body whenever she commits a sin, it also means being able to have a job. And Lenora needs to work to support her struggling family. But Lenora's Crossing Day goes horribly wrong. 

Accused of trying to start a revolution, Lenora must obey the kingdom's laws to the letter if she wants to take suspicion off herself. But following the rules isn't as easy as it sounds. Especially when she meets a mysterious and handsome stranger who makes her feel emotions she's never experienced before-even though juveniles in Elpax aren't supposed to be capable of falling in love. With the long arm of the law looming over her and her family, Lenora must walk a tightrope between following the rules and investigating why she's unable to cross. 

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