The best books about pilots

17 authors have picked their favorite books about pilots and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of A Spitfire Girl: One of the World's Greatest Female Ata Ferry Pilots Tells Her Story

A Spitfire Girl: One of the World's Greatest Female Ata Ferry Pilots Tells Her Story

By Mary Ellis, Melody Foreman,

Why this book?

There are several fascinating memoirs by ATA pilots including those by Diana Barnato Walker and the fittingly named Nancy Bird, but I was lucky enough to know Mary Ellis so her words speak most directly to me. A life recounted in sensible tones, reading this book it is easy to imagine you are settled into an armchair across from Mary, while at the same time realising that she would be much more comfortable in the cockpit of a Spitfire. By the end of the war she had delivered 400 Spitfires and flown 72 different types of aircraft. ‘Who needs love’,…

From the list:

The best books on female pilots

Book cover of Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

By James B. Stockdale,

Why this book?

James Stockdale was a fighter pilot who was shot down whilst flying over Vietnam in 1964. He had read, and absorbed, The Enchiridion, by Epictetus, and it was this knowledge of Stoicism that helped him to survive seven years of torture and captivity as a Prisoner of War. Fortunately, I’ve never been tested in a crucible akin to Stockdale’s laboratory of human behaviour. But Epictetus speaks to all of us still, and Stockdale’s book is fascinating both as an account of a POW’s survival and as an introduction to a philosophy that I’ve leaned on in my own life.

From the list:

The best military books that resonate with me, or inspire me, in some personal way

Book cover of The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

By Katherine Sharp Landdeck,

Why this book?

The Women with Silver Wings is a story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, who were the first women to fly for the U.S. military during WWII. I’ve always loved these women and their amazing spirit as they flew in the face of convention (pun intended) in the 1940s, when women were not accepted to do much more than housewife duties. I like this book in particular, because I know a lot about the WASP history, but this book has lots of new stuff that I didn’t know. So, whether you are new to the subject or an…

From the list:

The best books that weave fascinating stories about real people and events from WWII history

Book cover of Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters

By Chesley B. Sullenberger, Jeffrey Zaslow,

Why this book?

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is one of the most well-known aviators in recent history. He was made famous by an extremely dangerous situation that he handled exceptionally well. This book is not just about the “Miracle on Hudson” incident; this is a biography about Captain Sully, how he became a pilot, and how decades of flying prepared him for this one single moment. It’s an inspirational book for anyone to read.

From the list:

The best books about flying, flight training, and working as a pilot

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

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

By Kirsten Larson, Tracy Subisak (illustrator),

Why 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.
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The best books to inspire girls in STEM

Book cover of Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across the United States

Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across the United States

By Louisa Jaggar, Shari Becker, Floyd Cooper (illustrator)

Why this book?

This is a story of an epic journey borne of determination and hard work. Despite facing discrimination, challenges to education, and lack of funds, Banning rose, literally, to the sky. The book deals with our history of racism but focuses on how Banning, with his high hopes and grit, was able to fulfill his dream. Floyd Cooper’s artwork will pull you into that place and time, heightening the experience. The backmatter shows the research that went into this book and how Banning’s fascinating story came to light.

From the list:

The best books to discover fascinating people

Book cover of The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: A True Story of Murder, Adventure, Danger, Romance, and Derring-Do

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: A True Story of Murder, Adventure, Danger, Romance, and Derring-Do

By Carol Baxter,

Why this book?

I was amazed to read about the adventures of Mrs ‘Chubbie’ Miller, whom I had never heard about previously. She was an Australian woman aviator who competed in the US National Women’s Air Race (the so-called ‘Powder Puff Derby’) and other Women’s Air Derbys with Amelia Earhart and others. Why had I not heard of her before? Because she was embroiled in a scandalous love triangle that saw the end of one life?

From the list:

The best books on Australian women in history

Book cover of Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit

Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit

By Richard Bach,

Why this book?

Hang-gliding is a literal leap of faith. You jump from terra firma and hope that the wind rises beneath your airfoil. Running from Safety is the author’s leap of faith, and, by extension, the readers. “Have you ever met anybody…like the people in your books?”  This is the cryptic question that begins this life exploration. 

As a writer myself, I know that every character in my books is me. Bach knows this, too. But do we really learn from the collection of stuff we hold inside, stuff that is our history? The book begins when Bach is confronted by Dickie,…

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The best books for fiction writers who tell the truth

Book cover of Lindbergh

Lindbergh

By A. Scott Berg,

Why this book?

This is another biography and I liked it so much because it shed light on the inner life of an American hero: Aviator Charles Lindbergh. I talk about him in Duped - Lindbergh had three families in Germany, a wife in the states, and a gaggle of offspring scattered on the two continents. That’s probably why he took up flying. 

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