The most recommended books about pilots

Who picked these books? Meet our 65 experts.

65 authors created a book list connected to pilots, and here are their favorite pilot books.
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Book cover of The Flight Girls

Sara Ackerman Author Of The Lieutenant's Nurse

From my list on remarkable women in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in Hawai’i on her grandparents’ first-hand accounts of the war, Sara was deeply affected by the scars left behind. She believes that the best way to honor the past is by bringing these stories to light and making sure the sacrifice of those who came before us is never forgotten. She is the USA Today bestselling author of four WWII Hawai’i historical novels with a fifth on the way.

Sara's book list on remarkable women in WW2

Sara Ackerman Why did Sara love this book?

The Flight Girls captivated me from the first page and never let go. Salazar’s writing is lively and fresh, as we ride shotgun with a cast of memorable characters, an epic love story, and a powerful tale of courage and sacrifice by the Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII. This book is on the lighter side, but still packs an emotional punch. A spectacular first novel!

By Noelle Salazar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A USA TODAY BESTSELLER

A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER

“I read well into the night, unable to stop. The book is unputdownable.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Heart-breaking, validating, exciting.”—Hypable

“Rich historical detail...this saga has it all.”—Woman’s World

Shining a light on a little-known piece of history The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness, love, and the power of friendship to make us soar.

1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train…


Book cover of Defending the Motherland: The Soviet Women Who Fought Hitler''s Aces

Clare Mulley Author Of The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry

From my list on female pilots.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clare Mulley is the award-winning author of three books re-examining the history of the First and Second World War through the lives of remarkable women. The Woman Who Saved the Children, about child rights pioneer Eglantyne Jebb, won the Daily Mail Biographers' Club Prize and is now under option. Polish-born Second World War special agent Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, is the subject of the Spy Who Loved, a book that led to Clare being decorated with Poland’s national honour, the Bene Merito. Clare's third book, The Women Who Flew for Hitler, long-listed for the Historical Writers Association prize, tells the extraordinary story of Nazi Germany’s only two female test pilots, whose choices and actions put them on opposite sides of history. Clare reviews for the Telegraph, Spectator, and History Today. A popular public speaker, she has given a TEDx talk at Stormont, and recent TV includes news appearances for the BBC, Sky, and Channel 5 as well as various Second World War history series.

Clare's book list on female pilots

Clare Mulley Why did Clare love this book?

This is a gripping history of the Soviet female fighter, bomber and night bomber squadron pilots told through their interwoven biographies. These were the women who fought and died in the skies above Stalingrad and Kursk, and whose skills, as well as courage, astounded and terrified the Luftwaffe. Although invited to train and serve alongside their male comrades, the women were of course given uniforms and equipment designed for men, plenty of hostility, and a place, for those who survived, only at the back of the victory parades.

By Lyuba Vinogradova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Plucked from every background and led by an NKVD Major, the new recruits who boarded a train in Moscow on October 16, 1941, to go to war had much in common with millions of others across the world. What made the members of the 586th Fighter Regiment, the 587th Heavy-Bomber Regiment, and the 588th Regiment of light night-bombers unique was their gender: the Soviet Union was creating the first all-female active combat units in modern history.

Drawing on original interviews with surviving airwomen, Lyuba Vinogradova weaves together the untold stories of the female Soviet fighter pilots of the Second World…


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

Clare Mulley Author Of The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry

From my list on female pilots.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clare Mulley is the award-winning author of three books re-examining the history of the First and Second World War through the lives of remarkable women. The Woman Who Saved the Children, about child rights pioneer Eglantyne Jebb, won the Daily Mail Biographers' Club Prize and is now under option. Polish-born Second World War special agent Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, is the subject of the Spy Who Loved, a book that led to Clare being decorated with Poland’s national honour, the Bene Merito. Clare's third book, The Women Who Flew for Hitler, long-listed for the Historical Writers Association prize, tells the extraordinary story of Nazi Germany’s only two female test pilots, whose choices and actions put them on opposite sides of history. Clare reviews for the Telegraph, Spectator, and History Today. A popular public speaker, she has given a TEDx talk at Stormont, and recent TV includes news appearances for the BBC, Sky, and Channel 5 as well as various Second World War history series.

Clare's book list on female pilots

Clare Mulley Why did Clare love 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’, Ellis wrote, ‘when there is the ultimate thrill of speed, the sky, and the orgasmic experience of piloting the best fighter aircraft in the world?’ Enough said.

By Mary Ellis, Melody Foreman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Spitfire Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We visualise dashing and daring young men as the epitome of the pilots of the Second World War, yet amongst that elite corps was one person who flew no less than 400 Spitfires and seventy-six different types of aircraft and that person was Mary Wilkins.

Her story is one of the most remarkable and endearing of the war, as this young woman, serving as a ferry pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary, transported aircraft for the RAF, including fast fighter planes and huge four-engine bombers. On one occasion Mary delivered a Wellington bomber to an airfield, and as she climbed…


Book cover of The Moth and the Mountain

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

From Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ethan Chorin Why did Ethan love this book?

On first glance, The Moth to the Mountain seems to fit the ‘conquest of the Himalaya’ genre, but it’s really more about the deep psychological devastation inflicted by WWI on those who fought in it, and survived.

The vivid descriptions of trench warfare in Europe, give way to stories of depression, madness, and hope for redemption, as the protagonist finds meaning in an unlikely—and seemingly suicidalplan to conquer Everest using a mass-produced prop-plane called a "Moth" (hence the clever title). I found the book engrossing and informative. 

By Ed Caesar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A SUNDAY TIMES BIOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR
THE TELEGRAPH SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD

'One of the best books ever written about the early attempts to conquer Everest. A fine, fine slice of history by a truly special writer who proves time and time again that he is among the best of his generation' Dan Jones, author of The Plantagenets

'A small classic of the biographer's art' Sunday Times

The untold story of Britain's most mysterious mountaineering legend - Maurice Wilson - and…


Book cover of Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Nishi Giefer Author Of The Captured

From my list on Twentieth Century POWs.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a western mystery writer, rancher, veterinarian, wife, mother, farrier, horse trainer, gardener, seamstress, pilot, homeschooler, tractor jockey, and all-around hand, I conclude that every experience in life is grist for the mill leading to settings, scenery, plots, and character motivations.

Nishi's book list on Twentieth Century POWs

Nishi Giefer Why did Nishi love this book?

As a pilot and an American, I found the content of this extremely well-written book mesmerizing. As a writer and editor, I was blown away by the clean copy. More impressively, both authors replied to my emails. Rick Newman is the wordsmith, and I daresay perfectionist. Upon learning I found only two typos in over five hundred pages, he begged to know where. Major General Don Shepperd, USAF Retired, was a Misty pilot in Vietnam who graciously agreed to be a technical consultant on my novel. His inside knowledge of the continuing struggle to return remains of US service members was invaluable. 

By Rick Newman, Don Shepperd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bury Us Upside Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They had the most dangerous job n the Air Force. Now Bury Us Upside Down reveals the never-before-told story of the Vietnam War’s top-secret jet-fighter outfit–an all-volunteer unit composed of truly extraordinary men who flew missions from which heroes are made.

In today’s wars, computers, targeting pods, lasers, and precision-guided bombs help FAC (forward air controller) pilots identify and destroy targets from safe distances. But in the search for enemy traffic on the elusive Ho Chi Minh Trail, always risking enemy fire, capture, and death, pilots had to drop low enough to glimpse the telltale signs of movement such as…


Book cover of Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars: The Story of the First American Woman to Command a Space Mission

Marianne J. Dyson Author Of A Passion for Space: Adventures of a Pioneering Female NASA Flight Controller

From my list on biographical stories of women in space.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was 14, I wrote in my diary that I wanted to be an astronaut. It was 1968, and all astronauts were men. My role models came from fiction. It wasn’t until after I got my degree in physics and went to work for NASA that I finally got to know other women scientists and engineers, including the first women flight controllers and American women astronauts. After leaving NASA, I became a space journalist, author, editor, and book reviewer, often focusing on women’s contributions to space. I’m currently the volunteer historian for Mission Control and helping to capture more stories of women in space.

Marianne's book list on biographical stories of women in space

Marianne J. Dyson Why did Marianne love this book?

It’s hard to imagine the competent, happily married Eileen Collins, the first female Space Shuttle commander, living off food stamps in subsidized housing with her alcoholic father trying to break down the door or later having to call 911 because her mother tried to kill herself. As she says, “It was awful to live through, but it shaped me into who I am today.”

I marveled at how she transformed herself from a mediocre student to a woman willing to work multiple part-time jobs to attend community college and avoid her parents’ fates. Not only did she become a test pilot, astronaut, and the first female space commander, she found her happily ever after. It just doesn’t get better than that!

By Eileen M. Collins, Jonathan H. Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The long-awaited memoir of a trailblazer and role model who is telling her story for the first time.
Eileen Collins was an aviation pioneer her entire career, from her crowning achievements as the first woman to command an American space mission as well as the first to pilot the space shuttle to her early years as one of the Air Force's first female pilots. She was in the first class of women to earn pilot's wings at Vance Air Force Base and was their first female instructor pilot. She was only the second woman admitted to the Air Force's elite…


Book cover of Cheshire: The Biography of Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Moral Fibre: A Bomber Pilot's Story

From Helena's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Novelist Student of European Aviation History Friend to Survivors of the German Resistance to Hitler Authority on the Crusader States

Helena's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Helena P. Schrader Why did Helena love this book?

Although published in 2000, I only discovered Cheshire this past year when I wanted to find out more about Leonard Cheshire VC.

As the author of a biography myself, I was struck by how well-constructed and sensitively—but not uncritically—Morris handled his subject. Cheshire was a towering figure in his lifetime, the most highly decorated pilot in the RAF, who went on to work with Mother Theresa, to inspire a complete change of culture and legislation with respect to the disabled in the UK, and the founder of a charity that is still highly respected today.

Yet what makes this book stand out is that Morris captures Cheshire’s agony and confusion as he made that transition from successful and venerated war hero to humble humanitarian. An inspiring read.

By Richard Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Group Captain Leonard Cheshire flew 101 operations in World War II. The first, in 1940, took place six days after Dunkirk. After the 100th he was awarded the Victoria Cross. His 101st - and last - mission was to Nagasaki, where he witnesssed the dropping of the atomic bomb. In this biography Richard Morris examines the profound character of a man whose war career brought him the highest military distinction, and whose peacetime work of compassion earned him the Order of Merit. Broad in scope, and drawing on a vast array of previously unpublished letters and documents, this biography examines…


Book cover of Black Dove, White Raven

Christine Kindberg Author Of The Means That Make Us Strangers

From my list on the third-culture kid experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a second-generation TCK. I was born in Peru and grew up in Chile and Panama, as well as the US. My YA novel, The Means That Make Us Strangers, explores some of my own experience moving crossculturally as a teenager.

Christine's book list on the third-culture kid experience

Christine Kindberg Why did Christine love this book?

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Wein’s since I read her bestselling YA thriller Code Name Verity, and I was thrilled to discover she herself is a TCK. In this novel, two adopted siblings (one white, one Black), move from the US to Ethiopia in the 1930s, just before Ethiopia’s war with Italy. TCKs will relate to Teo and Em’s struggle with not feeling fully at home in any one place. Like all of Elizabeth Wein’s books, there is plenty of airplane-flying adventure to keep readers on the edge of their seats!

By Elizabeth Wein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Dove, White Raven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

"Think of the sky!" Delia gave Momma's hands a shake. "Think of the sky in Ethiopia! What will it be like to fly in Africa?"

This New York Times bestseller is a story of survival, subterfuge, espionage and identity.

Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking - one white, one black - is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it's an anathema in others. Rhoda and Delia dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity determines their life. When…


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

Rob Smith Author Of Shrader Marks: Keelhouse

From my list on for fiction writers who tell the truth.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was one of those kids who wanted to understand everything. Early on, I worked at a research laboratory and majored in biology. When studies in religion and philosophy offered an even deeper level of inquiry, I turned to archeology, anthropology, psychology, and linguistic analysis. Over the years, I was a counselor for people at the end of life, taught college philosophy, and a cultural approach to religion. I have traveled throughout western Kenya, Guyana, New Zealand, Alaska, and Labrador. I also listened for the stories of the people. Additionally, I have sailed for more than forty years. I write about what I know, and about what still puzzles me.

Rob's book list on for fiction writers who tell the truth

Rob Smith Why did Rob love 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, his child-self. The boy asks for one thing: He wants his adult self to sign off on the meaning of life contained in his eight-year-old vision of maturity. Bach is appalled at his simple naiveté. What should you tell your younger self? 

By Richard Bach,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Running from Safety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A half-mile up, suspended by nylon wings and the promise of good lift, life hanges on a pledge.  Richard Bach made that pledge, fifty years before, to return to the frightened child he used to be and teach him everything he had learned from living.  His promise went unfulfilled until one day, hovering between earth and sky, Richard encounters Dickie Bach, age nine--irrepressible challenger of every notion Richard embraces....

In this exhilarating adventure, Richard and Dickie probe the timeless questions both need answered if either is to be whole: Why does growing spiritually mean never growing up? Can we peacefully…


Book cover of Goshawk Squadron

Melvyn Fickling Author Of Farewell to the Glory Boys: A Battle of Arras Novel

From my list on the battles, corps and aftermath of WW1 for women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had finished The Bluebird Trilogy, three novels that centred on the first half of the Second World War, and I heard echoes of the Great War ringing faintly in the egos of my older characters. I started to read more of the history and was drawn to the aerial maelstrom that befell the RFC over Arras in 1917. I was also interested in working with a larger cast of characters, many transients, and telling their stories over a short stretch of time. The result was Major Claypole and Jackdaw Squadron, Glory Boys every last one.

Melvyn's book list on the battles, corps and aftermath of WW1 for women

Melvyn Fickling Why did Melvyn love this book?

Robinson’s tale of Goshawk Squadron battling the odds in the last year of the Great War cuts through the Biggles-style myths and legends that had dominated the public perception for many years. He shines a light on the bleak and terrifying business of aerial warfare and unflinchingly portrays the horror and helplessness of becoming the loser in a dogfight to the death. Yet from this foreboding vista he prises shining nuggets of laugh-out-loud humour, albeit of the gallows variety. Robinson’s spot-on characterisations and skilfully written battle narratives will place you in the rattling cockpit of a biplane in the hostile hunting grounds over France. This 50th-anniversary reissue is a well-deserved accolade.  

By Derek Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set during the height of World War I in January 1918, Goshawk Squadron follows the misfortunes of a British flight squadron on the Western Front. For Stanley Woolley, commanding officer of Goshawk Squadron, the romance of chivalry in the clouds is just a myth. The code he drums into his men is simple and savage: shoot the enemy in the back before he knows you're there. Even so, he believes the whole squadron will be dead within three months. A monumental work at the time of its original release, Booker-shortlisted Goshawk Squadron is now viewed as a classic in the…