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Saturday, December 19, 2015

THE AVIATORS: EDDIE RICKENBACKER, JIMMY DOOLITTLE, CHARLES LINDBERGH and the EPIC AGE of FLIGHT (audiobook) by Winston Groom



Published by Blackstone Audio in 2013
Read by Robertson Dean
Duration: 17 hours, 23 minutes
Unabridged

Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, has delivered an impressive triple biography of three of America's aviation pioneers with The Aviators. The book focuses on Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973), auto racer turned World War I flying ace, Jimmy Doolittle (1896-1993), test pilot and the first person to perform a landing using only instruments (this sounds sort of mundane but it meant that planes could take fly in all sorts of weather - not just on clear days), and the world famous Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) - the first man to fly solo over the Atlantic in an airplane and a truly international celebrity.



Charles Lindbergh (right) with a P-38 on an island
 in the South Pacific in World War II in 1944
Each of these men had very different personalities but each shared a passion for being in the air. Charles Lindbergh is by far the most famous of the three, even now when crossing the Atlantic is an everyday occurrence. I found him to be the most enigmatic of the three and him to be the most difficult to identify with. But, Groom tells his story well and I did especially enjoy his tales of serving as a civilian adviser in Pacific in World War II. That was entirely new to me.

Eddie Rickenbacker was the reason that I picked this audiobook in the first place. I am a huge fan of the Indy 500 and I knew three facts about Rickenbacker - he was a World War I ace, he used to own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his plane went down in World War II and he floated on a life raft for a very long time until he was rescued. Rickenbacker's story is impressive simply because he ends up at the top of every endeavor he pursued - auto racing, fighter pilot, auto manufacturing, airlines. 


Of the three, Jimmy Doolittle is the one that I identified with the most. His fame was not nearly as great as the the other three, and when true fame finally came it was much later. He seemed to have been a bit more of a "regular guy". But, the story of the Doolittle Raid demonstrates that he was far from a "regular guy" - he thought big and he followed through when he was given the chance to do so. Groom's re-telling of the Doolittle Raid is one of the highlights of the book.

Robertson Dean's reading of this audiobook was excellent. While he did not create voices for people in the reading, he read the book in a lively and interesting manner. 

This is one of the best audiobooks I have listened to this year and may end up being the best book I have read all year. 

I heartily recommend this book - 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight

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