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Slide Rule

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Nevil Shute best describes this autobiography in his own words: "Most of my adult life, perhaps all the worthwhile part of it, has been spent messing about with airplanes. For 30 years there was a period when airplanes would fly when you wanted them to, but there were still fresh things to be learned on every flight, a period when airplanes were small and so easily built ...more
Paperback, 171 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by House of Stratus (first published 1954)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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David Dennington
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I first read Slide Rule years ago after enjoying many of Shutes other books, and it shaped my life in many ways. Hed overcome so much from being a child with a bad stammer. He was lucky in that he had wonderful parents. He was made fun of at his school in Hammersmith, not only by his school mates, but by his teachers, too. Life was an unbearable misery and he could not take it. So, he played truant, rode the trains or sat on railways stations observing the hubbub. Later, he rode into Kensington ...more
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Detailed book into the authors life designing planes and airships but sadly wasnt my cup of tea
Jan 20, 2008 rated it liked it
This is an autobiography of Nevil Shute, one of my favorite authors. It focuses on his engineering career in the early aerospace industry in the U.K. Individuals interested in the early history of the airplane (and airship/blimp) manufacturing industry would find this interesting. It touches on the author's career as a writer, but does not go into that aspect of his life in great depth. I would recommend it as a good read only based on very specific interests--engineering, aircraft, aircraft ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Mr Norway was at the heart of many of the dramatic events of the early 20th Century. Before he gave up to become a renowned novelist he served as a stretcher bearer during the Easter rising, observing the rebels shooting horses from the Dublin Post Office, lost his older brother in the first world war, worked on the successful Airship R100 and travelled to Canada upon it, learned to fly and founded his own aircraft company which was eventually folded into de Havilland.

He is good and interesting
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]It's a book in three parts: the first couple of chapters describe Shute's boyhood and youth, where the most exciting part is his close observation of the Easter Rising of 1916 - his father, as it happens, was the Secretary of the Irish Post Office, so there is a certain immediacy to Shute's account, from an angle one doesn't often get - that of a middle-class English teenager pressed into service as a stretcher-bearer.[return][return]Then a ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lent-by-friend
Most of my adult life ... has been spent messing about with aeroplanes.

Slide Rule is Nevil Shutes autobiography from his childhood until 1940, and was published in 1954.
Nevil Shute Norway (1899-1960) is best known to me as Nevil Shute, the author of novels including: No Highway; A Town Like Alice; and On the Beach. He wrote 24 novels many of which Ive yet to read as well as this autobiography. But theres another side to Nevil Shute Norway: he was involved in the early years of British
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Part one of Shutes sadly incomplete autobiography, this book tells the story of his early years as an aviation engineer, his love of flying, his incurable writing habit, and his role in Britains R-100 dirigible project between the World Wars. An absolutely ripping memoir. Too bad he never finished (or published) part 2, where he did classified work for the Crown during WW2, or (better still) part 3, in which he immigrated to Australia and became a Buddhist.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I started reading this book because of the wrecked dirigible on the cover of my edition. I have always been fascinated with them as a means of transport of heavy materials. I did not know that Mr. Shute was Norwegian nor that he worked on one of the only two English dirigibles. Thus, only the first half of the book did I find really interesting. I was more interested in the specifics of the dirigible than in Mr. Shute.
Apr 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
I read everything I could find by Nevil Shute when I first discovered him, and I really enjoyed his fiction, so it was disappointing to discover that I would not have liked this man one little bit!
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a good book. I'm surprised it hasn't been done as a movie. A look back at when airships were the future of travel.
David P
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Let there be no mistake: this is an old book, out of print, the life story of Nevil Shute. If you can find it in a library or on a second-hand book rack, by all means, get it.

Nevil Shute was a British writer, and in the year after World War II some of his novels became well-known the world over. Most famous was "On the Beach," an end-of-the-world story set in Australia, after a nuclear holocaust that had destroyed Europe and America, a gloomy book and not Shute's best. "No Highway" tells about
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engineering, aviation
Nevil Norway (he wrote under his middle name Shute to keep his writing career and his engineering career apart) was born in 1899 to a senior English civil servant. In a society as unequal as England before World War I, life was nice if you were near the top: his father had 3 servants, a gardener and a gardener's boy, while putting his two sons through private schools. Nevil was interested in flight and engineering from an early age. During World War I, Nevil's older brother was wounded and died ...more
JZ Temple
Aug 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Most readers are familiar with Nevil Shute, author of numerous novels, many with aviation themes. Few however have probably read this book, his autobiography. Nevil Shute Norway grew up in the early part of the twentieth century, just a bit too young to have participated in World War I. His description of the almost fatalistic approach he took towards becoming a soldier and, he was very sure, dying in the trenches, is very surprising.

After the war he drifted into the nascent commercial aviation
Oct 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Reading this book was a peculiar experience. I was aware of Shute only as a writer, especially of "On the Beach", so I had expected to read the story of a writers life. However, it is the story of Shute's initial career as an aeronautical engineer, initially as a key player in the team building Britain's R100 airship, and then as one of the founders of Airspeed, a player in the British aircraft industry during the evolution from the heroic age of aviation into the beginnings of commercial ...more
Dana Stabenow
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Before he wrote the post-apocalyptic classic On the Beach and the Australian romance A Town like Alice, Shute was an engineer working at the cutting edge of aviation. In Slide Rule, among other things, he tells the story of the British government sponsoring the simultaneous building of two dirigibles, one by private industry and one by government subsidy. The results are exactly what you might expect. A, you should pardon the pun, riveting read.
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Amazing that Nevil Shute was so much prouder of his achievements as an engineer than of the fiction he wrote. A pity this autobiography ends when he is aged 54; I would have liked to know if his ideas changed at all before he died. He certainly believed in private enterprise, and in a rather naive way, but his heart was in the right place.
Jan 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
In the first half of this book, Shute writes of his early life and his family. Then he switches to writing about his business.
Nevil Shute Norway, author of two dozen novels including A Town Like Alice and On The Beach, dropped his surname as a writer to separate his private hobby (writing) from his professional life (engineering). Born in the next to last year of the 19th century, he recounts events from his childhood, education, early training, and exposure to aviation through his experience as an engineer building rigid airships and later aircraft until he left the industry to become a full time writer in 1940.

Bill Leach
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is Nevil Shute's biography, concentrating on his career in aeronautical engineering. Along the way he mentions his efforts in writing fiction which he did largely as an avocation although he became a well known author.

Shute worked in increasingly senior positions on the R100 airship at the time that airships were anticipated to be viable vehicles for moving people quickly over long distances. The British government had set up two competing projects - the R100 to be built by Vickers
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very dry autobiography but with excellent audio narration. I read it to understand Shute's perplexing semi-autobiographical novel "Round the Bend" in which a global religion starts based on airplane engine repair. Slide Rule explains a lot. As a child, little Nevil skips school to spend the day in the science and technology museum. When he grows up, he's an engineer. The title refers to a point in the book where he is working with other engineers on calculations for an airship design problem, ...more
Cel Jel
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book about Nevil Shute's years as a young man starting out in the world after his university studies was a very interesting read. It gives an insight into the development of the air industry in the United Kingdom, from the first use of air ships and the competition between a public and private company to develop an air ship that would be commercial, to the development of passenger planes. In some ways it suggested his living a fortunate life, but there was an element of hardship and lots of ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi, history, business
I picked this up after David Mamet mentioned it many times in "The Secret Knowledge." Not what I was expecting at all. "A Town Like Alice" is one of my favorite books. I've read a couple other novels by Shute I've enjoyed. "The Chequer Board" is a very effective anti-racism book. "On the Beach" is one of the best end of the world stories. So in reading "Slide Rule," I thought I'd learn the origin of these books. Not so fast, my friends.

Instead Shute tells three stories from his personal history:
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
To describe this book as a autobiography is a little misleading. It is more the story of the birth of mass aviation between the wars, through the impressive input by the author in establishing an aircraft design and manufacturing business.

If this sounds a bit dry, then you have to allow for the writing style of Nevil Shute. He can spend two pages describing how a bolt is inserted and still make it fascinating. A fair part of the book chronicles the abortive attempt by the British government to
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not what I expected. It turned out to be better for me, due to the coincidence I was also an engineer in the aircraft business. This covers Nevil White Norway's career as an apprentice, engineer, and manager in the early years of the airplane business, the 1920s and most of the 1930s. It is more of a business career and case history than anything else, and Norway expressed a number of interesting thoughts on business startups, venture capital, and government versus corporate control in ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting autobiography really as much about the aircraft industry between the two wars as anything else. From and Egnineering and local history perspective (I live near to Portsmouth) this was fascinating but I suspect that many folk would find the Engineering and technical details covering aircraft and engine design, somewhat tedious. However given Neville Shute (Norway)s skill as a novelist one perhaps out to read some if his non fiction work and this is interesting as background to a ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading Shute's autobiography filled in a lot of background for his many novels about flying and the business of aeronautical engineering and design. It was striking to me how much his observations on bootstrapping a small airplane manufacturing concern in the inter-war period echoed my experiences with tech startups.
Leigh Harrison
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've been working my way through Shute's post-war canon, and began this book believing it to be another novel. It was an illuminating read
Nevil Shute (1899-1960; full name Nevil Shute Norway) was a popular English novelist in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Slide rule is his memoir of his earlier life, focusing on his adult years when he earned his living as an engineer and a businessman. Shute's father was a high ranking civil servant in the British Post Office. Shute was educated at private schools, and, after a stint in the British army towards the end of the First World War (he saw no action), at Oxford University ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Nevil Shute (Norway) is of course a well known novelist, best known for the apocalyptic nuclear war novel "On the Beach." This memoir describes his career as an engineer and manager in the early days of the aircraft industry.

Of particular interest is his description of the design contest for an advanced dirigible conducted by the British Ministry of Air in the mid 1920's. It's important to keep in mind that at this point lighter than air craft appeared to be the best long term solution to
Slide Rule is Nevil Shute Norway's autobiography about his early years as an aeronautical engineer. It only briefly touches on his sometimes parallel career as author Nevil Shute.

The first half of the book covers his involvement during the late 1920's up to 1930 in a very exciting venture in which England sought to develop its own aeroship along the lines of the success of the German Zeppelins. The development was set up in the form of a competition in which one aeroship would be designed and
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Nevil Shute Norway was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer.

He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels.

He lived in Australia for the ten years before his death.

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