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Brave Companions

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,828 ratings  ·  244 reviews
From Alexander von Humboldt to Charles and Anne Lindbergh, these are stories of people of great vision and daring whose achievements continue to inspire us today, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.

The bestselling author of Truman and John Adams, David McCullough has written profiles of exceptional men and women past and present who have not only shaped
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 1st 1992 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

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Diane S.

In McCullough's introduction he explains that to him history is not just what someone has accomplished, it is also how they lived, the things that made them come alive as he certainly does in this book. He takes little known characters, or characters we do know but may not know these particular facts and he brings them alive for the reader.

Humboldt, whose journey was overshadowed by Lewis and Clark's but rivaled their in his contributions to the study of glaciers and ice floes, skeletons and so
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Melissa
Okay, confession time: this is the fist McCullough I've read. His books have been recommended to me dozens of times (especially John Adams), but I have always had this aversion to "popular" historians. There are certain popular historians that I just distrust--they have published too much to have done much of the work themselves--or to really dive into the material.
McCullough does not appear to be one of those "popular" historians.
This book is a collection of essays, first published in 1991. The
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Beth
Less than 300 pages in length, this is a collection of Mr. McCullough’s shorter works — magazine articles, lectures, etc. It paints vivid portraits of a wide variety of people — some famous, others rather obscure, but all fascinating. It was just enough to whet my appetite to learn more about these people. Over the course of reading this book, I jotted down the titles of 22 other books I’d like to read.

The section I found most interesting was entitled “Pioneers.” It included an article about th
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Joe
This was a re-read for me .

David McCullough has a great knack for finding topics and people that are off a lot of people's radar but can convey the story of not only the person, but their amazing accomplishments that often go unheralded in modern times.

My favorite story has to be the journey through the Illinois countryside with famous photographer David Plowden and the way he sees the simplicity of the small American town as the basis for many of his best photos. The building of the Brooklyn Br
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Nate
The inscription inside the front cover is from Po to me on my 23rd birthday, and Po says she wants to read it when I'm done. Well, apparently it took me 12 years, but I am finally done. And Po, you should most definitely read it! What I wouldn't give to pull up a stuffed chair next to a fireplace and listen to McCullough all night long. Each chapter is a profile of a person or event, and they are brilliant, every one; the more obscure or long forgotten the subject, the better. The handful of las ...more
Spectre
This book should be the required American History Textbook for every high school in the country! If David McCullough can not convince you to be a lifetime reader and student, you are truly a lost cause.
Michael Wright
I love McCullough. This collection of interesting, less conspicuous people, places, things, and events truly excites one to read more and more! My To-read list just grew.
Sam Quinones
Building the 47-mile Panama Railroad (the world's first intercontinental railroad) cost the lives of probably 6000 men, who succumbed to malaria, or depression from the utter hell it was to build something of that sort through a jungle without surveying equipment, or machines of any kind.

David McCullough is taken with these kinds of endeavors in this great book of stories about achievement in history, mostly American history.

He also writes about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, another achi
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Bill Krieger
Let's start with this snippet, OK. David McCullough describes the thousands of original Brooklyn Bridge engineering drawings found in some squalid government office in 1969.

QOTD

It is the incredible care and concentration that you feel in even the least of the drawings, the pride, the obvious love - love for materials, love for elegance in design, love of mathematics, of line, of light and shadow, of majestic scale, and, yes, love of drawing - this passion in combination with an overriding insis
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Kelly Kittel
Hungry for some summertime-length history vignettes? A snack-sized variety of characters and events easily devoured in your beach chair? Search no more. This is the book for you.

I especially loved reading about the building of the Brooklynn bridge, during which I learned that there was a President called Chester Arthur (public school education?). My hat is off to Emily Roebling, who managed the whole shebang while her husband had a nervous breakdown. Emily was the first brave soul to cross the
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Tom Gase
David McCullough proved to me in this book that he is probably the best historian alive.
The author of great books such as "John Adams", "The Great Bridge", "1776" delivers again with this book I just read, "Brave Companions."
Brave Companions is a short book with about 15 articles on people that helped pave our history, but often get overlooked. There are chapters on Alexander von Humboldt, Louis Agazziz, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles and Anne Lindbergh to name just a few.
I really liked some of
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Linda
This earlier book from one of my favorite authors did not disappoint. "What history is chiefly about is life and while there are indeed great, often unfathomable forces in history before which even the most exceptional of individuals seem insignificant, the wonder is how often events turn on a single personality or the quality called character. "

This book will introduce you to some incredible people.
Teresa Mayfield
“-take books wherever you go. Read. Read all you can.“ – David McCullough

My favorite books are those that lead you to more books. This book excels at that! The list of future reading that I created while reading Brave Companions could easily take me several years to get through and who knows where each of those might lead me? I also love books that are set in places I’ve been or that make me want to travel. Again, this book excels! Places I’ve been (some of which are dear to my heart) are now mo
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S2 Mc
Enjoyed reading it. Good chapter on Washington, D.C., re-kindling an interest in exploring further, despite the many days spent there over the years.

Also a good commencement address given at Middlebury College in 1986 near the end of the book, and some insight on how McCullough came to his career writing.
Shaun
This was an amazing book, which I almost rated 5 stars. It's a series of seventeen chapters which detail the story of some interesting characters or events in history. Some of the people I had never heard of and others I had. David McCullough is an awesome writer of history. He tells stories of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Lindberg, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and Antietam. I really learned a lot about history and about people I only knew a little or even nothing abou ...more
Marva
McCullough writes with clarity about interesting people in this book. Each chapter is about a different person in history and can be easily read at one sitting. It's only 232 pages. I learned a lot about many interesting people I never even knew before.
Sarah
So many good things to say about this book! I love reading McCullough's books; I find his writing fantastic and his subject matter engrossing. And he always leaves me with a desire to be a better patriot and learner of history. This book was a compilation of essays he's written over the years on various subjects and people. After reading it, I felt compelled (again) to read Uncle Tom's Cabin, to explore Washington D.C. with our kids, to read the writings of Conrad Richter, to wonder at the histo ...more
Edward
David McCullough is an exceptionally gifted author who has twice received the Pulitzer Prize for his biographies Truman and John Adams. Brave Companions, subtitled Portraits in History, is a treasure mine of insights and history embedded in stories of people that lived that history. The entire book is worth reading for the final three chapters, "Extraordinary Times" about history since 1936, "Recommended Itinerary", a sweeping recommendation for understanding our country, and "Simon Willard's Cl ...more
Ted Ryan
Dec 23, 2014 Ted Ryan marked it as to-read
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Very nice stories about lesser known figures in history. Written with McCullough's typical wit and breadth of context. Well worth the time.
Stephanie
Enjoyed David McCullough's conversational tone, as always. He paints interesting portrait of all his subjects.
Chuck
This book was chosen on purpose as my 1,000th book since my original romance and date with Goodreads. David McCullough is as good as they get in researching and telling the story of talented, intelligent people who have high expectations have and made a difference. He brings their accomplishments and personalities to life and creates a personal connection with the reader. This book is not similar to the highly detailed and extensively researched biographies that have won him several Pulitzer Pri ...more
Poiema
A little different than most of McCulloch's titles, this one is a collection of essays on various American greats. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the naturalist Loius Agassiz, and the astute observation that his brilliance was tarnished when he siphoned his energy in a fruitless effort to discredit Charles Darwin. Agassiz's contributions to science were large, but could have been even greater if he had stuck to being a naturalist rather than trying to be an apologist. Thoughtful insights.
Catherine  Mustread
Great book! I thoroughly enjoyed these essays and profiles of a variety of characters, scenes, and historical events that have been important to McCullough. Published in 1992 some chapters are somewhat dated such as the history of the world since 1936 but others are timeless -- McCullough would need another life to write fully about many of the short subjects in this book, but many also enlarge upon the books he had written before then: The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of th ...more
Marvin Goodman
This book is a collection of short, biographical essays, ranging from Alexander von Humboldt to David Plowden, with many fascinating characters in between. The subjects were fascinating. I love David McCullough. But I didn't enjoy this book. Sure, it was great to get a glimpse into the lives and accomplishments of the book's subjects. However, the necessarily shallow treatments of these subjects (each essay was about 15 pages) made me feel like I was sitting down with Wikipedia and other Web sou ...more
Patrick
I got this for Shauna for Christmas and predicted correctly that she would enjoy it. I've just started it and read the first two essays on Humboldt and Agissiz. Fascinating stuff! The Humboldt guy was so cool and now I know why we have a Penguin and a Nevada mountain named after him, though I had never heard of the current that is mentioned as the most famous thing named after him. Shauna had though.

Jan. 12, 2011
Read the whole thing, including the two first ones I had read a couple of years ago.
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Sgtret
Let me begin with expressing my unbridled respect for David McCullough.

If I haven't read everything this man has written, it wasn't for the lack of trying. He made the building of the Brooklyn Bridge one of the most fascination moments in American History. Because of all this pre-established respect and admiration; my disappointment with Brave Companions is very hard to express.

I thought it must be me, my mood, the weather, the tinnitus, anything but David's writing. I read it twice, then dow
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Wingedbeaver
Brave Companions is a collection of essays written by David McCullough made up mostly of short character studies of little known yet important historical figures. McCullough is easily the most famous chronicler of American history and he didn't come by that reputation on accident. His work has that rare ability to be both informative and entertaining. McCullough has a way of not just reciting facts but bring the periods he writes about to life. Unfortunately, this collection doesn't really live ...more
Kristine
Here's a 1992 compilation of previously written pieces by David McCullough, a lively writer of history, cobbled together in a book of about 240 pages (contains an index).

The author is drawn to the human subject and his or her surroundings. He writes: "If character is destiny, so too, I believe, is terrain." So, readers should be prepared to absorb from the various chapters both a sense of a person's character and also the setting in which they have lived.

A book that was written primarily as
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Ron
This was an enjoyable collection of profiles and essays. The book was published in 1992 and McCullough assembled seventeen articles (primarily from magazines) that he had written from as far back as December 1969. This is a book about extraordinary people and quite a variety of people he covers, some very famous, some not. McCullough writes an excellent introduction to this book.

I am not always fond of McCullough's writing style, a little clunky at times but mostly very readable. He brings a ric
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Voracious_reader
Mixed bag. It's a series of personality portraits--each chapter is about a different topic or person--that McCullough finds interesting or influential. The Chapters don't bear any immediate relationship to one another except a point-of-view and style that is almost sentimental.

With each chapter of the book, his narrative voice, his personality, is more and more present. I could see sitting on a front porch in a rocking chair drinking mint juleps or sweet tea and listening to him speak about the
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David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history,” “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

(update: His most recent book is The Wright Brothers, published on May 5th 2015 by Simon & Schuster.)

Mr. McCullou
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“How can we know who we are and where we are going if we don't know anything about where we have come from and what we have been through, the courage shown, the costs paid, to be where we are?” 10 likes
“The evil of technology was not technology itself, Lindbergh came to see after the war, not in airplanes or the myriad contrivances of modern technical igenuity, but in the extent to which they can distance us from our better moral nature, or sense of personal accountability.” 8 likes
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