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The Spirit of St. Louis

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The classic, bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning account of Charles A. Lindbergh's historic transatlantic flight

Along with most of my fellow fliers, I believed that aviation had a brilliant future. Now we live, today, in our dreams of yesterday; and, living in those dreams, we dream again…

Charles A. Lindbergh captured the world's attention—and changed the course of history—when he completed his famous nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. In The Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh takes the reader on an extraordinary journey, bringing to life the thrill and peril of trans-Atlantic travel in a single-engine plane. Eloquently told and sweeping in its scope, Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize-winning account is an epic adventure tale for all time.

592 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1950

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About the author

Charles A. Lindbergh

64 books28 followers
Son of Charles A. Lindbergh Sr..
Charles Augustus Lindbergh (nicknamed "Slim," "Lucky Lindy" and "The Lone Eagle") was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.

Lindbergh, then a 25-year old U.S. Air Mail pilot, emerged from virtual obscurity to almost instantaneous world fame as the result of his Orteig Prize-winning solo non-stop on May 20–21, 1927, from Roosevelt Field located in Garden City on New York's Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 statute miles, in the single-seat, single-engine monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh, a U.S. Army reserve officer, was also awarded the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his historic exploit.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lindbergh relentlessly used his fame to help promote the rapid development of U.S. commercial aviation. In March 1932, however, his infant son, Charles, Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what was soon dubbed the "Crime of the Century" which eventually led to the Lindbergh family fleeing the United States in December 1935 to live in Europe where they remained up until the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Before the United States declared World War II on December 8, 1941, Lindbergh had been an outspoken advocate of keeping the U.S. out of the world conflict, as was his Congressman father, Charles August Lindbergh (R-MN), during World War I, and became a leader of the anti-war America First movement. Nonetheless, he supported the war effort after Pearl Harbor and flew many combat missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a civilian consultant, even though President Franklin D. Roosevelt had refused to reinstate his Army Air Corps colonel's commission that he had resigned earlier in 1939.

In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and active environmentalist.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 121 reviews
Profile Image for Linda Griffin.
Author 7 books261 followers
August 14, 2018
Astonishingly vivid and well written. I remember going to bed one night while I was reading it and feeling horribly guilty that I could sleep when I had left Lindbergh struggling to stay awake over the Atlantic. When my mother called, expecting to hear about my week, the first thing I said was "Lindbergh landed in Paris!"
Profile Image for Steve.
258 reviews
August 20, 2013
How is it possible to fly one extremely overloaded aircraft, on just one engine, with just one pilot, with no navigational aids except for two practically worthless compasses, from New York to Paris? This is the extremely detailed and highly personal story of one man who did it and lived to tell about it.

Full disclosure. I’ve recently tried to fly Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of Saint Louis on a flight simulator and crashed and burned several times. “Slim,” as he was known by members of the aviation community in 1927, purposely had his Ryan M-2 monoplane designed to be unstable so that it would help to keep him awake on the 33-and-a-half-hour hop over the north Atlantic.

Not only did Lindberg make history with his trans-Atlantic flight, but set a record prior to that in just getting to his launch point on Long Island, by flying cross country from California to Saint Louis and on to Roosevelt Field. What also is not generally known, in its career, Spirit of Saint Louis made at least 174 flights totaling nearly 490 hours, most of that after the Paris flight.

For 501 pages, Lindberg puts the reader in the cockpit right beside him. We see what he sees. We feel what he feels. We fight the urge to sleep as Lindberg fought. And to think he succeeded after so many others had failed, without sleep for 63 hours, with little food, (he ate the first of five sandwiches only when he was over France), with little water, without detailed maps, without radar, without radio, without weather reports. On page 463, Lindberg suggests that his “intuition must have been more accurate than reasoned navigation.” If that’s not a definition of an American hero, I don’t know what is!
Profile Image for Kristen.
139 reviews7 followers
March 24, 2013
I never thought I would find myself interested in a book on aviation. His wife's book, Gift from the Sea, made me wonder about what type of man Charles was.

It was really one of the most compelling adventure books I've ever read. I kept thinking, "Why is this so interesting? I already know he crossed the Atlantic!!!" It is really about so much more than flying, although I did find learning about airplanes and aeronatics really interesting----the early 1920s was so long ago, and knowledge was so limited compared to today. It's really a story about one man and really going against the odds to do something courageous. He was only 25 when he completed the flight, and had been flying for about 4 years.

I think the best section of the book for me was his fight to stay awake---he was awake for about 63 hours by the time he landed in Paris. The flight took 33 1/2 hours, but for the entire day and night preceding the flight, he was awake, being too nervous and anxious to fall asleep.

He describes the account of having his mind, body, and spirit separating from each other in a very real way. His mind ended up having no control of the urge his body had to sleep, and he explains how his spirit would take over just in time, each time he reached a point that would have led to death. He would fall asleep with his eyes open, and experience every sensation of being asleep, and then awakened again, for many, many hours of his flight. It's amazing that the book is around 500 pages long, to describe the planning and flight of just one flight, but I never got bored. I really believe that God was with him as he made the flight---and while he doesn't actually say "God" I believe that he really felt a divine presence with him.
Profile Image for Kaycee.
69 reviews15 followers
November 8, 2015
An incredible adventure. To best describe how I feel about this book, I'll let his wife, Anne do the honors. "There is something, in the directness -- simplicity -- innocence of that boy arriving after that terrific flight -- completely unaware of the world interest -- the wild crowds below. The rush of the crowds to the plane is symbolic of life rushing at him -- a new life -- new responsibilities -- he was completely unaware of and unprepared for. I feel for him -- mingled excitement and apprehension -- a little of what one feels when a child is born and you look as his fresh untouched little face and know he will meet joy -- but sorrow too -- struggle -- pain -- frustration."
Profile Image for Curtiss.
718 reviews45 followers
February 17, 2010
As I wrote in one of my comments, this is as close as can be to the bible of flight for all aviators. [My copy is a beautiful old 1953 hardcover, with tons of info in the appendices. I don't know whether they are included in the more recent paperback editions.:]

This is the story of a man, a machine, and a dream. The man: Charles A. Lindbergh, who had a passion for flying and a dream to complete a long-distance flight to win fame and fortune and to prove to the world that aviation had finally come of age. The machine: the Ryan NYP, christened the "Spirit of St. Louis" in tribute to the group of like-minded visionaries from the city of St. Louis, Missouri, who backed Lindbergh’s plan to the hilt. The Dream: to fly non-stop from New York to Paris, despite the danger amply demonstrated by the numerous crashes among Lindbergh’s competitors for the prestigious Orteig prize, including the deaths of a half-dozen internationally-renowned fellow aviators; as well as the additional danger imposed by flying solo through the unpredictable weather over the North Atlantic.

In later years Lindbergh never said, “I flew from New York to Paris;” it was always, “We flew…,” because over the course of that 33½–hour flight during which he achieved success beyond his wildest dreams, he and his machine underwent a transformation from being an unknown airmail pilot flying a new and (relatively) untested aircraft, into becoming the most famous person on earth, flying the greatest airplane ever built, aptly named the “Spirit of St. Louis.”

[Perhaps I'm biased about the Spirit since my middle name is Ryan, and not by coincidence either.:]

The movie version starring Jimmy Stewart is pretty faithful to the book and is a darn good family film!

I'm currently in the process of recording "The Spirit of St. Louis" in ~58-minute installments for my local radio program serving blind and reading-impaired listeners. I ought to be done in 18 installments, depending on how much of Lindbergh's voluminous appendices I opt to include in the final episode (or two).

Enjoy a terrific story by the man who lived it! - Curtiss Ryan Mooney
Profile Image for Martin Gibbs.
Author 13 books40 followers
January 15, 2013
“Because I’m going to land.”
That was Lindbergh’s response when asked if he wanted wheels that detached after take-off. It would have saved weight and fuel, but he had determined that he would land.

And he did.

Let’s put aside Lindbergh’s Nazi tendencies after this historic flight; as a teen reading this those many years ago, I knew nothing of that. My father told me about it, after I’d read this book of course, because within this adventure story are powerful lessons.

Tenacity. That is the word that comes to the fore—a rugged determination to set a goal, work your butt off to reach it, and commit to it.

Flying across the ocean in 1927 was a feat that required not only a great deal of daredevil, but a greater proportion of calculation. One did not slap together an airplane and hope to make it. Charles found the right company in Ryan aviation, and by figuring, re-figuring, and re-re-figuring; testing the airplane again and again, he made it.

I grew up with airplanes and a love of flying (my dad flew Civil Air Patrol among 8 million other things. I will never forget the day he put us in a designed spin... a real "don't tell your mom" moment), and flown with him, there were so many lessons on flying in this book. Checklists, navigation, fuel/weight, trusting your instruments, etc. As mentioned earlier, this book offers a much bigger life lesson.
Profile Image for Andy.
123 reviews6 followers
June 23, 2014
As a young boy, I was fascinated with flight, airplanes, and aviators. At the highest level of my pantheon was Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. A native of my state and a pioneer of flight, he shared my values of being soft-spoken, reticent, and modest about his accomplishments. I read, re-read, and eventually inherited my grandmother's copy of "We", his confused and idealized life story, and loved every word.

Once I learned more about him, the second family in Germany and the pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic statements soured me on Lindbergh worship. I didn't actively despise him, but I put him aside for several years.

Recently, I read "The Spirit of St. Louis", and I've gained a new respect for the man and the author. Written before his anti-Semitic views got him in trouble, before his flirtation with Germany, and before his marriage and abduction of his son, "Spirit" reflects his pure love of flight, his conviction that air travel would be the future of America, and his boundless optimism. He has a light and nearly poetic touch with his words, taking far more care and keeping full creative control of this book. This is the definitive portrait of Lindbergh before he soiled himself through philandering, fame, and vitriol.
Profile Image for Bob.
71 reviews2 followers
May 10, 2012
It's been several years since I read this book but it is really a very good read. Especially if you are from St. Louis, you will learn a lot about how this city was very much involved in the early history of aviation. The book is a gripping read almost from the beginning as Lindbergh describes his early interest and pursuit of flying. His work as a mail service pilot gave him unique experience and skills for the solo flight across the Atlantic. I was surprised to learn how directly involved Lindbergh was in the design of the plane itself. Many of the design decisions were made by him. Things such as the configuration and stability (Lindbergh made the plane unstable so that it would help him stay awake). His lack of sleep and the encounter with the thunderhead during the flight were full of suspense as well as many other aspects of the flight. This book is an excellent documentation of aviation history and probably required reading for people who grew up in St. Louis!
Profile Image for Jenalyn .
557 reviews
September 10, 2011
I know that this was a Pulitzer prize book and Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic was a miracle and a necessary step to current aviation. He had some interesting reminiscences. BUT I got so bored. It took me months to get Lindberg "across the Atlantic". All of his thoughts, the technical language, it was just too much for me. I really love his wife's book Gift From the Sea. It is one of my all-time favorites.
Profile Image for Carolyn Page.
1,433 reviews29 followers
August 5, 2020
LONG. Interesting, but long. For anyone interested in planes or early aviation, I'd read this book, which is by way of an autobiography. (It does deal with the Lindbergh kidnapping as well). Not a quick read though, be warned.
Profile Image for Stefania Dzhanamova.
527 reviews307 followers
July 26, 2020
Charles A. Lindbergh was the first American aviator to make the first non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York City to Paris, in 1927.

Lindbergh’s college education ended during his second year in the University of Wisconsin when his growing interest in aviation led to enrollment in a flying school in Nebraska and the purchase of the WWI-era Curtiss “Jenny”, with which he made stunt-flying tours through Southern and Midwestern states. After a year at the army flying schools in Texas, he became an airmail pilot flying the route from St. Louis to Chicago. During that period he obtained financial backing from a group of St. Louis businessmen to compete for the Orteig Prize, which had been offered for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris.

In early 1927, Lindbergh had a single-engine monoplane built to his in San Diego. It was equipped with extra fuel tanks, including one in front of the cabin, which required him to use a periscope to see forward. On May 10–12 Lindbergh flew what was named the Spirit of St. Louis from San Diego to New York in preparation for the transatlantic attempt.
After, only a few days earlier, WWI French flying ace Charles Nungesser and his navigator François Coli disappeared after beginning their effort to collect the Orteig Prize by flying from Paris to New York, Lindbergh proposed to attempt alone.

Lindbergh was delayed by bad weather for several days, but on the morning of May 20th he took off from Long Island. Shortly before nightfall, he passed over Newfoundland on the way to open sea. After flying circa 6.000 km in 34 hours, he landed near Paris, where he was greeted by a large crowd. Overnight, Charles A. Lindbergh had become a hero on both sides of the ocean and a well-known figure worldwide.

Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of Saint Louis isn’t an autobiography only, but an outstanding, compelling story of an unprecedented feat. I devoured this book like some of the best adventure novels I’ve ever picked up. Although I knew he’d land safely in Paris, I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what happened next. Charles Lindbergh lacked neither humor nor amazing style. I never thought a story about aviation could intrigue me that much, but Lindbergh’s autobiography did it. Highly recommendable.
Profile Image for Curtiss.
718 reviews45 followers
May 20, 2010
This is the autobiographical story of a man, a machine, and a dream. It is also virtually the aviator's "bible" for flying enthusiasts.

The Man: Charles A. Lindbergh, who had a passion for flying and a dream to complete a long-distance flight to win fame and fortune and to prove to the world that aviation had finally come of age.

The Machine: the Ryan NYP, christened the Spirit of St. Louis, in tribute to the group of like-minded visionaries from the city of St. Louis, Missouri, who backed Lindbergh’s plan to the hilt.

And the Dream: to fly non-stop from New York to Paris, despite the danger amply demonstrated by the numerous crashes among Lindbergh’s competitors for the prestigious Orteig prize, which resulted in the deaths of a half-dozen internationally-renowned fellow aviators; as well as the additional danger imposed by flying solo through the unpredictable weather over the North Atlantic.

In later years Lindbergh never said, “I flew from New York to Paris.” He was always heard to say, “We flew…,” because over the course of that 33½–hour flight during which he achieved success beyond his wildest dreams, he and his machine underwent a transformation from being an unknown airmail pilot flying a new and (relatively) untested aircraft, into becoming the most famous person on earth, flying the greatest airplane ever built, aptly named the “Spirit of St. Louis.”

This was made into a superb movie starring Jimmie Stewart, which avoided the usual Hollywood excess by confining itself pretty much to the book.

I am currently recording this for my local radio station for blind & reading-impaired listeners as part of what amounts to a series of true-life aviation adventures, including: "God is My Co-pilot" & "The Day I Owned the Sky" [Combat with the Flying Tigers in China:] by Brig. Gen. Robert Lee Scott, Jr., "Wings of Madness" [Aviation Pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont:] by Paul Hoffman, "Stranger to the Ground" [Flying Early Jet Fighters with the National Guard:] by Richard Bach, and "Dr. Eckener's Dream Machine" [The Graf Zeppelin's 'round-the-world flight in 1929:] by Douglas Bottinger.
Profile Image for Guyna.
37 reviews3 followers
June 28, 2016
An another man with huge balls... what an admirable chance and got guts to achieve it...

When it comes to the book, everything is detailed part by part, sec by sec. It is seemed that Lindbergh is a vigorous man when it comes to his job. That characteristic must be adopted/admired by every man who wanna do something solid.

In the content, he mentions about how he left his university while he was fixin' to earn his Mechanical Engineering degree, to achieve his dream job.

And once when he hits the road(flying to), there are many thoughts in his mind.. The monologues with his own mind are reflected successfully. And I like this part most while he was suffering from sleeplessness and trying to convince himself everything is gonna be alright as long as he protects his rationality and consciousness on what he is actually doing :

"If you had a sextant, you could climb over the clouds and take a sight on the stars. Maybe you made a mistake not to carry one.''

"I couldn't take a sight and fly the plane at the same time. The slightest turn throws the bubble off. "

"You never really tired, you know. You took other people word for that. "

"Well, I took the advice of experts. What more could I do?"

"Most of the experts said you couldn't make this flight at all. You didn't believe them! "

It's a easy-reading book. No one shouldn't miss the chance to read and feel his mind flying all along the Atlantic..

" As I grew older, I learned that danger was a part of life not always to be shunned. It often surrounded the things you liked most to do."
55 reviews
August 3, 2017
The book is written as though we are in Lindbergh's head listening to his thoughts, as he gets the idea to fly from New York to Paris, finds financial backing, oversees the building of the plane, flies across the country to New York to wait for favorable weather conditions, then during the 33 hr flight.
What really struck me is that at every moment he was in the air, he was scanning to see what would be the best place to land in a crash. It had happened to him many times before and just a few weeks before Lindbergh's flight, 2 pilots had started from Paris for New York and disappeared.
This was much more interesting than I thought it would be, possibly because there was an air show in our city happening at the same time I was reading. One of the planes at the show was a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis and there was the constant buzz of aircraft in the background.
Profile Image for Peter Mayeux.
99 reviews24 followers
January 9, 2017
I admired Lindbergh's excellent use of language. I felt like I was really with him on this perilous journey from New York to Paris. His sentences are short but descriptive. There is a strong aesthetic perspective offered in his views of what he sees, hears and feels. He places the reader squarely into the adventure. I don't usually read a book like this within a week or so, but I did this time because it was difficult to leave Lindbergh and his refreshing comments about the world and about the future of aviation.
Profile Image for Molly.
2,442 reviews
February 25, 2018
This was about a million pages too long, and the more I researched the man, the more I disliked him. Seriously- he flew across the Atlantic. But how many pages does it take to say that he did it and that he was really tired?
Profile Image for Melissa.
560 reviews
September 9, 2013
Lindbergh is a great storyteller - and this is HIS story to tell. Who else can give as clear of a picture of his trials and tribulations during those isolated hours of flight? A must read for Lindbergh and aviation fans.
3 reviews5 followers
November 21, 2010
Whatever his politics, Charles Lindbergh was an incredible pilot. What a voyage.
Profile Image for John.
708 reviews
October 29, 2011
Interesting read. An hour by hour account of the flight and the time leading up to the flight. Also gives some insight into Lindbergh's youth and background. All and all a useful read.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
671 reviews7 followers
March 31, 2021
I had first heard about this book while reading "The Aviator's Wife." Finally picked this up out of curiosity. This book was written by Charles Lindbergh, and is his story about how he came up with the plan to fly to Paris, all the planning it took, and finally the flight. The beginning was really interesting to me. He was a complete nobody (just a mail pilot) and there were several other pilots trying to fly to Paris at the same time as he was. It really was a race (especially for the prize money at the end for whoever could do it.) And he wasn't the first to take off for it either. Several other pilots tried and either crashed on takeoff, got lost, were never found, etc.

The flying over the ocean part was a little boring (as I'm sure it was for Lindbergh too). He did a lot of flashbacks to his past during those hours, so it was almost like an autobiography.

The part that gets me is all the sleep he didn't get! He hardly slept the night before the flight because of the press and nerves, he about fell asleep while flying, and then all the wrapping stuff up once he got to Paris! He was awake 63 hours!!! He flew for 34+ of those. I get sleepy just thinking about it.

Anyway, his underdog story is pretty amazing. I loved that he stuck to his guns, and got what he wanted in his plane instead of letting people boss him around. He was certain he wanted to do it solo (everyone else thought he was crazy and were flying with 2 pilots), and all the planning of weight calculations - only taking everything that was purely essential. He left a lot of thinks behind so he could have extra fuel. So many little fun things like that I learned. I could have had the Reader's Digest version of the actual flight. It was a looooong book, and the flying/sleepy parts just added to my sleepy/boredom feelings. But I'm glad I read it. Learned a lot.
Profile Image for E.C..
Author 1 book77 followers
May 5, 2021
Update on 5.5.21: So, after discussing this and watching the movie with my class, I do see a lot of stuff that I missed in my original review—the themes this book portrays overall about crying out to God, and being an American.

But I would say overall, the theme was very hidden under a lot of dialogue and just the book's sheer length. It wasn't...obvious.

But again, this isn't fiction, so I totally understand its length. It was just daunting as a reader overall, and I feel like I missed a lot of points because of it. Or maybe I was just so caught up in the prose, as a writer. XD

Anywayyy. All this goes to say is that I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book, honestly, so thus why I guess I won't rate it right now.


ORIGINAL REVIEW (written on 3.30.21)

Firstly, let me just clarify that I read this book not of my own volition—but as a reading assignment for a literature class.

And secondly, let me just say—wow.

I went into this book with very low expectations. I've heard of Charles Lindberg, but never really thought much of his flight or even knew he had written an autobiography (which, side note: must have been fun to write). But, I'm happy to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Well, sort of.

-The way Lindberg described feelings and emotions and sights was just—gorgeous. I could literally picture most scenes in my head, and he took certain feelings (like that of growing up, being distant from reality, etc) that I've always felt and capsulated them in ink on a page. Like, I don't know about you, but that takes SKILL.
-His writing style, while slightly hard to understand, overall flowed very well.
-There were so. many. themes. This book wasn't just about planes—though there was plenty of that—it was about life, and his view of it and how it should be lived. I actually found myself agreeing with some aspects of his philosophy, and kept thinking to myself: "oh, a kindred spirit!"
-Memories of the past. This is more of a personal thing, but as a person who likes turning to the past as entertainment/pondering it over and over like a cow chewing its cud, I really liked how he kept revisiting memories from his childhood and how they shaped him as a person.

-The length. It daunted me, and it didn't help that my edition was in such small print. I couldn't really sit for longer than ten minutes without my eyes feeling like they were about to fall out (okay, maybe not literally :P). I just felt like some scenes were just unnecessary, and the majority of the book was just him flying in The Spirit of St. Louis and the thoughts running through his head.
-The way some characters spoke just got on my nerves. . . the dialogue was super hard to read.
-I feel like parts of the story dragged a bit unnecessarily.
-The profanity. I was NOT expecting a bunch of curse words* in this autobiography, and they kind of startled me, to be honest. There was a lot of cursing in the dialogue for no apparent reason. Now, I totally get that this is an autobiography, and it's based on real-life events and people, but still. It wasn't necessary.

*from what I remember, there were a lot of d-words sprinkled into the dialogue, as well as one b-word. I can't remember anything else, but oh well—I read this over the course of three months!

Yes, I actually started highlighting my favorite lines about 3/4 of the way through the book.

"I feel that I've safely recrossed the bridge to life—broken the strands which have been tugging me toward the universe beyond." —Page 434

"What's the matter with this strange flight, where dreams become reality, and reality returns to dreams?" —Page 460

"I've been away, far away, planets and heavens away, until only a thread was left to lead me back to earth and life. I've followed that thread with swinging compasses, through lonely canyons, over pitfalls of sleep, past the lure of enchanted islands, fearing that at any moment it would break." —Page 460

Overall, I actually found myself enjoying this book, despite having to write essays on it. While it did drag, the description and Lindberg's style of writing was a pleasant surprise (probably because I'm a writer, and I know how much that takes!).
Profile Image for Katie.
136 reviews
October 8, 2021
I have a few thoughts. Mostly positive.

First, I'm impressed. Lindbergh builds the anticipation well in his writing, particularly leading up to the flight and then the landing in France. Considering everything in this book can be googled and there is no doubt what happens (I assume anyone who picks up this book is aware that Lindbergh succeeded) he does an impressive job drawing the reader into an "I need to know what happens next" mood.

Second, that anticipation and excitement got a bit sluggish for me while he was actually in the air. Here, again, I'm stylistically intrigued. He bounced between the flight and flashbacks, which was not as attention grabbing for me and I found myself dragging a bit. That said, it was also the part of the flight that he was tired and struggling to stay awake for, so even though I didn't enjoy it much, the change in style made sense.
April 12, 2022
I bought this book secondhand because I heard on a podcast that during Lindbergh's 33+ hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean, he began to hallucinate that he was not alone in the cockpit. What I wasn't expecting was how much I would love the rest of this book. Charles was born at the turn of the century, just in time for aviation to make massive leaps forward, and he was a large contributor to this. At the age of 25 he makes a transcontinental flight from St. Louis to New York then New York to Paris, France and every moment beforehand requires careful planning, rigorous efforts to fund the trip, and Charles' own expertise as a pilot and army cadet. I'm honestly surprised to say I loved reading this. Would recommend.
124 reviews5 followers
July 13, 2021
I was breathless following the progress of Charles Lindbergh from choosing his plane, his cross country travels at night over the Rocky Mountains, his take off from NY on to his Atlantic crossing, & subsequent landing in Paris. Loved this very lengthy book.
Profile Image for Alexander Levine.
1 review56 followers
September 10, 2015
This is an amazing book, especially if you have interest in aviation (are a pilot) or are just curious about remarkable people and how their brain works and the process of putting together a remarkable project like being the first person to fly across the world!

It's exhilarating to read about his journey across the Atlantic Ocean and being the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris and the book was surprisingly well written. Nonpilots may find some of the technical jargon a bit boring, but there's still plenty in there.

Lessons I learned from Charles Lindbergh (may contain spoilers):
1) Money doesn't matter. Ideas, confidence and the desire to change the world do. He had no money for his crazy desire to achieve the first transcontinental flight, but persevered to find people who would finance his operation. He didn't ask for a blind investment either, but had a very specific and easy plan to get his investors their money back through the prize offered for the first transatlantic flight.

2) Going against the grain and common knowledge can work for you. He was adamant about doing his flight in a single engine airplane while pretty much all of the other aviators wanted to use machines with multiple engines. Many thought it was foolish to attempt such a flight on an airplane with one engine, but he was the only one succeeded while others failed.

3) Humans can stay awake for 40 hours while navigating by stars and doing mental arithmetic! He did this in the days without GPS, VORs by plain old dead reckoning! He didn't sleep the night before! He slapped himself multiple times to keep himself awake. The main "conflict" in this book is his damn fatigue and it's fascinating! Next time I complain about how tired I am, I'm going to try to think of this book.

4) Vigilance and safety mind seemed to prevail. Despite this glorious undertaking, he still thought about what he would in case of forced landings and had very specific plans. (i.e. if he reached a certain point, he would continue toward Europe, if he experienced engine probs before a certain point, he would turn back).

5) Lindbergh was a badass committed to the US mail. Jumping out of a parachute, having his plane crash and then going back to pick up the f***ing mail?! Damn man. One day, I will be as cool as you.

6) The French welcome and reception may kill you. Maybe they were jealous that it was an American who achieved the flight? (Okay, only a little bit -- who wouldn't be?). Seriously though, it was pretty awesome what a reception he got when he arrived; despite the souvenir hunters messing his airplane up a bit.

7) If you're changing history, you don't need a visa to go to France.

8) Don't wait for bureaucracy to take its sweet time if you're going to make history. Just do it. Yeah, so maybe he didn't quality for the cash prize because of some technicality, but he didn't delay his departure. He took his window of chance, even though he didn't sleep the night before, because he had to.

9) Every ounce counts when flying across the globe in a single engine airplane. He refused to take most souvenirs and only brought the essentials. Rather than be bogged down with sentiment and material packages, he knew his mission in hand and only brought what was necessary (with one exception or so).

10) You can accomplish a lot when you're only 25 or 26. Hey, I'm 26 now. Damn, Lindbergh. You set the bar too high.

...the biggest mystery though: did he ever use the bathroom?!
Profile Image for Christopher.
169 reviews36 followers
March 17, 2015
Charles Lindbergh's rather spectacular history of his quest to become the first pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop.

Filled with facts and insight, Lindbergh wrote and edited this carefully over many years--even pointing out in the author's notes that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, pored over each sentence to assure proper grammar and punctuation. The book was a deserved winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and stands as arguably Lindbergh's last great achievement in aviation.

He chronicles the project to create a long-range aircraft for the crossing attempt in fascinating detail. To me, the best stretch of the book is from the genesis of the project to the beginning hours of the flight, past Nova Scotia and into the far reaches of the Atlantic.

Once by himself over the ocean, the narrative grinds down in stories of Lindbergh's childhood and his growing difficulty in staying awake.

Indeed, the key to Lindbergh's success is the fact that he somehow stayed awake for the entire 33.5-hour flight. And what a monumental effort that took--he struggled for many hours just to keep his eyes open, when his body was desperately trying to shut down and get sleep. But sleep would have killed him, so he fought incredibly against the simple forces of human nature--his will was almost not enough to overcome it. As tedious as these parts are to read, they are nevertheless the true testament to Lindbergh's ordeal and how dangerous that part of the flight was.

Finally he reaches the tip of Ireland, and from there he eventually realizes he'll complete the journey. The entry into France is triumphant, as is his landing at Le Bourget airfield, which was the last of Lindbergh's many trials over that two-day period.

My only major quarrel with the book is that Lindbergh spends disappointingly little time discussing post-flight events in Paris and the residual effect of the flight in subsequent months. I think it would have been valuable to read Lindbergh's singular perspective on this period, when he was transformed literally overnight from an anonymous aviator to arguably the most famous man in the western world. Lindbergh chops off the post-flight so neatly that to me it's like hearing a quickly fading roar.

On a side note, Lindbergh thanks his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh--herself an accomplished and successful writer--for her contribution to the book, writing that she'll never know how much she lent to the manuscript. Contrarily, it has always been my theory that Anne knew exactly what she contributed; that she added much to her husband's writing, and indeed we--the readers--will never know just how much of the book is actually hers.

This book documents one of the ultimate milestones in aviation history. I consider it a cornerstone book for any serious fan of aviation.
20 reviews
January 18, 2013
I read many autobiographies and biographies as a kid and this one has endured in my mind as one I still vividly remember. I was in high school at the time and I picked this book out of the book cart in American History class because it was the thickest book on the cart. I didn't pick it out for me though, but for my friend who was in the hospital and I was getting his work for him. After jokingly presenting it to him at the hospital, I told him I would take it and give him my book on the island sky people.
I slowly read the book, concentrating on each part of the story of Charles Lindbergh's decision to fly nonstop transatlantic as nobody had done before. The story of choosing an airfield, selecting a plane, the details to work out, route and destination. Then through all the preparations and the long detailed description of the flight. I was interested in his story and happy that it turned out I had read the book.
Later in life I lived in St. Louis, and I can say more than anything about those jets at Lambert Airport, boy, are they loud. I was enamoured with the airport and the spirit of flight that exists in St. Louis, and was thrilled to be a part of it in the end. The stories of flight development have always made interesting topics from aircraft, test pilots, astronauts to space flight. And too, there is the excitement of air shows, as I experienced in downtown St. Louis one morning. The Spirit of St. Louis is an early part of the greatness that has existed in this country in flight.
Profile Image for Meredith.
427 reviews
May 24, 2017
The Sixth Hour...(above Nova Scotia)

"What a contrast between my cockpit, high over Nova Scotian wilds, and the silvered settings of a city table! What amazing magic is carried in an airplane's wings -- New York at breakfast; Nova Scotia at lunch. There hasn't been time enough between to prepare my mind and body for the difference. How can breakfast-to-lunch in time equal New York-to-Nova Scotia in distance? Flying has torn apart the relationship of space and time; it uses our old clock but with new yardsticks. If I'd watch fresh-sown wheat spring to a harvest since the dawn, it would hardly be stranger than this experience."

The Twenty-Eighth Hour...(on sight of Ireland after Atlantic crossing)

"One senses only through change, appreciates only after absence. I haven't been far enough away to know the earth before. For twenty-five years I've lived on it, and yet not seen it till this moment. For nearly two thousand hours, I've flown over it without realising what wonders lay below, what crystal clarity -- snow-white foam on black-rock shores -- curving hill above its valley -- the hospitality of little houses -- the welcome of waving arms. During my entire life I've accepted these gifts of God to man, and not known what was mine until this moment. It's like rain after drought; spring after a northern winter. I've been to eternity and back. I know how the dead would feel to live again.

Profile Image for John Lee.
Author 8 books24 followers
July 31, 2014
A book like no other. But a large section of it was almost unreadable for me.

Yes, I've never encountered a book like this. It is gripping and revealing and phenomenal (five stars) until about halfway through (as I remember). It was so good that I got my father and father-in-law to read along with me (and they NEVER read), but then we hit the place where the book focuses so heavily on hour-by-hour instrument readings--altitude, wind speed, etc--and the story stalled (sorry for the pun). I never do this, but it got so slow that I jumped ahead to the ending.

Having said all of the above, THE BOOK IS STILL COMPLETELY WORTH THE TIME AND MONEY, BELIEVE ME!! But be prepared for the slow section (and consider giving yourself permission to jump ahead). Seriously, the first half (or so) is outstanding and remarkable, all the more so because it's all true.

I'm not sure where I read it, but I believe Lindbergh was encouraged to edit down the second half, but to him it was all very critical information (and I respect that--the guy accomplished something that frankly shouldn't have been possible, not the way he did it). Perhaps aviation enthusiasts would appreciate that section more than I could.
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