Welcome to the APG Library, and warm wishes from Tiffany, your librarian! I have included favorites from our APG community, but I plan for this reading list to grow regularly. If you have suggestions for books to add, please send me an email!
Fiction | Historical Fiction | Aviation Memoirs & Biographies | Astronautics | Crash & Near Miss Investigations | Military Aviation | Other Non-Fiction
*denotes the first book in an ongoing series; click on the series title to find the entire sequence of related books.
The Flight Attendant: A Novel, by Chris Bohjalian
Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport…
[This] is the riveting story of America’s race for technology, overtaken by our greatest enemy’s mastery of “Star Wars.” The U.S. arsenal of nuclear missiles has been neutralized. America’s only hope: The Old Dog Zero One, a battle-scarred bomber fully renovated with modern hardware – and equipped with the deadliest state-of-the-art armaments known to man…
An F-14 aviator takes his readers into the cockpits, ready-rooms, and bunkrooms of today’s Navy to show what it’s like to fight in a time of so-called peace. From the opening chapter where a Tomcat fighter squadron’s commanding officer botches an intercept of a hostile Iranian F-4 to the final uplifting scene, his novel reveals the inner workings of the military as only an insider can. It is a thriller without an airshow groupie’s pretense, a fighter pilot’s story as honest as it is riveting…
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
The Cone of Silence, by David Beaty
It is the early, dangerous days in the life of a new jet airliner. Millions of pounds have been invested in her – national prestige is at stake…
Then Victor Fox comes near to disaster. The Court of Enquiry lays the blame on the pilot…
The planes continue to fly….
Jake Grafton is an A-6 Intruder pilot during the Vietnam War who flies his bomber on sorties past enemy flak and SAM missiles, and then must maneuver his plane, often at night, onto the relatively small deck of an aircraft carrier…
The Hamfist Trilogy: Hamfist in Combat, by G.E. Nolly
The complete Hamfist series: Hamfist Over The Trail, Hamfist Down!, and Hamfist Over Hanoi. It’s 1968. Hamilton Hancock is the Distinguished Graduate at his Undergraduate Pilot Training class at Laughlin Air Force Base. He is on the fast track to become a fighter pilot, slated to fly an F-100, F-105 or F-4 in Vietnam. Then, the “needs of the service” intervenes, and he is assigned to fly one of the smallest, slowest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, the O-2A…
Into the Skies: A World War I Aviator Story, by Christopher Carroll
This story portrays an American who gets caught up in World War One as an ‘aviator’ from the beginning to the end, an unusual achievement, which makes for an absorbing tale. The author has taken elements from the memoirs of aviation pioneers, most of which began in the last years of the war, modified them to reflect changes that occurred from 1914 to 1918, and added other adventures…
Night Flight, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In this gripping novel, Saint-Exupéry tells about the brave men who piloted night mail planes from Patagonia, Chile, and Paraguay to Argentina in the early days of commercial aviation…
To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War, by Jeff Shaara
Spring 1916: the horror of a stalemate on Europe’s western front. France and Great Britain are on one side of the barbed wire, a fierce German army is on the other. Shaara opens the window onto the otherworldly tableau of trench warfare as seen through the eyes of a typical British soldier who experiences the bizarre and the horrible–a “Tommy” whose innocent youth is cast into the hell of a terrifying war…
The Wild Blue: The Novel of the U.S. Air Force, by Walter J. Boyne
Aviation Memoirs & Biographies
Written by gifted storyteller Winston Groom (author of Forrest Gump), The Aviators tells the saga of three extraordinary aviators, and how they redefine heroism through their genius, daring, and uncommon courage…
Behind the Cockpit Door: The Illustrated Memoirs of an Airline Pilot, by Arthur Whitlock
The memoirs of a pilot whose experience ran from from 1940s India to British Airways in the 1980s, flying Dakotas, Vikings, Bristol Freighters, Ambassadors, Britannias, Tridents and Tristars.
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram
John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever — the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than forty seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country’s most legendary fighter aircraft — the F-15 and F-16. Still others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story…
The Cannibal Queen: A Flight into the Heart of America, by Stephen Coonts
In The Cannibal Queen, [Stephen Coonts] turns his storytelling genius to nonfiction with an exultant account of the summer of ’91 — of three glorious months spent exploring America from the cockpit of a 1942 Stearman vintage biplane. Joining the ranks of John Steinbeck and Charles Kuralt, Coonts takes us on an extraordinary adventure, touching down in all forty-eight of the continental United States, from sea to shining sea.
Fate is the Hunter: A Pilot’s Memoir, by Ernest K. Gann
Ernest K. Gann’s classic memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. In his inimitable style, Gann brings you right into the cockpit, recounting both the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was anything but routine.
Fighter Pilot, by Paul Richey
Originally published anonymously in 1941, this was the first and finest story of a World War Two fighter pilot. The author’s personal journal takes us into the action of the air battles preceding the fall of France, recounting both the unnerving lull right before the violence–and the fatigue of the Blitzkrieg, with its non-stop combat.
Geoffrey Wellum tells the inspiring, often terrifying true story of his coming of age amid the roaring, tumbling dogfights of the fiercest air war the world had ever seen…
Flight of Passage: A True Story, by Rinker Buck
Writer Rinker Buck looks back more than 30 years to a summer when he and his brother, at ages 15 and 17 respectively, became the youngest duo to fly across America, from New Jersey to California. Having grown up in an aviation family, the two boys bought an old Piper Cub, restored it themselves, and set out on the grand journey…
The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s — and won…
Michael O’Leary: A Life in Full Flight, by Alan Ruddock
Michael O’Leary is a business giant. He transformed Ryanair from a loss-making joke of an Irish carrier into one of the most valuable airlines in the world, and in the process he has revolutionized the very nature of commercial aviation. In this, the first biography of O’Leary, Alan Ruddock portrays the man in three dimensions and examines the business miracle – often talked about but poorly understood – that O’Leary has wrought.
North Star over my Shoulder: A Flying Life, by Bob Buck
It is rare to find one person whose life embodies the history of an industry the way Bob Buck’s life encompasses the history of commercial aviation in America. Buck first flew in the 1920s, inspired by the exploits of Charles Lindbergh. In 1930, at age sixteen, he flew solo from coast to coast, breaking the junior transcontinental speed record. In 1936 he flew nonstop from Burbank, California, to Columbus, Ohio, in a 90-horsepower Monocoupe to establish a world distance record for light airplanes…
Skybound: A Journey in Flight, by Rebecca Loncraine
In her mid-30s Rebecca Loncraine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, and after months of gruelling treatment, she flew in a glider for the first time. In that engineless plane, soaring 3000 feet over the landscape of her childhood with only the rising thermals to take her higher and the birds to lead the way, she fell in love. If illness meant Rebecca had lost touch with the world around her, gliding showed her a way to learn to live again…
Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot, by Mark Vanhoenacker
The twenty-first century has relegated airplane flight—a once remarkable feat of human ingenuity—to the realm of the mundane. Mark Vanhoenacker, a 747 pilot who left academia and a career in the business world to pursue his childhood dream of flight, asks us to reimagine what we—both as pilots and as passengers—are actually doing when we enter the world between departure and discovery…
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…In this authorized biography the woman who says she kept in the background during her ATA years and left all the glamour of publicity to her colleagues, finally reveals all about her action-packed career which spans almost a century of aviation, and her love for the skies which, even in her nineties, never falters.
Stuka Pilot, by Hans Ulrich Rudel
Hans Ulrich Rudel was a Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War 2. The most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, Rudel was one of only 27 military men to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds…
Success on the Step: Flying with Kenmore Air, by C. Marin Faure
Success on the Step is the story of a unique group of people. They happen to be people who’ve done amazing things with seaplanes but it’s a people story, nevertheless. People who have never wavered from the principle on which the company was founded: Do the right thing.
Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, by Mark Hasara
From a veteran air-refueling expert who flew missions for over two decades during the Cold War, Gulf War, and Iraq War comes a thrilling eyewitness account of modern warfare, with inspirational stories and crucial lessons for people on the battlefield, in boardrooms, and in their everyday lives…
Think like a Bird: An Army Pilot’s Story, by Alex Kimbell
“Think like a bird” was the advice given to the author by his mentor during his early flying training. This autobiography deals with every aspect of learning to fly, and is offset by Alex Kimbell’s pilot’s humour.
The Wind Beneath My Wings: John Hutchinson Concorde Pilot, by Susan Ottaway
From the first time Concorde took to the skies on 2 March 1969 until its final flight on 26 November 2003, the supersonic jet captured the imagination of the public. When Air France and British Airways announced their decision to stop flying Concorde there was a feeling of sadness and disbelief amongst the fans of this beautiful aeroplane around the world. But what of the men who flew her? There were fewer Concorde pilots than US astronauts, but only a handful of them ever had public prominence. This is the story of one of those better known pilots, John Hutchinson…
Wings on my Sleeve, by Eric Brown
Eric Brown went to Germany in 1939 on an exchange course, and his first experience of the war came when the Gestapo arrested him, not knowing he was an RAF pilot. The rest is history. He is the only man alive to have flown every major and most minor combat aircraft of the Second World War (as well as all the early jets), and has been interviewed by the top Nazis. While testing the Nazi jets in war-stricken Germany, he interviewed (among others) Hermann Goering and Hanna Reitsch. A living legend among aviation enthusiasts, his amazing life story deserves to be told in full—from crashing in front of Winston Churchill to unmasking a Neo-Nazi ring in the 1950s to his terrifying flights in primitive jets and rockets.
The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?
Apollo 13, by James Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
In April 1970, during the glory days of the Apollo space program, NASA sent Navy Captain Jim Lovell and two other astronauts on America’s fifth mission to the moon. Only fifty-five hours into the flight of Apollo 13, disaster struck: a mysterious explosion rocked the ship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. Written with all the color and drama of the best fiction, APOLLO 13 (previously published as Lost Moon) tells the full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe…
In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don’t visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff.
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey, by Michael Collins
NASA astronaut Michael Collins trained as an experimental test pilot before venturing into space as a vital member of the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions. In Carrying the Fire, his account of his voyages into space and the years of training that led up to them, Collins reveals the human tensions, the physical realities, and the personal emotions surrounding the early years of the space race. Collins provides readers with an insider’s view of the space program and conveys the excitement and wonder of his journey to the moon…
This memoir of a veteran NASA flight director tells riveting stories from the early days of the Mercury program through Apollo 11 (the moon landing) and Apollo 13, for both of which Kranz was flight director…Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the Moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers’ only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.
A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin
On the night of July 20, 1969, our world changed forever when two Americans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked on the moon. Now the greatest event of the twentieth century is magnificently retold through the eyes and ears of the people who were there. Based on the interviews with twenty three moon voyagers, as well as those who struggled to get the program moving, journalist Andrew Chaikin conveys every aspect of the missions with breathtaking immediacy: from the rush of liftoff, to the heart-stopping lunar touchdown, to the final hurdle of reentry.
Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, by Alan Shephard, Deke Slayton, Jay Barbree and Howard Benedict
The never-before-told story of the courage, dedication, and teamwork that made the journey to the moon possible–an intense human drama of the sacrifices and risks asked of a remarkable group of astronauts. Shepard and Slayton, part of the pioneering space program from the beginning, tell this fascinating inside story.
The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe began The Right Stuff at a time when it was unfashionable to contemplate American heroism. Nixon had left the White House in disgrace, the nation was reeling from the catastrophe of Vietnam, and in 1979–the year the book appeared–Americans were being held hostage by Iranian militants. Yet it was exactly the anachronistic courage of his subjects that captivated Wolfe. In his foreword, he notes that as late as 1970, almost one in four career Navy pilots died in accidents. “The Right Stuff,” he explains, “became a story of why men were willing–willing?–delighted!–to take on such odds in this, an era literary people had long since characterized as the age of the anti-hero.”
Crash & Near Miss Investigations
35 Miles from Shore: The Ditching and Rescue of ALM Flight 980, by Emilio Corsetti III
On May 2, 1970, a DC-9 jet with 57 passengers and a crew of six departed from New York’s JFK International Airport en route to the tropical island of St. Maarten, but four hours and 34 minutes later the flight ended in the shark-infested waters of the Caribbean. It was, and remains, the only open-water ditching of a commercial jet. The subsequent rescue of survivors took nearly three hours and involved the coast guard, navy, and marines. This gripping account of that fateful day recounts what was happening inside the cabin, the cockpit, and the helicopters as the crews struggled against the weather and dwindling daylight to rescue the survivors, who had only their life vests and a lone escape chute to keep them afloat.
The Day the Sky Fell Down: Story of the Stockport Air Disaster, by Stephen Morrin
A chronicle of the Stockport air disaster of 1967, authored by an aviation historian.
Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, by Laurence Gonzales
As hundreds of rescue workers waited on the ground, United Airlines Flight 232 wallowed drunkenly over the bluffs northwest of Sioux City. The plane slammed onto the runway and burst into a vast fireball. The rescuers didn’t move at first: nobody could possibly survive that crash. And then people began emerging from the summer corn that lined the runways. Miraculously, 184 of 296 passengers lived.
No one has ever attempted the complete reconstruction of a crash of this magnitude. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of survivors, crew, and airport and rescue personnel, Laurence Gonzales, a commercial pilot himself, captures, minute by minute, the harrowing journey of pilots flying a plane with no controls and flight attendants keeping their calm in the face of certain death…
QF32, by Richard de Crespigny
On 4 November 2010, a flight from Singapore to Sydney came within a knife edge of being one of the world’s worst air disasters. Shortly after leaving Changi Airport, an explosion shattered Engine 2 of Qantas flight QF32 – an Airbus A380, the largest and most advanced passenger plane ever built. Hundreds of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the wing and fuselage, creating chaos as vital flight systems and back-ups were destroyed or degraded…
Scapegoat: A Flight Crew’s Journey from Heroes to Villains to Redemption, by Emilio Corsetti III
On April 4, 1979, a Boeing 727 with 82 passengers and a crew of 7 rolled over and plummeted from an altitude of 39,000 feet to within seconds of crashing were it not for the crew’s actions to save the plane. The cause of the unexplained dive was the subject of one of the longest NTSB investigations at that time…
Sully: My Search for What Really Matters, by Chesley B. Sullenberger III and Jeffrey Zaslow
The inspirational autobiography by one of the most captivating American heroes of our time, Capt. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger—the pilot who miraculously landed a crippled US Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.
The Tombstone Imperative: The Truth About Air Safety, by Andrew Weir
Covering an investigation into the safety of passenger aircraft and flight by the producer of the Black Box, this book combines chilling survivors’ tales, detailed descriptions of aircraft crashes and causes with serious discussion of safety issues.
Four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly, a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail—a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber in the squeeze of a trigger. What happened next would defy imagination and later be called the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II…
The Quick and the Dead: The Perils of Post-War Test Flying, by William Arthur Waterton
First published in 1956, but still relevant and thought-provoking today, this book is an absolute revelation on test flying with the British aircraft organizations and manufacturers in the 1950s. Written from the pilot s viewpoint, with refreshing candor and honesty which allegedly cost him his job at the Daily Express this account details what really went on behind the scenes in the defense world…
Rolling Thunder 1965-68: Johnson’s Air War over Vietnam, by Richard P. Hallion
The bombing campaign that was meant to keep South Vietnam secure, Rolling Thunder became a byword for pointless, ineffective brutality, and was a key factor in America’s Vietnam defeat…Dr Richard P. Hallion, a vastly knowledgeable air power expert at the Pentagon, explains in this fully illustrated study how the might of the US air forces was crippled by inadequate strategic thinking, poor pilot training, ill-suited aircraft, and political interference.
Spitfire: A Very British Love Story, by John Nichol
Bestselling author John Nichol’s passionate portrait of this magnificent fighter aircraft, its many innovations and updates, and the people who flew and loved them, carries the reader beyond the dogfights over Kent and Sussex. Spanning the full global reach of the Spitfire’s deployment during WWII, from Malta to North Africa and the Far East, then over the D-Day beaches, it is always accessible, effortlessly entertaining and full of extraordinary spirit.
Spitfire on my Tail: A View from the Other Side, by Ulrich Steinhilper
The Big Book of Flight, by Rowland White
Everybody dreams of flying. For as long as we’ve been able to look up and see the birds we’ve wanted to join them. But our efforts to do so have not always been as elegant or accomplished. Instead, there’s been danger, excitement, courage and brilliance.The Big Book of Flight is a celebration of it all, and a lot more besides, packed with derring-do stories of aviation’s pioneers as well as fascinating profiles of remarkable planes, from Spitfires to Space Shuttles (and a number of other wondrous projects that never quite got off the drawing board)…
For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web’s popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know…
Corsairville: The Lost Domain of the Flying Boat, by Graham Coster
It was the obscure legend of the flying boat Corsair, rescued from the Belgian Congo in an epic salvage operation, that fired Graham Coster’s quest for the lost world of the flying boat. Coster’s journey begins in Southampton, from where Imperial Airways’ Empire boats departed to fly up the Nile on their way to South Africa, and takes him to the flying boats’ old haunts in Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, from Lake Naivasha to Victoria Falls.
Handling the Big Jets, by David P. Davies
The significant differences in flying qualities between jet transport aeroplanes and piston-engined transport aeroplanes together with some other aspects of jet transport handling.
How to Land a Plane, by Mark Vanhoenacker
Imagine the pilot of the plane you’re on is suddenly ill. Only you can take over. What do you do? Mark Vanhoenacker, the airline pilot who makes poetry out of the science of flight technology, turns the nerve-wracking reality of hitting the runway into a practical but also meaningful experience, in this fascinating guide to the magical art of flying.
Loud and Clear: The Full Answer to Aviation’s Vital Question: Are the Jets Really Safe? By Robert J. Serling
A case for safety in aviation, written to aid those who have a fear of flying.