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Into the Blue: American Writing on Aviation and Spaceflight

edited by Joseph J. Corn, The Library of America, New York, 2011, $40

The prestigious Library of America, which for more than three decades has striven to keep the nation’s best and most significant writing in print, serves its mission extremely well with this comprehensive aerospace anthology. Former Stanford University history professor Joseph Corn proves his cultural and literary grasp, for he brings together eclectic selections that provide a satisfying window into the world of flight.

Thumbing through the book, pilots and armchair aviators will find excerpts from old favorites by Ernie Gann and Richard Bach, as well as passages from the memoirs of Charles Lindbergh and John Glenn. In a previously unpublished piece, World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker reveals that he was “scared to death” on his first combat air patrol. Using logbook entries to accentuate the story of her maiden Atlantic flight, Amelia Earhart talks about the “moment of lowest ebb,” followed by the exhilaration of sighting land.

What sets this book apart from other airminded compilations is that it incorporates aviation-related narratives from some of literature’s leading lights. Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos and Norman Mailer interpret vastly different flights that bore the common mark of daring. The selections span the full history of human ascent, starting with observations of one of the first balloon experiments and concluding with a description of life aboard the International Space Station.

Into the Blue is among those splendid books published once in a long while that are destined to enjoy an infinite shelf life. Readers will delight in returning to it to reacquaint themselves with classics and to revel in discovering lesser-known treasures.


Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.