“The Great Air Race,” by John Lancaster, recounts the early days of American aviation, when the budding industry struggled to get off the ground (literally) and keep aviators alive.
“Among the many virtues of John Lancaster’s delightful The Great Air Race is how vividly it conveys the entirely different world of aviation at the dawn of the industry, a century ago … My favorite book about Antarctic exploration is The Worst Journey in the World, by the British writer Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a survivor of a doomed expedition in 1910. The Great Air Race has the same horrific but heroic fascination. Page by page you think, What else can go wrong? Page by page, you want to learn more … This is Lancaster’s first book. But he deftly pulls off some tricks that are harder than they seem. He embeds social, economic and political history as he writes — for instance, how coast-to-coast air travel fits into the history of wagon trails, railroads and highways connecting the continent … I have read a lot about aviation and the aircraft industry over the years, but almost everything in this tale was new to me. You might take it on your next airline flight, pause to look out the window and spare a thought for those who helped make it all possible.”
— James Fallows, New York Times Book Review