As her 120th birthday approaches, the buzz around Amelia Earhart and her mysterious disappearance still refuses to dissipate. The recent History Channel documentary featuring potentially revealing new evidence about the mystery drew over four million viewers, and the world is clearly charmed by the adventurous spirit of the feisty female aviator. In honor of her birthday, check out these Amelia Earhart books, as well as other fiction and nonfiction honoring daring women pilots. Publishers’ descriptions included below.
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
When Anne Morrow, a shy college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States. But despite this and other major achievements, she is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler
Amelia Earhart captured the hearts of the nation after becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928. And her disappearance on an around-the-world flight in 1937 is an enduring mystery.
Based on 10 years of research, East to the Dawn provides a richly textured portrait of Earhart in all her complexity. It’s the perfect complement to the October 2009 movie Amelia, starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, and Ewan McGregor.
Last Flight by Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart’s account of her ill-fated last flight around the world, begun in 1937, remains one of the most moving and absorbing adventure stories of all time. Last Flight compiles the letters, diary entries and charts that she sent to her husband, G.P. Putnam at each stage of her trip. In her own words, these dispatches offer a window into her experience on this ground-breaking journey and illustrate her cheerful, charming nature. Her story continues to intrigue and inspire people to this day.
The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall
The award-winning, national bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard sends an unlikely trio on an exhilarating adventure high above the American Midwest of the 1920s in a spirited, “entertaining surprise” (Publishers Weekly) of a novel in league with Water for Elephants and The Aviator’s Wife.
They are barnstormers… the daredevil fliers whose airborne acrobatics are a thrilling spectacle crisscrossing the Heartland skies. Rising above each of their circumstances in their own “flying circus” are Cora Rose Haviland, a privileged young woman left penniless when her father’s fortune is lost; Charles “Gil” Gilchrist, a World War I pilot whose traumatic past fuels his death-defying stunts; and 18-year-old Henry Schuler, the son of a German immigrant farmer, on the run from shocking accusations. Each holds secrets that could destroy their makeshift family. And, on their adrenaline-charged journey of self-discovery, one of them must pay the price.
With the poignant and powerful storytelling voice that made Whistling Past the Graveyard “a classic, a book people want to pass along for generations to come” (Feathered Quill Book Reviews), Susan Crandall artfully weaves the stories of three unforgettable characters, each searching for salvation that waits just beyond the horizon.
Wings by Karl Friedrich
Based on the true World War II stories of America’s first female military pilots, this historic novel follows the story of a young woman from a dirt-poor farm family. Sally Ketchum has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly and to dare to love. But when Tex dies in a freak accident, Sally must make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program at a special school known as Avenger, where she learns to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest planes. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer who seems to offer her everything she could want. Despite her obvious mastery of flying, many members of the military are unable to accept that a skirt has any place in a cockpit. Soon Sally finds herself struggling against a high-powered Washington lawyer that wants to close down Avenger once and for all.
The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler
This captivating, breakout novel — told in alternating viewpoints — brings readers from the skies of World War II to the present day, where a woman is prepared to tell her secrets at last.
Estranged from her family since just after World War II, Mary Browning has spent her entire adult life hiding from her past. Now 87 years old and a widow, she is still haunted by secrets and fading memories of the family she left behind. Her one outlet is the writing group she’s presided over for a decade, though she’s never written a word herself. When a new member walks in — a 15-year-old girl who reminds her so much of her beloved sister Sarah — Mary is certain fate delivered Elyse Strickler to her for a reason.
Mary hires the serious-eyed teenager to type her story about a daring female pilot who, during World War II, left home for the sky and gambled everything for her dreams — including her own identity.
As they begin to unravel the web of Mary’s past, Mary and Elyse form an unlikely friendship. Together they discover it’s never too late for second chances and that sometimes forgiveness is all it takes for life to take flight in the most unexpected ways.
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Beryl Markham’s life was a true epic, complete with shattered societal expectations, torrid love affairs, and desperate crash landings. A rebel from a young age, the British-born Markham was raised in Kenya’s unforgiving farmlands. She learned to be a bush pilot at a time when most Africans had never seen a plane. In 1936, she accepted the ultimate challenge: to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, a feat that fellow female aviator Amelia Earhart had completed in reverse just a few years before. Her successes and her failures — and her deep, lifelong love of the “soul of Africa” — are all chronicled here with wrenching honesty and agile wit. Hailed by National Geographic as one of the greatest adventure books of all time, West with the Night is the sweeping account of a fearless and dedicated woman.
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman — Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.
Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.
Set against the majestic landscape of early-20th-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
Oct. 11th, 1943 — A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun. When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution. As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in the New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.
I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn
In this brilliantly imagined novel, Amelia Earhart tells us what happened after she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea one glorious, windy day in 1937. And she tells us about herself.
There is her love affair with flying (“The sky is flesh”)…
There are her memories of the past: her childhood desire to become a heroine (“Heroines did what they wanted”)… her marriage to G.P. Putnam, who promoted her to fame, but was willing to gamble her life so that the book she was writing about her round-the-world flight would sell out before Christmas.
There is the flight itself — day after magnificent or perilous or exhilarating or terrifying day (“Noonan once said any fool could have seen I was risking my life but not living it”).
And there is, miraculously, an island (“We named it Heaven, as a kind of joke”).
And, most important, there is Noonan…
Crossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro
Soar back to the fearless 1920s with #1 New York Times bestselling writer Laurie Notaro — beloved author of The Idiot Girls’ Action Adventure Club — in a “captivating historical” (Kirkus Reviews) novel that tells the true, little-known story of three aviatrixes in a race to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.
Charles Lindberg has inspired millions but no woman has yet embarked on trans-Atlantic flight. Three women, based on real aviatrixes from the early years of aviation, determine to make their mark on history and set out on a thrilling but dangerous mission.
Elsie Mackay, daughter of an Earl, is the first Englishwoman to get her pilot’s license. Mabel Boll, a glamorous society darling and former cigar girl, is ardent to make the historic flight. Beauty pageant contestant Ruth Elder uses her winnings for flying lessons and becomes the preeminent American girl of the sky.
Inspired by true events and real people, Notaro vividly evokes this exciting time as her determined heroines vie for the record. Through striking photos, meticulous research, and atmospheric prose, Notaro brings Elsie, Mabel, and Ruth to life, pulling us back in time as the pilots collide, struggle, and literally crash in the chase for fame and a place in aviation history.
The Life of Bessie Coleman by Connie Plantz
Author Connie Plantz captures all the tension and excitement of Coleman’s soaring achievements. From an early age, Bessie Coleman dreamed of flying, but racial bigotry and gender bias threatened to keep her grounded. Denied entrance to flight training school in the United States, Coleman went to Europe. She returned, triumphant, with a pilot’s license and hopes of opening a flight school for African Americans. Raising funds as a stunt pilot, “Brave Bessie” thrilled her audiences with aerial tricks. Coleman’s life ended in a tragic accident, but not before her dream of flight made aviation history.
City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn
Set against the lush, exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn delivers the captivating tale of one woman who embarks upon a journey to see the world — and ends up finding intrigue, danger and a love beyond all reason.
Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke never expected to see her husband, adventurer Gabriel Starke, ever again. They had been a golden couple, enjoying a whirlwind courtship amid the backdrop of a glittering social set in pre-war London until his sudden death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later, beginning to embrace life again, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world, collecting fame and admirers along the way. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious — and recent — photograph of Gabriel, which brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt.
With her eccentric aunt Dove in tow, Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient City of Jasmine, Damascus. There she discovers that nothing is as it seems. Danger lurks at every turn, and at stake is a priceless relic, an artefact once lost to time and so valuable that criminals will stop at nothing to acquire it — even murder. Leaving the jewelled city behind, Evie sets off across the punishing sands of the desert to unearth the truth of Gabriel’s disappearance and retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history.Along the way, Evie must come to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel and the passion that will change her destiny forever…
Which of these books spark your interest? Share in the comments!