Essential Books on Amelia Earhart
There are countless books on Amelia Earhart, and it comes with good reason, she was an aviation pioneer and writer perhaps most known for being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart also set many other records, was one of the first aviators to promote commercial air travel, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences, and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity,” she remarked. “The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of history’s most beloved figures to the height of her craft, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on Amelia Earhart.
East to the Dawn by Susan Butler
Amelia Earhart captured the hearts of America after becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928. Nine years later, her disappearance on an around-the-world flight brought her extraordinary life to an abrupt and mysterious end.
Based on a decade of archival research through Earhart’s letters, journals, and diaries, and drawing on interviews with the aviator’s friends and relatives, East to the Dawn provides the most authoritative and richly textured account of both Earhart’s record-setting aviation career and her personal life: her early years with her grandparents, her experiences as a nurse and social worker, her famous marriage to publisher George Putnam, and her secret affair with Gene Vidal, head of the Bureau of Air Commerce.
The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell
When Amelia Earhart mysteriously disappeared in 1937 during her attempted flight around the world, she was already known as America’s most famous female aviator. Her sense of daring and determination, rare for women of her time, brought her insurmountable fame from the day she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane.
In this definitive biography, Mary S. Lovell delivers a brilliantly researched account of Earhart’s life using the original documents, letters, the logbooks of Earhart and her contemporaries, and personal interviews with members of Amelia’s family, friends, and rival aviators. The Sound of Wings vividly captures the drama and mystery behind the most influential woman in “The Golden Age of Flight” – from her tomboy days at the turn of the century and her early fascinations with flying, to the unique relationship she shared with G.P. Putnam, the flamboyant publisher and public relations agent who became both her husband and her business manager.
The Fun of It by Amelia Earhart
This fascinating autobiography by one of America’s greatest pilots provides unique insights into the life, motivations and achievements of Amelia Earhart. As she recounts the journey that led to her groundbreaking solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932, she provides valuable advice for everyone who struggles to be a woman in a man’s world. Though faced with obstacles every step of the way, she triumphed over adversity and became an instant celebrity.
Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien
Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Thousands of fans flocked to multi-day events, and cities vied with one another to host them. The pilots themselves were hailed as dashing heroes who cheerfully stared death in the face. Well, the men were hailed. Female pilots were more often ridiculed than praised for what the press portrayed as silly efforts to horn in on a manly, and deadly, pursuit. Fly Girls recounts how a cadre of women banded together to break the original glass ceiling: the entrenched prejudice that conspired to keep them out of the sky.
O’Brien weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high-school dropout who worked for a dry cleaner in Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcee; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at the constraints of her blue-blood family’s expectations; and Louise Thaden, the mother of two young kids who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to race against the men – and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all.
Amelia Earhart by Doris L. Rich
She died mysteriously before she was forty. Yet in the last decade of her life, Amelia Earhart soared from obscurity to fame as the best-known female aviator in the world. She set record after record – among them, the first trans-Atlantic solo flight by a woman, a flight that launched Earhart on a double career as a fighter for women’s rights and a tireless crusader for commercial air travel.
Doris L. Rich’s exhaustively researched biography downplays the “What Happened to Amelia Earhart?” myth by disclosing who Amelia Earhart really was: a woman of three centuries, born in the nineteenth, pioneering in the twentieth, and advocating ideals and dreams relevant to the twenty-first.
Finding Amelia by Ric Gillespie
In the seventy years since the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan during a flight over the Central Pacific, their fate has remained one of history’s most debated mysteries. Dozens of books have offered a variety of solutions to the puzzle, but they all draw on the same handful of documents and conflicting eyewitness accounts.
Now a wealth of new information uncovered by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) allows this book to offer the first fully documented history of what happened. Scrupulously accurate and thrilling to read, it tells the story from the letters, logs, and telegrams that recorded events as they unfolded. Many long-accepted facts are revealed as myths.
Author Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR’s executive director, draws on the work of his organization’s historians, archaeologists, and scientists, who compiled and analyzed more than five thousand documents relating to the Earhart case. Their research led to the hypothesis that Earhart and Noonan died as castaways on a remote Pacific atoll.
But this gem among books on Amelia Earhart is not a polemic that argues for a particular theory. Rather, it presents all of the authenticated historical dots and leaves it to the reader to make the connections. In addition to details about Earhart’s career and final flight, the book examines her relationship with the U.S. government and the massive search undertaken by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy.
Amelia Earhart: Last Flight
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.
Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming
In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia’s life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself – plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup) – this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.
The Earhart Enigma by Dave Horner
What really happened to Amelia Earhart? Since Earhart and her navigator disappeared during their around-the-world flight attempt in 1937, the world has searched in vain for an answer to this question. The culmination of thirteen years of research into this tantalizing mystery, The Earhart Enigma brings to life Earhart’s final days in an attempt to reconstruct what exactly took place.
Offering candid assessments of prevailing theories about Earhart’s fate, Dave Horner marshals evidence from a variety of sources, proving that Earhart was neither lost at sea nor wrecked on Nikumaroro, where many search expeditions have failed to deliver concrete results.
Integrating information garnered from numerous interviews, Pacific Islander folklore, and US and Japanese military documents, Horner argues instead that Earhart ventured north of her intended destination in search of a place to land her Lockheed Electra. Blending drama, mystery, and shocking revelations with the steady balance of an objective investigator, Horner’s findings provide a definitive answer to this fascinating riddle, based on firsthand accounts from Marshall Islanders and other powerful evidence.
I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn
This short fictional account seeks to answer the question, “What happened to Amelia Earhart?” Shifting between a first- and third-person narrative, the well-crafted tale draws readers into the personalities of both the aviatrix and her navigator, Fred Noonan, both of whom disappeared on a round-the-world record-making flight in 1937 somewhere near New Guinea. Mendelsohn imagines what might have happened if the plane had landed on an island rather than disappearing into the ocean. Using only a few authentic words credited to the pilot, the author creates a novel that might have been written in Earhart’s log for future generations to discover.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Amelia Earhart, check out our list of The 10 Best Books on the Wright Brothers!