Today, a love of airships—those enormous, steel-framed balloons filled with hydrogen—would be seen as somewhat eccentric, but less than a hundred years ago these behemoths were hugely popular, until various accidents, such as the Hindenburg explosion over New Jersey in 1937, destroyed both their romance and practicality. S. C. Gwynne chronicles the saga of British Airship R101, which disappeared in a fireball seven years before the Hindenburg disaster but is pretty much forgotten today. His Majesty’s Airship remedies that lapse in spectacular fashion, thanks to a saga involving a British officer, a married Romanian princess, and an aviation hero who succumbed not to gravity but to drink. Gwynne brings this story alive with a sharp eye for detail, an engaging empathy for his characters, and a gift for storytelling second to none.
As the editor of People magazine for many years, Landon Y. Jones had a V.I.P. pass to the circus of the stars, but this is by no means a tell-all about what Drew Barrymore was really like behind the scenes of E.T. Instead, Jones provides a thoughtful dissection of how and why the notion of celebrity has changed over the decades (good-bye, heroes; hello, Kardashians), why people yearn to be famous, why so many of us are attracted to those who achieve it, and how it is actually possible for fame to be used for good. Michael J. Fox and his campaign against Parkinson’s is one of the best examples, but Jones also makes a persuasive case that BTS and other K-pop groups impart useful messages of self-confidence and empowerment to their young fans. It is a compliment to Jones to say he would make a lousy editor of today’s People.
For six years, the author worked an office job at Outside magazine, shepherding stories into print by writers such as Jon Krakauer and his Mount Everest opus, Into Thin Air, before deciding to strike out on his own as a travel journalist. But the assignments he embarked on were not quite what he had in mind, since he quickly found himself struggling with childhood demons and a depression no longer kept at bay. There is no self-pity here, and Brad Wetzler’s quest to be at peace with himself and the world is hard fought and ongoing. The reader can acknowledge Wetzler’s pain while also thanking him for what the best adventure writers do: take us places we cannot go ourselves.
His Majesty’s Airship and Into the Soul of the World are available at your local independent bookstore, on Bookshop, and on Amazon. Celebrity Nation will be available beginning May 9