I did it. I finished reading my second book of the year. The book “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” is the biography of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. He wrote this autobiography with Jeffrey Zaslow. The book is 315 pages long and covers most of Captain Sullenberger’s life. Following are my three negatives of the book:
- It could have been shorter: There was some unnecessary material. One particular chapter dealt with Captain Sullenberger’s wife, Lorre. I don’t fault any man for writing glowingly about his wife, but the chapter did not serve the purpose of the narrative. It was just a nice chapter about how he relates to his wife. There were other smaller passages like this, and they stalled the forward momentum of the story. I came away from the book thinking it could have been shorter.
- Misleading Subtitle: The “My Search for What Really Matters” theme indicated in the subtitle does not really play out in the content. The book is really about the lessons that prepared Captain Sullenberger to land United Airlines flight 1549 in the Hudson River without losing any lives. Perhaps a better title would be, “Highest Duty: My Preparation for What Really Matters.” The reader will find no epiphanies or light bulb moments, just a series of experiences that prepared Captain Sullenberger to save so many lives.
- No Christianity and a false theology: This one is completely subjective. The book does not purport to be Christian and this wouldn’t bother most readers. I was disappointed to find no hint of Christianity and a “find the power within yourself theology” throughout the book. This was by far the most disappointing aspect of the book.
Now with the negatives out of the way, here are my three positives:
- Well woven experiences: The writers weave the experiences of Captain Sullenberger’s life into a seamless story of preparation and opportunity. They show how each experience, from his first solo flight, to his fighter pilot experience helped prepare him for that day. They even show how his experiences after flight 1549 continue to shape him. The book is well written in this regard.
- An important lesson: The story in itself is truly amazing. I don’t think any of us will ever forget the video of that plane landing on the Hudson River. It also teaches us a very important lesson. We may think we live ordinary mundane lives, but at any moment God could call us into a situation like this. We need to pay attention and learn from our experiences. We need to learn what God has to teach us and let him shape and mold us. This book, while not mentioning God, teaches the importance of paying attention and being prepared.
- Chapter 18 is awesome: Chapter 18 deals with the aftermath of the crash, and the letters and experiences Captain Sullenberger and his family have had since that day. The reactions from others, especially from the daughter of a co pilot who died in a crash had me in tears. It’s an awesome testimony to the impact Captain Sullenberger’s actions had on so many people. The author points out that Captain Sullenberger not only saved the people on the plane that day, but possibly saved generations of people who will go on to accomplish great things.
I would certainly recommend this book, and I would give it a B rating because it’s hard to wade through at some points. You can purchase the book here if you want: Highest Duty
Regardless of the book, when I flew last month, I secretly hoped to get on the plane and see “Sully” in the cockpit. That was not to be, but I appreciate are the professionalism of the men and women who fly us where we need to be and who take great care with the awesome responsibility they’ve been given.