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Brave Companions

Brave Companions

  • reading group guide
From Alexander von Humboldt to Charles and Anne Lindbergh, these are stories of people of great vision and daring whose achievements continue to inspire us today, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.

The bestselling author of Truman and John Adams, David McCullough has written profiles of exceptional men and women past and present who have not only shaped the course of history or changed how we see the world but whose stories express much that is timeless about the human condition.

Here are Alexander von Humboldt, whose epic explorations of South America surpassed the Lewis and Clark expedition; Harriet Beecher Stowe, “the little woman who made the big war”; Frederic Remington; the extraordinary Louis Agassiz of Harvard; Charles and Anne Lindbergh, and their fellow long-distance pilots Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Beryl Markham; Harry Caudill, the Kentucky lawyer who awakened the nation to the tragedy of Appalachia; and David Plowden, a present-day photographer of vanishing America.

Different as they are from each other, McCullough’s subjects have in common a rare vitality and sense of purpose. These are brave companions: to each other, to David McCullough, and to the reader, for with rare storytelling ability McCullough brings us into the times they knew and their very uncommon lives.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416561231 | 
  • May 2007
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David McCullough Wishes He Had This Talent

If David McCullough could acquire any talent, it would be this surprising ability.

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Reading Group Guide

Brave Companions
David McCullough

Questions and Topics for Discussion

  1. Aime Bonpland Humbolt, naturalist, geographer, geologist, botanist, linguist, and artist believed in a harmony of nature that included man. Humbolt lived until ninety and saw most of his work become "old hat." What do you think was Humbolt's largest contribution to science? Why did McCullough include him in this collection?
  2. With little first-hand knowledge and exposure to the institution of slavery, Harriet Beecher Stowe was able to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, a kind of fictional muckracking that inarguably shed more light on the ills of slavery than any widely read publication or discourse of the time. Stowe writes, "The power of fictitious writing, for good and evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be reflected on. No one can fail to see that in our day it is becoming a very great agency." What agency is Stowe speaking of? Do you agree with this statement? Can you recall a contemporary novel or publication that created a stir to ultimately impact social or political change?
  3. According to McCullough, Frederick Remington's successful career seems to have happened by chance and good fate. In this vignette, you never truly get a sense of how he was discovered, but it is clear that Remington's honesty and personal and artistic integrity took a back seat to the advancement of his career. Discuss the instances where Re
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About the Author

David McCullough
Photograph by William B. McCullough

David McCullough

David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

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