28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
If the only Bach you know is "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", forget what you think you think you know about the author. This book, Bach's first, is something entirely different. It's a classic in the tradition of great flight books like "Fate is the Hunter" and "Night Flight"
Written when Bach was an Air National Guard pilot, "Stranger to the Ground" takes you along for what is in essence a very humdrum and ordinary flight as he ferries an F84F from Germany to England. It's fairly uneventful; he passes through a storm, but he's well equipped to handle it. He even claims that the F84 is so easy to fly, anyone could handle it in level flight.
What makes it special is Bach's narration- how he conveys the wonder of it all, and finds the magic in the simple act of flying, and the excitement of those small moments, like finding the coast, sighting the airfield and landing the plane.
If you're not one who finds wonder in the simple act of flight, you may wonder why anyone would read this book. But if you're the type who looks up whenever an aircraft passes overhead, or who always takes the window seat on an airliner, or you're a pilot yourself, this is one of the finest books ever written on what it means to fly.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 1998
I first bought "Stranger To The Ground" at it's second printing during the early 1970s. I don't remember why -- Bach was not yet popular as the author of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" or "There's No Such Place As Far Away." Maybe it was the cover illustration of the silver F-84F Thunderstreak Bach flew over Europe as part of the Air National Guard during the Berlin Crisis. I always was a sucker for a good looking airplane. Whatever it was, I soon realized this was no ordinary tale and that Bach was no ordinary writer. Years [and hundreds of books and authors] later, I feel the same. My copy of "Stranger" is worn and dog-eared [I've just purchased a new one here at Amazon.com]. I've read it to my kids and they've asked me to read it to them again. I've picked it up, time and time again, from the same shelf that holds his other marvelous books, and paged through it, captivated all over again. I sometimes wonder how many great pilots are flying, right now, solely because they read this book when they were still too young to drive. I'll bet they thank Richard Bach every time their gear lifts off the tarmac.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2002
In 1961 the world was about to go to war over a simple, but deadly game of nuclear bluff. The Russians were about to sign a seperate peace treaty with East Germany. So? Well, since the U.S., Brits, France and the Russians were all allies aftrer WWII, they could not unilaterally do that! In the new cold war era however, the Russians, trying to secure their idiological communist empire, perhaps as a buffer to any future invasions from the West, had taken their sector of Berlin...and East Germany, and made it their own...and to prove it they were going to sign a seperate peace without their allies. So, we called their bluff...and within 24 days of notification in the late summer of 1961, thousands of Guardsmen and allied military were activated and put muzzle to muzzle with the Russians and other Easter Block countries with a deadline of January 1, 1962 for the Russians to blink or unleash the dogs of war. Luckily for all of us, they blinked. I was with the 113th TFS from Indiana that flew the Atlantic in F-84Fs and opened Chambley Field in France. We flew the same skies, missions, and aircraft and lousey weather as Richard. We had mixed emotions about the opportunity to fly and test our aircraft for real, but apprehension about leaving our civilian jobs, homes and families to face an potential enemy that only a few years before had been our ally. We all worried through the cold winter night before the deadline, with a one way flight plan and realization that there would be no field left for us to return to if the baloon went up...and, perhaps no world as we knew it either. I think the world learned a lesson from that experience...more need to read about it...and we must never forget. Richard's detailed and flowing discription of the aircraft, arena, bases, missions, and joy of flight stimulating and nostalgic. Whenever I want to relive that little known and appreciated bookmark in history and the personal feeling of the experience, I reread Stranger...it is like an old friend...it also introduced me to a life of adventure, philosophy, mysticism and awe as a fan of this unique writer...he was, and still is an inspiration for my continuing journey of understanding of life, relationships, self examination and love of aviation. He is every-airman, but relates life better than any-man. Bravo Bach!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 1999
This is one of the best "anorack books" ever written, a descriptive masterpiece of what its like to fly a fighter bomber alone on a cold night. Its obsessively detailed, and its the detail that gives the account its power.
Richard Bach's much vaunted 'philosophy' is almost totally absent; instead we have the musings of a lonely, thoughtful, slightly anxious young man who may have to go to war in a few weeks. For its time (around the Cuban missile crisis?) its an astonishingly mature, liberal persective on his present and the future. Indeed, one wonders how well 2nd Lt Bach, a part-time Air Guard pilot, fitted into the professional military.
By the 1970s much of Bach's work had become pretentious and shallow, the flying had been replaced by levitation and seagull parables. But as his first book, "Stranger to the Ground" is earnest, brave and painfully honest. If you like aircraft and flying, or like reading about them, this book is a must.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 1999
I first read "Stranger to the Ground" while an Air Force pilot training student in the early 1970's. I was such an accurate presentation of the world of high performance military flying that, in later years, as an Air Force Instructor Pilot, I gave each of my students a copy as they graduated and earned their wings. It is what Tom Wolfe's "Right Stuff" tries to be, but, since Wolfe has never actually been there, could never achieve. I now have a young friend just embarking on his flying career and I'm purchasing a copy for him. I've just re-read my highlighted, dog-eared copy and found it as fresh and vital as the first time I read it as a 2nd Lt. A "Must Read" for anyone involved with airplanes.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2002
Richard Bach's first book came to my attention when it was reviewed in the WALL STREET JOURNAL at first publication. I re-read it often. As a pilot with time in current fighters, I was stunned by the clarity and power of his depictions of flight. But one need not be a pilot to enjoy this work because it always remains 'grounded' (in the sense of structure and ideas, not literally).
STRANGER got me for a core reason not often discussed with respect to flying; the book meets this criterion resoundingly: it is totally honest. Why does this matter? Because flying, especially complex modern airplanes (the F-84F is not an easy airplane), is fundamentally an honest trade. Make a mistake or be unlucky and you may die suddenly.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2009
Yes, Richard Bach wrote "Stranger to the Ground" and "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." But the two books are almost from different authors. "Stranger to the Ground" describes Bach's experiences as an Air National Guard pilot flying F-84s during the Berlin crisis in the 1960s. It was written several years before "Jonathan" and is less mystical and more (dare I say it) grounded than Bach's later work. It is also one of the best "airplane books" ever written. I read the book in junior high school and it was a major factor in my joining the Air Force. I spent 25 years flying jet fighters and I like this book even more now than I did 45 years ago. The descriptions of flying and Air Force life ring true in a way few other "airplane books" manage. Bach also brings his unique insight to the subject, getting us to see things through new eyes. If you like airplanes, if you like Bach, if you like a good tale, if you like inspiring reading - read this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2003
This book is a very haunting allegory about Richard Bach's ordeal with his own mortality. Deals with facing death, the great unknown, and all the fears and anxieties that go along with topics we prefer not to think about. Reading it will open your heart and touch your soul, and stay with you long after the book is finished.
author of BOOMERANG - A MIRACLE TRILOGY
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2001
"Old friend"..."dog-eared highlighted copy" All these phrases contained in the above reviews struck a chord with me. I first encountered this wonderful book as a aviation obsessed youngster and still reread it. My first, worn copy occupies a position of honor on my bookshelf.
Here's to you, Don Slack.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2005
I read this book several times when I was a USAF pilot training student in the late 80's. The fears and thoughts and surprisingly the cockpit instruments were similar. Bach captured all the emotions pilots seek to subdue and presented it in a sober and forthright book. Passages still come back to me flying over the places he mentions. What a great book.