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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Matt Higgins Narrator: Adam Verner Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A heart-stopping narrative of risk and courage, Bird Dream tells the story of the remarkable men and women who pioneered the latest advances in aerial exploration—from skydiving to BASE jumping to wingsuit flying—and made history with their daring.

Bird Dream shows that recent decades have witnessed an unprecedented revolution in human flight. By the end of the twentieth century BASE jumping was the most dangerous of all the extreme sports, with thrill-seeking jumpers parachuting from bridges, mountains, radio towers, and even skyscrapers. Despite numerous fatalities and legal skirmishes, BASE jumpers like Jeb Corliss of California thought they had discovered the ultimate rush. But all this changed for Corliss in 1999, when, high in the mountains of northern Italy, he and other jumpers watched in wonder as a stranger—wearing a cunning new jumpsuit featuring “wings” between the arms and legs—leaped from a ledge and then actually flew from the vertiginous cliffs. This dude’s flying, thought Corliss with a start. This changes everything.

What Corliss had witnessed was a wingsuit, an innovation more flying squirrel than bird or plane. Wingsuits were not new; they had fascinated men for centuries. Yet a modern design had improved safety and performance, allowing wingsuit pilots to leap from a helicopter or high cliff and soar for miles—using little more than their bodies—before deploying a parachute to reach the ground safely. The best pilots could fly close to the earth, rapidly navigating narrow canyons and mountain ranges. Still, colossal dangers remained, and the beauty of exploring human flight with such unprecedented grace would exact the ultimate cost for some pilots—they would pay with their lives.

Drawing on intimate access to Corliss and other top pilots from around the globe, Bird Dream tracks the evolution of the wingsuit movement through the larger than life characters who, in an age of viral video, forced the sport onto the world stage. Their exploits—which entranced millions of fans along the way—defied imagination. They were flying; not like the Wright brothers, but the way we do in our dreams.

Based on five years of firsthand reporting and original interviews, Bird Dream is the work of journalist Matt Higgins, who traveled the world alongside these extraordinary men and women as they jumped and flew in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Offering a behind-the-scenes take on some of the most spectacular and disastrous events of the wingsuit movement, Higgins’ Bird Dream is a riveting, adrenaline-fueled adventure at the very edge of human experience.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Higgins’] action-packed book introduces a global coterie of remarkable characters who have dared life and limb. He describes escapades from sixties stunt parachuting to more contemporary BASE jumping, in which one takes flight off of selected worldwide buildings and geographical points to the experience of wingsuit flying—the maximum challenge. The author recounts the huge preparations, financial investments, psychological motivations, personal setbacks, and extraordinary aerial accomplishments that have gone into these extreme sports…An engrossing and exhaustively researched account of extremists who challenge failure and death on a regular basis. Highly recommended for ultimate jumpers in particular, sports enthusiasts in general, and all public libraries.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “The breathtaking highs and life-threatening plunges of the most extreme stuntmen on Earth. Keep your mixed martial arts, parcours and BMX bikes; you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the point-of-view video of these free-flying pilots soaring in their homemade wingsuits over some of the most extreme terrain on the planet. In this riveting journalistic account, freelance writer Higgins chronicles the evolution of the sport from simple parachuting to BASE jumping (the acronym stands for building, antennae, span and Earth, which serve as launch points) to the development of these soaring, superherolike armored flight suits…For anyone who finds these kinds of emotional and precise accounts of risk, ambition and victory irresistible, this is a must-read. A highflying, electrifying story of a treacherous sport in which every triumph is an eye blink away from becoming a disaster.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A new tribe of aerial daredevils write their deeds in blood and glory…Journalist Higgins sings the exploits and charisma of “wing-suit” pilots…The book is mainly a chronicle of death-defying stunts: mishaps are plenty grisly when wing suiters traveling at 100 mph encounter anything denser than air, and the body count is high…[a] tribute to the exaltation of defying death; one extreme parachutist ‘felt somehow reborn into the world’ on his first outing, ‘as if scales had been stripped from his eyes.’ These effusions won’t move everyone to a conversion experience, but Higgins’s account is hair-raising enough to hold the reader’s interest.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “An ominous undercurrent runs through this account of the first parachute-free wingsuit landing. The listener is constantly aware that the fledgling extreme sport has seen deaths. In a soft-spoken voice, Adam Verner ticks off the dangers and relays the thoughts of the men who are vying for the ultimate jump. He also brings listeners the thrill of a nocturnal jump with no witnesses, reveling in the emotional highs that keeps the wingsuit jumpers going. Listeners unfamiliar with the sport will get an extra dose of nail-biting tension. Those already familiar with the quest to be first to land without a chute will gain insight into these wingmen and the history behind their adventure.”


  • “Most of us dream of flying, but it is the exceptional person who actually tries it. Matt Higgins takes readers deep into the extreme and fascinating world of BASE jumpers and wingsuit pilots, those rare birds who risk their lives for a few exhilarating, gravity-defying seconds. Bird Dream is a beautifully crafted narrative, equal parts adrenaline rush and soulful meditation. From its first sentence, this book soars.”

    Susan Casey, author of The Wave and The Devil’s Teeth

  • “Wingsuit fliers like Jeb Corliss and Gary Connery change the definition of ‘impossible,’ often at the expense of life and limb. Capturing the essence of such entrepreneurs of the extreme is like trying to grab sparks. In Bird Dream, Matt Higgins does just that with writing that is crisp, exhilarating, and exhaustively researched. A must-read about ultimate quests—and their costs.”

    James M Tabor, author of Blind Descent

  • Longlisted for the 2015 PEN Literary Award
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About the Author

Matt Higgins’ writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Village Voice, Popular Mechanics, Outside, and ESPN The Magazine. He is the author of several books on sports for young readers. Matt lives in western New York with his wife and two sons.