One Summer

America, 1927

Bryson, Bill

(Book - 2013)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
One Summer
Random House, Inc.
A Chicago Tribune Noteworthy Book
A GoodReads Reader's Choice

In One Summer Bill Bryson, one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers, transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American life.

The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’sThe Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.
All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

Baker & Taylor
Recounts the story of a pivotal cultural year in the United States when mainstream pursuits and historical events were marked by contributions by such figures as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and Al Capone.

& Taylor

The award-winning author of A Short History of Nearly Everything recounts the story of a pivotal cultural year in the United States when mainstream pursuits and historical events were marked by contributions by such figures as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth and Al Capone.

Publisher: New York :, Doubleday,, [2013]
Edition: First United States edition
ISBN: 9780767919401
Branch Call Number: 973.91 B
Characteristics: 509 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Feb 08, 2015
  • cuwabig1 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Disappointing - a very selective history, exaggerated in some instances to buttress his point that he believes the summer of 1927 to be singular in its remarkable events. Offers no citations to read more about the points the author makes. Slightly 'snarky' humor about many historical figures.

Dec 01, 2014
  • Hopalong_Kid rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Interesting book. Effective narrative that uses the focus on a single year, that cumulatively characterizes the 1920s.

Oct 28, 2014
  • SPUPS rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

At first thoroughly entertaining and engaging, but soon becomes something of a slog as Bryson's narrative throughline unravels and the book becomes a jumbled collection of anecdotes and profiles. Bryson's writing style is as charming as ever but it can't support the exhausting add-a-pearl style of the book's second half, which peters out and ends, unceremoniously, with a series of what are essentially obituaries for the people featured that, at best, underlines the capricious nature of fate (about half died miserably in forgotten poverty) and at worst feels lazy and inconclusive. It also has the feel of a book meant to sit by the toilet, as Bryson repeats facts and has an irritating habit of ending segments with phrases like "little did they know, this was only the beginning". As a whole, the end result is frustrating, particularly given the promising beginning. Not Bryson's best.

What I liked best about this book was the way Bryson shows the people we most often think of as heroes as fully human. The reader is shown the failings and faults of people like Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover and many others as well as the characteristics which helped them accomplish much more than most of us ever will.

Feb 26, 2014
  • andyinoz rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Very well researched book and a great read.

Feb 25, 2014
  • islandgirl55 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Something of a disappointment. I have thoroughly enjoyed some of his other books but this one did not speak to me, and was lacking in the humour that I have come to expect from Bill Bryson.

Feb 10, 2014
  • lunatucker rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Fascinating book...made these people from a summer over 87 years ago come alive and how very interesting they were too. Highly recommended!

Jan 14, 2014
  • GreenDog2006 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I highly recommend the audiobook - this fascinating interweaving of multiple very significant events & people is made even better with Bryson's warm, good-humored voice. The same goes for the books of his I've read - my favorites are A Walk in the Woods and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. He's terrific!

Dec 30, 2013
  • zipread rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One Summer --- by Bill Bryson. Bryson has written what is indeed an interesting book of history. What makes the book interesting, in addition to the way Bryson tells us about it is two-fold. Fist of all, this is the history of not so long ago. Many will remember these names from TV re-runs or old books in attics. We may remember them, in passing, from some arid History class somewhere in our past. This history of this book has some direct links to the present day: names like RCA or Ford are still of our vernacular today. The other reason this book is so interesting a book of history has to do with how Bryson looks at history. His is a social history, a history of society: not much Politics or international affairs here. The examines looks at the components of what made up the American scene, if you will, during the summer of 1927. The fact that some of subjects were quirky or colourfu,l to say the least, doesn’t hurt the book one iota. There’s Charles Lindbergh, first to singly fly the Atlantic Ocean to Europe who also managed to sire a number of offspring in Germany while there. There was Babe Ruth: the baseball diamond wasn’t the only place he set records for home runs. There was strange experiment known as prohibition and Al Capone who was to neatly benefit from it. The tale goes on: Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge, footnotes to American history. Henry Ford, eccentric to say the least; the convicted anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti; eugenics, and the Klu Klux Clan. In 1927, The United States was a fantastic place but also a scary place. Bryson’s book won’t let you stop till you’ve read all about it, warts and all.Complete with bibliography. You'll have to read fast (not a problem): this book is in demand. Two weeks instead of the usual three weeks was the lending period.And forget about renewals.
This book is an inspiration to check out what else her wrote: the list is long.

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