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One Summer: America, 1927by Bill Bryson
Trust Bill Bryson to make the summer of 1927 as immediate and thrilling to the reader as it was to the Americans who lived through it. Written with Bryson's characteristic combination of wit, irony, and genuine fondness for his subject matter, One Summer is a joyful read by a master of narrative nonfiction.
Synopses & Reviews
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’s The 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.
"'People in 1920s America were unusually drawn to spectacle,' states Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) in his prologue — an unusual claim that his latest, a sprawling account of a brief period in a singular year in that decade, seems to want to substantiate. Whether or not the claim is objectively true, Bryson himself is captivated by the events of summer, 1927. And why not? They included Charles Lindbergh's solo flight over the Atlantic, Sacco and Vanzetti's execution, Gutzon Borglum's start on the sculpting of Mt. Rushmore, the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, and Babe Ruth's 60 home runs — all of which Bryson covers in characteristically sparkling prose. These notable happenings are worth relating and recalling, but others have done so, and more authoritatively and fully. Here, there's not much connection between them; a string of coincidences (and there are many of those each day) hardly justify a book. So this isn't history, nor is it really a story with a start, finish, and thematic spine. No analysis, only narrative — it's diverting but slight." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A glorious look at one summer in America...Bryson offers delicious detail and breathtaking suspense about events whose outcomes are already known." Booklist, Starred Review
"The book's strength is in showing the overlap of significant events and the interaction of personalities." Library Journal
"Bryson is a marvelous historian, not only exhaustively accurate, but highly entertaining. If you avoid textbook histories because they seem too dry, pick up One Summer, or any other of Mr. Bryson's books. They are intelligent delights." Liz Smith, The Huffington Post
One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country — a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive for us on the page in this certain bestseller.
About the Author
Bill Bryson's bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and At Home. He lives in England with his wife.
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