Publisher: Anchor, October 2013
Prior to reading this book I could recall a couple of things I might associate with the late 1920s. My mom was born in 1920 and she talked a lot about her childhood, so I thought I knew the important stuff. But, once I started in on One Summer: America, 1927, I was quite taken aback by the large number of significant events that occurred all in one year. Here are the highlights:
- Charles Lindbergh became a world-wide hero when he flew his plane alone, nonstop, across the Atlantic Ocean. He was the first person to ever do so.
- Babe Ruth proved himself the best baseball player when he became the first person to hit sixty home-runs in one season, a record that would last for decades.
- Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian anarchists, were executed despite very weak evidence at trial.
- Al Jolson starred in The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length “talkie.”
- Technology made strides with both radio and the invention of television.
- Al Capone was at the peak of his power with control of illegal liquor sales, municipal governments and police forces.
- The lower Mississippi River flooded after unbelievable rains across the south causing massive damage.
That’s just an outline of some of the events from One Summer. Bill Bryson looked at 1927 with his eyes wide open to not just the events, but the backstories. I love backstories. For example, Babe Ruth was a bigger-than-life person in 1927, but the author told me more than just the details of his amazing baseball achievements. I learned about the clothes he wore, what he did for fun, what he ate, how he squandered his money and his predilection for a wide variety of women. In other words, I saw Babe Ruth the person.
One Summer: America, 1927 is the most amazing nonfiction book I’ve read in quite a while. It was juicy and fun and a great way to learn history. Why can’t all history books be written this way? Highly recommended.