Book Review: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

One SummerPublisher: 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.

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6 Responses to Book Review: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

  1. Ti says:

    You reminded me that I never did request this from the library so I just went online and guess what? They had a Kindle version available so now I am all ready to read it.

  2. I loved this book too. I was amazed at how much today parallels that time period. My mom was born in 1927 so I plan to get her this book for Christmas.

  3. Oh, I just love Bill Bryson! And my book group just chose this book for our next read.

    Did you read Bryson’s memoir of his childhood, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt kid? Really, really great – filled with fascinating details about growing up in the 50’s but also very funny – I highly recommend it.


  4. I loved Bryson’s “In A Sunburnt Country” about Australia and you have absolutely made me want to read this one!

  5. Kaye,the sister, Cogdill says:

    Well the surprise for me is that Don is half way through this book because Brent recommended it to him…what is that thing about great minds think alike or is it run amok?….Don will probably respond when he finishes the book…love ya bunches…kaye-the-sis

  6. kelley says:

    I like a well written history book. Nice review.

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