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’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.
My first book by Bryson and I will look into some of his other works based on this book. I would have enjoyed it more if I had not recently read the biography of Charles Lindbergh who figures prominently in this book. Bryson includes many funny and interesting details about major evensts. Overall a good read...EAF45
Mr. Bryson always turns out a great read. Humor, unknown facts, amazing heroes and villainous villains. It's all there in a real page turner. I wish Bill Bryson would have been my American History teacher!55
Bill Bryson makes history fascinating. It reads like non-fiction in that it is hard to put down. I wish I could find more books like this.55
Bryson skillfully weaves significant events of the twenties, culminating in the summer of 1927. Some of the events are well known while others have become obscure. It's an interestingly written history about the best and worst of America during one of its greatest hay days.55
By turns fascinating, hysterical and astounding. Events and people everyone knows are revealed as so much more interesting than we ever knew, and one more than a few occasions, much more horrible. A great read and an amazing set of stories.55
Thoroughly enjoyed this trip through the 1920's and 1927, in particular. Bill Bryson has a knack for writing about people and places that leave me wanting to learn more. I've read almost all his books and look forward to the rest.55
I got so caught up in this most interesting and informative book that I slowed down towards the end because I wanted it to last longer.55
Delightful and riveting. The characters in this book from Lindbergh to Ruth are astonishing. Makes me wish I had lived in the era.55
I love history, and no one tells a small sliver of American History as entertainingly as Bryson. Fun reading.45
Bill Bryson writes with a droll humor that makes just about any topic or tangential topic very interesting and of course it's filled with laugh out loud passages45