One Summer: Book summary and reviews of One Summer by Bill Bryson

One Summer

America, 1927

by Bill Bryson

One Summer

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[T]his 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

"While he may be an expatriate residing in England, Bryson's American pride saturates this rewarding book. A distinctively drawn time capsule from a definitive epoch." - Kirkus Reviews

"Most likely to appeal to Bryson fans and popular history buffs." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Bill Bryson Author Biography

Photo © Bath & North East Somerset Council

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He moved to England, where he worked for The Times and The Independent, and wrote for many major British and American publications.

Bill Bryson's bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, Notes From a Small Island, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, A Short of History of Nearly Everything, which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize, and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Bryson lives in England with his wife and children.

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