Book Review: One Summer: America 1927


Author and Narrator: Bill Bryson
TitleOne Summer: America 1927
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2013
Other books read by the same author:

Summary/Review:

Bill Bryson’s talent is to delve deep into a subject, find all the minute details, and then tie them together into a bigger story.  For this work, the title explains it all: one summer in the United States when a remarkable number of historical events occurred, many with unexpected connections.

The main feature of this book is Charles Lindbergh and his historic flight from New York to Paris aboard the Spirit of St. Louis.  And then there is the aftermath in which Lindbergh deals with his celebrity, a level of worldwide renown perhaps unprecedented in history.  Other aviators who had hoped to contend for the Orteig Prize, are given their due as well, with descriptions of their less-famous flights (if they managed to get off the ground).

The book is balanced by the story of another hero, Babe Ruth.  In the 1927, Ruth would break his own remarkable single-season home run record and be joined in a race by teammate Lou Gehrig.  In fact, the entire Yankees’ lineup hit so well that they’re forever known as Murderers’ Row and one of the best teams in baseball history.  Bryson cheats a lot, leaving the summer of 1927 to fill in the back stories of Lindbergh and Ruth and other figures, and occasionally even peeking ahead.  But the meat of this book is stories of events from that summer, including:

  • the sensational Snyder-Gray murder trial
  • the apogee of Al Capone’s power as a mob boss
  • the government poisoning alcohol at the behest of Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League
  • the Federal Reserve makes decisions that sow the seeds of the 1929 stock market crash
  • radio comes of age
  • The Jazz Singer ushers in the talkie
  • television created
  • the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
  • carving of Mount Rushmore begins
  • massive flooding of the Mississippi River
  • the Bath School bombing
  • Henry Ford transitions from the Model T to the Model A
  • The Long Count fight between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey

The whole book is fascinating and full of interesting details of a transitional time in American history.
Rating: ****

 

 

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