Friday, February 13, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: One Summer. America 1927 by Bill Bryson

My historical fiction/history book group decided on Bill Bryson’s One Summer. America 1927 for this round. I was pleased for two reasons. One: I’ve never read anything by Bryson but have heard a lot of good things about his books and he’s been on my to-read list for a long time. And two: it’s a great way to kick off my non-fiction challenge.

The book focuses on the summer of 1927 (as billed). And what a busy summer it was! Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight across the Atlantic. Babe Ruth set his home run record. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed for murder/robbery/being anarchists after widespread, worldwide protests. The Jazz Singer was released–heralding the feasibility and rise of talking films. And so much more. The book discusses Prohibition, politics, and gangsters. Sports and high finances. It touches on the headlines of the day–the appalling true crimes that riveted the country before being bumped off the front pages by the next exciting events.

The book is a whirlwind. What keeps it from being more than just a catalogue of the daily papers from the summer of 1927 is that Bryson also travels back and forth in time to put the events in context. We are introduced to the backstory of some of these stories, and we learn a bit of what happens to the heroes after the summer plays out.

Bryson does have an engaging style. This is a wonderful slice of American history and it does make for a great book club book because there are so many different sides of the story to tell.

Have you read any of Bill Bryson’s books? Which do you recommend?


  1. I've had several people recommend Bryson to me, too, but have never read anything by him. I would love to start with this one though. Thanks for your review :-)

  2. I love Bill Bryson and have read several things he's written (but not this one--thanks for the review). He never disappoints (me). He writes on a variety of topics, so most folks can find something they're interested in. His magnum opus is "A Short History of Nearly Everything" which is an engaging overview of science and scientists. He also writes funny travel books. I'd recommend "A Walk in the Woods" about hiking the Appalachian trail, but he's written about the UK, Australia, Europe, and Africa. I found his memoir "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" a tiny bit snarky at times, but since we're the same age and from the Midwest, his stories hit home. He also writes about language. I'd recommend his biography on Shakespeare. (It turns out that of the 3 or 4 different signatures we have of Shakespeare, he spelled his name differently each time and none the way we spell it now!) There's definitely something for everyone. Enjoy!

  3. I think I'm right when I say that I've read every single book that Bryson has published -- most of them multiple times. He's my go-to guy for reading nonfiction, and he's the only nonfiction author on my automatic-purchase list. I love his books, his sense of humor, and the way he puts his narratives together.

    He's also a particularly good audio reader, so if you're ever in the mood for a great audio experience, be sure to check him out!

  4. I love his From a Sunburned Country about Australia and I second the recommendation of his audiobooks. I liked this one too.

  5. Hopping over from the Nonfiction Reading Challenge....

    I've had this book way too long. I really should get it read! I liked Bryson better when I was younger and found his humor more appealing. Now, too often, it just seems mean-spirited.

    Joy's Book Blog

  6. I've read a few Bill Bryson's (DownUnder and A Walk in the Woods spring to mind), and thoroughly enjoyed them- I very much enjoy his humour, but know that not everyone does. I often buy his books when I see he has a new one out, and so have built up quite the unread stack. I have 3 (3!) versions of his Short History of Nearly Everything- all unread. Oh the shame. The shame. I want to read all his books I think - travel, Home, histories.