One Summer: America 1927

Bill Bryson
Nov 19, 2013

Like in his most recent work, At Home, travel and history writer Bill Bryson uses a loose premise to explore all of the quirky nooks and crannies of history with his trademark humor and insight. Bryson covers the more eventful happenings in the summer of 1927, like Charles Lindbergh's flight, the advent of flappers, and Babe Ruth's spectacular, record-breaking season, but also finds the strange bits of trivia that connect them.  Did you know the Lindy Hop was originally called the Lindbergh Hop, coined after Lindbergh's fateful flight over the Atlantic?  Or that Babe Ruth gained and lost over two and half tons of weight over the course of his career...and most of that was probably stadium hot dogs?  

Informative and funny, this book is sure to please existing Bryson fans and fans of popular non-fiction.  However, this book is better at giving a sense of American life in the Roaring Twenties than giving a comprehensive lesson in it.  Just like in At Home, the narration drifts from topic to topic with only the loosest logic, from trans-Atlantic flights to baseball to Prohibition, in a way that is enjoyable but meandering.  Having both read the book and listened to the audio book (narrated by Bryson himself) I think I prefer the audio.  Bryson's dapper voice--equally good at delivering dry witticisms and complicated accounts of baseball games, flood devastation, et cetera--makes the wandering subject matter of the book seem natural and conversational, almost as if he was telling you all these stories from a leather armchair with a fire nearby.  And that, more than anything, might sum up Bryson's appeal--his unique viewpoint, his humor, and above all, his affable geniality--all of which are on display in One Summer.

Reviewed by Library Staff