One summer America, 1927

Bill Bryson

Large print - 2013

One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country; a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge).

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Subjects
Published
New York : Random House Large Print c2013.
Edition
1st large print ed
Language
English
Physical Description
751 p. (large print), [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 663-701) and index.
ISBN
9780375434327
0375434321
Main Author
Bill Bryson (-)
  • May : the Kid
  • June : the Babe
  • July : the President
  • August : the anarchists
  • September : summer's end.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* On May 21, 1927, when Charles Lindbergh set off to be the first man to cross the Atlantic alone in an airplane, he profoundly changed the culture and commerce of America and its image abroad. Add to that Babe Ruth's efforts to break the home-run record he set, Henry Ford's retooling of the Model T into the Model A, the execution of accused anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and Al Jolson appearing in the first talkie, and 1927 became the pivot point when the U.S. began to dominate the world in virtually everything—military, culture, commerce, and technology. Bryson's inimitable wit and exuberance are on full display in this wide-ranging look at the major events in an exciting summer in America. Bryson makes fascinating interconnections: a quirky Chicago judge and Prohibition defender leaves the bench to become baseball commissioner following the White Sox scandal, likely leaving Chicago open for gangster Al Capone; the thrill-hungry tabloids and a growing cult of celebrity watchers dog Lindbergh's every move and chronicle Ruth's every peccadillo. Among the other events in a frenzied summer: record flooding of the Mississippi River and the ominous beginnings of the Great Depression. Bryson offers delicious detail and breathtaking suspense about events whose outcomes are already known. A glorious look at one summer in America. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Bryson is the author of such best-selling books as A Walk in the Woods (1998) and A Short History of Nearly Everything (2008) and is sure to make a repeat appearance on the best-seller lists with his newest work. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The Iowa-born, England-based Bryson, whose works range from language to science to genial travelog, here returns home with a truly focused treatment of a time when America made a crucial leap to the world stage. The players range from Charles Lindbergh to Al Capone, so it's not all heroics. [Page 54]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The summer of 1927 offers the prolific Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) a prepared canvas on which to paint a narrative of well-known, unknown, and little-known events and personalities of the Twenties. Loosely organized around three summer months that included, among many other things, major developments surrounding figures in aviation (Charles Lindbergh), baseball (Babe Ruth), boxing (Gene Tunney), criminal justice (Al Capone; Sacco and Vanzetti), and politics (Calvin Coolidge's "I do not choose to run" statement), Bryson's stories range back and forth into the rest of the decade and the era more broadly. The book's strength is in showing the overlap of significant events and the interaction of personalities. But the author's approach keeps the reader from gaining a real sense of the landscape; this is more a spatter painting. Scores of characters, both major and minor, come and go. Some return; others don't. The well-known story of Lindbergh's ambitious flight and its aftermath is one of the few consistent threads that can be followed in this free-for-all. Frederick Lewis Allen's 1931 narrative history of the decade, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s, remains the classic that this volume can only aspire to match. VERDICT Most likely to appeal to Bryson fans and popular history buffs. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/13.]—Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato [Page 123]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

"People in 1920s America were unusually drawn to spectacle," states Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) in his prologue—an unusual claim that his latest, a sprawling account of a brief period in a singular year in that decade, seems to want to substantiate. Whether or not the claim is objectively true, Bryson himself is captivated by the events of summer, 1927. And why not? They included Charles Lindbergh's solo flight over the Atlantic, Sacco and Vanzetti's execution, Gutzon Borglum's start on the sculpting of Mt. Rushmore, the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, and Babe Ruth's 60 home runs—all of which Bryson covers in characteristically sparkling prose. These notable happenings are worth relating and recalling, but others have done so, and more authoritatively and fully. Here, there's not much connection between them; a string of coincidents (and there are many of those each day) hardly justify a book. So this 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. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Recounts the story of a pivotal cultural year in the United States when mainstream pursuits and historical events were marked by contributions by such figures as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and Al Capone.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.