Reviews for One Summer : America, 1927


Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
*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.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 October
A summer to remember

A new book from Bill Bryson is always a cause for excitement, and this beautiful doorstopper truly delivers. Bryson’s wonderfully sly sense of humor and narrative skill are evident in this expansive look at a momentous season in U.S. history: the summer of 1927.

We meet “Slim” (Charles Lindbergh), fresh from his transatlantic flight and on the cusp of becoming a national hero, and the irrepressible Babe Ruth, who is about to have the best summer of his career. Loony politicians—William Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover—and unforgettable criminals round out the cast. What the book does best is to take these stories we already know and explain them to us again, with lots of brio and context. Sure, you think you know about Babe Ruth. But have you really considered why his ability to hit a home run was so thrilling, and how the then-established baseball rules shaped his game? You’ve heard of Charles Lindbergh, but have you heard about the dozens of others who tried to do what he did and failed miserably? Do you know why aviation was such a crazy line of work? The stories Bryson tells almost beg to be shared.

One Summer is divided into months of the summer—June, July, August and September—and each month focuses on a key figure of interest to Bryson. Honestly, I’ve never read a narrative history quite like it. The summer itself—rather than any single person or movement—is the focus of the book, and all sorts of interesting glimpses forward and backward keep the season’s significance clearly at the fore. There’s something refreshing in this approach, like touring Rome for 10 days instead of trying to cram in all of Europe.

Beyond learning unusual facts about famous people (like Calvin Coolidge’s bright red hair, or that he wasn’t a favorite with his mother-in-law), readers get something even better: a distinctive taste of the times. I’m sure people well versed in history might note that this “highlight reel” of 1927 excludes the stories of those not blessed with tremendous skill and timing—people more like us. Still, the book is a sprawl of tremendous fun that will satisfy Bryson’s fans and win him many new ones.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #2
A popular chronicler of life and lore vividly charts a particularly pivotal season in American history. Bryson (At Home: A Short History of Private Life, 2010, etc.) reanimates the events and principal players across five key months in 1927. He establishes an early-20th-century, trial-and-error chronology of aviation evolution cresting with Charles Lindbergh, a lean man with a dream, natural-born skills and the unparalleled motivation to design an aircraft capable of traversing the Atlantic. Braided into Lindbergh's saga are profiles of cultural icons like ambitious "colossus" Herbert Hoover, famed gangster Al Capone, and baseball players Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, whose domination of America's "National Game" captured the country's attention. Recounted with brio and diligent detailing yet perhaps lacking the author's better-known witty dynamism, Bryson honorably captures the spirit of the era, a golden age of newspapers, skyscrapers, patriotism, Broadway plays and baseball. The author enthusiastically draws on the heroic lives of tight-lipped President Calvin Coolidge and boxing great Jack Dempsey and artfully interweaves into Lindbergh's meteoric rise the pitfalls of Prohibition, the splendor of Henry Ford's Model T (and the horrors of constructing "Fordlandia" in the Amazon rain forest), the demise of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and a noteworthy comparison between popular long-standing authors Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Collectively, what Bryson offers is a creatively written regeneration of historical facts; the revelations, while few, appear in the form of eccentric personal factoids (i.e., Coolidge liked his head rubbed with Vaseline, Grey was excessively libidinous) demarcating that scrutinized summer of dreamers and innovators. 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. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #2

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.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 September #1

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.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 August #1

"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

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