One Summer by Bill Bryson
America, 1927

70%

25 Critic Reviews

a mosaic illustrating a pivotal year in America’s global economic and cultural success...Bill Bryson’s latest book One Summer: America, 1927 is a fascinating examination of American heroism, invention, and resilience in the face of moral decay of the roaring ’20s.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Bill Bryson

See more books from this Author
BILL BRYSON's best-selling books include A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and At Home. He lives in England with his wife and children.































Author Residence: Norfolk, England































Author Hometown: Des Moines, IA
 
Published October 1, 2013 by Anchor. 528 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 20 2013
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Critic reviews for One Summer
All: 25 | Positive: 18 | Negative: 7

Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Aug 05 2013

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...hardly justify a book.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Kevin Baker on Nov 22 2013

...a wonderful romp, though the hyperbole of the age frequently runs away with Bryson. Great as Babe Ruth was, he does not still hold the record for shutouts by a left-handed pitcher in a season, and he did not hit three home runs in his last game, or compile 26 outfield assists in 1919 (the correct number is 14).

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Christopher Bray on Sep 28 2013

Enter Shipwreck Kelly, a Manhattan sailor who climbed to the top of a 50ft flagpole on the roof of Newark's St Francis hotel and… sat there… And sat there… And sat there… And people flocked to see him. Just as they'll flock to buy One Summer, surely the most sublime distraction published this year.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Sarah Churchwell on Sep 26 2013

In the end, despite its almost 500 pages, One Summer seems curiously slight; Bryson has little interest in analysis beyond the jocular aside, and his connections are narrative, rather than thematic or critical. The effect is rather like reading a highly amusing encyclopedia: many interesting starts, but few conclusions.

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Jillian Abbott on Oct 01 2013

a mosaic illustrating a pivotal year in America’s global economic and cultural success...Bill Bryson’s latest book One Summer: America, 1927 is a fascinating examination of American heroism, invention, and resilience in the face of moral decay of the roaring ’20s.

Read Full Review of One Summer: America, 1927 | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Erica Wagner on May 23 2014

The stories of these two men give the book a kind of unity but one senses that the author isn’t aiming to draw any real conclusions. This is a jolly jalopy ride of a book; Bryson runs down the byways of US history finding diversion in every roadside stop.

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Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Erica Wagner on Sep 20 2013

This is a jolly jalopy ride of a book; Bryson runs down the byways of American history and finds diversion in every roadside stop. If there’s a flaw, it’s that he wants to pack so much in that there’s little time for reflection.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Chuck Leddy on Oct 12 2013

What comes across clearest in Bryson’s lucid, lighthearted narrative is the pure energy and crazed optimism of the era.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by Jr Mcconvey on Nov 16 2013

At times it is all comfortingly familiar, and at times delightfully archaic. There are moments where it feels as though Bryson is trying to locate the whole blueprint for the current United States in his one summer, and the book begins to strain under the pressure.

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Toronto Star

Below average
Reviewed by Nathan Whitlock on Oct 17 2013

...Bryson is simply caught up in his own enthusiasm for a period in which American was just beginning to produce its most powerful, most impressive, and often most dangerous invention: optimism.

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Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Erik Spanberg on Oct 08 2013

Such vignettes fill “One Summer,” the best kind of general-interest book: fun, interesting, and something to learn on every page.

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Vanessa Bush on Aug 01 2013

Bryson offers delicious detail and breathtaking suspense about events whose outcomes are already known. A glorious look at one summer in America.

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by David M. Shribman on Nov 07 2013

Others have written about aspects of that epic year ... but only Bryson has stitched together the whole colorful fabric of that fateful season

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Novak on Oct 06 2013

If Bill Bryson had been your high school history teacher, you would have never fallen asleep in class. In "One Summer: America 1927," Mr. Bryson gives the events of 85 years ago so much polish and sparkle that they cannot help holding your interest.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Aamer Madhani on Oct 05 2013

ryson offers nothing but fascinating American stories from his exhaustive research, and his sharp writing makes the book hum along...But Bryson leaves the reader wanting more

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by DOUGLAS BRINKLEY on Oct 04 2013

If a college student wrote such vague, show-off sentences, he or she would be condemned with an explosion of red ink. But Bryson hums along, tossing out such empty nonsense in rote fashion without instructive explanation.

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Macleans

Good
Reviewed by Brian Bethune on Nov 08 2013

The most intriguing aspect of Bryson’s account, though, is the way it demonstrates a remarkable continuity between past and present.

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Independent.ie

Above average
Reviewed by Sean Farrell on Oct 05 2013

Bill Bryson's latest is another winner, a witty and engrossing snapshot of the USA in the summer of 1927.

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Chicago Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Patrick T. Reardon on Oct 13 2013

As a historian, Bryson is the antithesis of stuffy. He's a storyteller, pure and simple, and "One Summer" is a collection of a great many tales about people and events, centered on (but not limited to) a single season in a single year.

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Watermark Books And Cafe

Excellent
on Nov 20 2013

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.

Read Full Review of One Summer: America, 1927

Chicago Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Patrick T. Reardon on Oct 13 2013

As a historian, Bryson is the antithesis of stuffy. He's a storyteller, pure and simple, and "One Summer" is a collection of a great many tales about people and events, centered on (but not limited to) a single season in a single year.

Read Full Review of One Summer: America, 1927

Times Dispatch

Good
Reviewed by Doug Childers on Oct 06 2013

Bryson is an immensely entertaining storyteller, and in “One Summer” he combines a novelist’s eye for detail with a cultural historian’s knack for finding unexpected patterns across huge spans of data. It is, in a word, exhilarating.

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Code 451

Good
on Oct 11 2013

When Bryson is on target, and he’s rarely off, he’s as good a popular non-fiction writer as is currently in the game. That strength alone makes One Summer a must read for the Fall season.

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Caroline Bookbinder

Good
Reviewed by Carin Siegfried on Nov 04 2013

by the end I really felt I understood what it must have felt like to live in 1927. What a great concept, and I would love to read more books focused on a single year in history.

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The Broke and the Bookish

Above average
Reviewed by Tahleen on Nov 08 2013

He can make anything interesting, and I know a lot more now about the 1920s than I did before, that's for sure.

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