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One Summer America 1927 - A Book Review

Updated on July 7, 2016

One Summer: America 1927

Bill Bryson is primarily known for his well researched and entertaining travel books with titles like: 'Notes From a Small Island', 'A Walk In The Woods' , 'Notes From A Big Country' and 'The Lost Continent. His books are insightful and always humorous. This is why he has become such a popular, bestselling author.

Being a very curious human being he embarked on a very ambitious line of research which resulted in his book called, 'A Short History Of Nearly Everything', published in 2003. Then he took an inward journey harking back to the memories of his own childhood in the 1950s. 'This book was titled, 'Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid', which was published in 2006 and then' At Home: A Short History Of Private Life' in 2010. As you can tell, he is an eclectic writer who isn't afraid to tackle any subject that he finds interesting.

His most recent book, 'One Summer: America 1927', which I just finished reading, is a hefty tome, over 500 pages, bursting with interesting information very much along the lines of his 'A Short History Of Nearly Everything' except he has taken a very short span of time that happened to be packed with so many interesting events that had an impact on our world. He not only tells us about these events but gives us a great deal of background information that lead to the event and then tells us the consequences of the event.

As Bill Bryson did his research, he came to discover that the year 1927 proved to be an extraordinary year and I can understand why Bill Bryson chose to write this book.

1927: A Memorable Year

In this book he tells us about the famous figures of the time. The following names read like a Who's Who of heroes and villains.

Babe Ruth, playing as a member of the New York Yankees, batted an unheard of 60 home runs in 1927, setting a new record that wouldn't be bettered until 1961. When any of us think of baseball, we think of Babe Ruth.

Henry Ford, the automobile innovator, had established a company that built its 15, ooo,oooth car in 1927. Life in America would never be the same after the introduction of the automobile and the assembly line.

Bill Bryson also captures the" devil may care" mood of the time despite prohibition. Flag-pole sitting became popular. "Shipwreck" Kelly spent 12 days atop a flagpole in Newark in June 1927. There were flappers, underground speak-easies, the energetic Charleston became the popular dance of the time.

There were also many murders in the headlines at the time but on May 18, 1927, school board treasurer, Andrew Kehoe,, who was facing financial difficulties and had been defeated in the township elections for town clerk decided to kill his wife, set fire to his farm and set off an explosion in the Bath Consolidated School. He killed 38 children, six adults and injured 58 before committing suicide by setting an explosive in his own truck. It was later discovered that he had planted enough explosive material to blow up the entire school. This was known as the 'Bath School Disaster' and is still considered to be the worst mass murder in a school in United States history. see:

Clara Bow and the "flapper"


The Dedication Of Mount Rushmore

The carving of Mount Rushmore, which depicts the faces of Washington, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt, designed and carved by sculptor Gutzon Borgium along with 400 workers, was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge, August 10, 1927.

Alphonse Gabriel "Al " Capone

Al Capone

Alphonse Gabriel " Al " Capone, known as Al Capone started out in New York becoming involved in various criminal activities even murder. He located to Chicago in 1919 and saw himself as being above the law indulging in bootlegging, gambling, prostitution and other vices. He was infamous throughout the 1920s and 1930s and survived by bribing the city officials. His businesses continued to flourish until he was finally imprisoned for tax evasion. He died in 1947 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Chares Augustus Lindbergh

On May 21, 1927, the aviator, Charles Augustus Lindbergh, landed at Le Bourget Airport, outside Paris, France after flying across the Atlantic from Long Island, New York in 33 hrs, 30 minutes, 29.8 seconds. He, consequently, became the first person to make a solo transatlantic airplane flight. The plane was called, 'The Spirit Of St. Louis'. He was a true pioneer of the aviation industry.

The Jazz Singer

'The Jazz Singer', starring Al Jolson, one of the biggest stars of the time, May McAvoy, Warner Oland and William Demarest( who later played Uncle Charlie in the television comedy 'My Three Sons') ' thrilled audiences, who at this time, had only been used to silent films with subtitles and accompanying music to reflect the emotions shown on the screen. The advent of the talkies brought a new lease of life to Hollywood that had been losing money up to this point but also saw the demise of many silent film stars who weren't able to adapt to the new medium.

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson promoting his book, 'One Summer...'
Bill Bryson promoting his book, 'One Summer...' | Source

Bill Bryson: some personal details

Bill Bryson - a short biography

Briefly, William McGuire Bryson, better known as Bill, was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1951. In his early 20's, after a stint at college, he decided to do what many young people did at that time, he left his familiar surroundings to backpack around Europe. Unlike many of us who travelled he went on to write top-selling books about his experiences especially noting the similarities and differences between the people he met on his journeys. His books have so much appeal because of the humour he injects into these stories.

Bill Bryson moved to the U.K. after marrying his British wife, Cynthia, and, except for several years in the U.S. has lived in various parts of England writing and, more recently, campaigning for the protection of rural Britain. A campaign that is especially against littering. He and his wife have four children.

He has received many accolades in his life: an OBE for his contribution to literature; an Honorary Doctorate from King's College, London; he has had a library at Durham University named after him and he has been Chancellor of that University; the Aventis Prize; the EU Descartes Prize and he is the first non-Britain to be made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society. There are more but, if you would like to learn a bit more about Bill Bryson and find a list of his books, just click on the link at the beginning of this article.

To Be Or Not To Be.

Bill Bryson has lived in Britain long enough to apply for British Citizenship but he has decided against it because, in his own words, "I am too cowardly to take it".

My Conclusion

I am a big fan of Bill Bryson and I have read many of his books in the past. This book, once again, didn't disappoint. It provided an entertaining and informative read. There is so much information in 'One Summer...' that it is worth owning a copy to delve into from time to time.

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