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211 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson hilariously, brilliantly dissects America's first steps onto the world stage
Millions of words have been spent singing Bill Bryson's praises, so please allow me to add to them. His latest work of brilliant, comedic non-fiction, "One Summer: America, 1927," ranks among his greatest works. It's hard to think of a more insightful, more hilarious author working today.

Bryson's thesis is simple - America in the summer of 1927 may not have...
Published 14 months ago by Scott Schiefelbein

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126 of 157 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not very humorous
I have read almost everything that Bill Bryson has written and am a great fan of his works. However, recently, including this book, he has diverted from his humorous roots to a more straight-laced view of the world.
This book documents the summer of 1927 and the lasting effect it had on the United States of America. All of the passages are interesting but to say that...
Published 13 months ago by Charles S. Holzheimer


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll love it!, November 24, 2013
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Bill Bryson's narration of this fascinating study of the seminally important events in the (extended) summer of 1927, brings covers events in politics, inventions, economics, sports, crime, inventions, business which impacted not only America's future but the world. He deftly covers some background material and seamly flows into his current topic and then carries the story forward. It's a fun and educational read, often a real page turner, and well recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another BB classic, November 24, 2013
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Judging by the bibliography and index, BB has excelled himself yet again by producing a wonderful exposé of a period in history, which has such importance to us today. In this instance, his writing is fluid but does not have the customary quantity of wit, possibly just as well because many of the events that took place in 1927 America were not funny at all. In fact, I was very surprised at his frequent - well, I counted 5 occasions - us of "enchanting"; not a word I associate with BB. But the one liners are still there and as usual, make reading any book of his an absolute joy. I learned a great deal from this book. If only BB had been my history teacher at school.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson at his best, November 17, 2013
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Masterful. As a storyteller, there is none better than Bryson. The book excels on many levels. It is page turning history. It is vastly entertaining biography. It is beautifully written with wit, style and humor. It is a work that exemplifies insight and scholarship. I highly recommend this book.

K. McMeans
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Chronicle of Change, July 26, 2013
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This review is from: One Summer: America, 1927 (Hardcover)
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Any young person in America can tell you that a lot can happen in a summer. The game can change in so many ways in the course of one season. However, in the summer of 1927, a number of games changed forever. Charles Lindbergh changed the world of aviation irrevocably with his solo flight from New York to Paris in at the beginning of the summer, and Babe Ruth changed baseball forever that summer with his march to becoming the home run king. In between, flappers flapped as the history of women changed forever, and more and more events that shape the world we live in occurred than in any average summer.

This is the summer that Bill Bryson presents in his friendly informative style in "One Summer: America, 1927". From sensational murders to flagpole sitting, it is all here in this engaging portrait that captures not only the events of a summer, but also the innocence of a nation. It is easy to recognize who we used to be as a people in this book, and it provides ample food for thought about how we became who we are today.

I read every book Bryson writes. I love his wit, his command of the English language, and his unflagging attention to the details that bring events to life. This is one of his best endeavors; so don't let it pass by without a read. I have spent every evening this week curled up in a chair with this book, and I am sorry to see it end. That is not a claim made often about works of non-fiction, but it is valid in this case. Thanks, Bill Bryson for a marvelous read!
One Summer: America, 1927
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A jolly romp through a fascinating moment in American history, November 14, 2013
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Bryson seems to be interested in just about everything, and jumps freely between topics as diverse as early aviation and the increase in home runs starting in the late 1920's. I found some of the story lines more interesting than others, but Bryson has such a friendly, accessible writing style that even some of the less thrilling subjects were worth reading. And he manages to be funny without mocking his subjects, which in some instances -- Calvin Coolidge wearing an Indian headdress and chaps springs to mind -- can't be easy. The uncurious will probably find the scope of this book a bit baffling, but most people should find this an entertaining, educational and enjoyable read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cue the Music: Seventy Six Trombones, October 16, 2013
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This review is from: One Summer: America, 1927 (Hardcover)
If ever a book should have an accompanying CD, Bill Bryson's "One Summer, America 1927" is that book. Cue the music, maestro:

-- "Seventy six trombones led the big parade," which begins in May with Lindbergh & the first trans-atlantic flights, followed by

--"Take me Out to the Ball Game," with June's Babe Ruth, and his peerless peers including Lou Gehrig, continuing with

-- "It's a Grand Old Flag," in which we meet August's vacationing President Calvin Coolidge and those around, before, and after him, concluding with

--"Darth Vader's March," September & summer's end---whose brutal solemnity echoes Sacco & Vanzetti's lives, the height of the Klu Klux Klan, and the prosecution (& persecution) of anarchists, Fascists, and those thinking differently

The almost 500 pages of "One Summer, America 1927" can hardly contain these events and these men, and it doesn't even try to. The book is as fractal as the coast of Maine. A character or theme is introduced: don't go away, it won't have its arc completed where it first appears, but is followed in asides & interludes in succeeding pages. Like life itself, where happenings are spread out & we just learn to pick up the theme & follow it when it re-appears.

There's Henry Ford and his story; the financial gang of four whose summer of 1927 plotting & ploying probably pushed the economy over the cliff in 1929; Clara Bow, that darling girl whose voice sadly for her & us all twanged harshly upon the ear when talkies arrived; the gallant & ambitious & competitive & at times manipulative aviators who did not make it across the Atlantic (peace be on their memories). And Herbert Hoover, who combined a genius for egotistic self-promotion with extra-ordinary management skill, a fine man for disasters, untouched it would seem with the milk of human kindness. We elected him president in 1929. Oh, and Al Capone & the rooting, tooting story of Prohibition and the remarkable woman, lawyer Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who laid him low for income tax evasion. Leading off? Those ill-fated lovers of the 1927 Sash Weight Murder case.

Bryson is the drum major of this parade, high-bouncing, gold-hatted, & be-plummed with curiousity, fascination, a passion for details, and writing his most readable prose. Stepping back, however, several themes run through:

--his love of baseball and the noble science of boxing. You want to know who else was on Babe's 1927 Yankee team? Here are their bios, every one (pp. 219-222)with names in bold-face type. And the scores of almost every game, as well as the size & shape of the bat-boy and the changes, intrigues, and drama of baseball's resurrection when the Babe first came to bat.

--the sense of America's proud high noon, between the wars, when symbolically with Lindbergh's flight and literally, America become a dominant world force, the leader, and by-and-large, we did so in benign ways

--the darkness at noon in America as well as abroad, the virulent anti-Communism, anti-Fascism that saw enemies in butchers and bakers; the more horrible, if this is possible, anti-Semitism that saturated Lindbergh the hero, that imbued Henry Ford, that was almost a common-place in thought and language; and the ugly, cruel, devastating discrimination against African-Americans.

"One Summer, American 1927" can be read lightly, in the human interest of the stories and revelations of let's say unusual details ("He liked his head massaged with Vasaline when he was breakfasting") and going from the top-of-one-wave to the next in achievements & celebrations. This is, however, also a book about serious & enduring issues, ones that can slow down the turning page and quiet the ebullient music.

"What can be said," writes Bryson,summing up Lindbergh with information emerging after his death, "is that the greatest hero of the twentieth century was infinitely more of an enigma and considerably less of a hero than anyone had ever supposed." (p.441) So it goes, for many about whom Bryson writes. Yet, the heroism & the greatness were there too as "One Summer, American 1927" can help us see.

Any negatives? At times, unlike some of Bryson's earlier books, the writing seems stitched together, giving here and there a sense of some cut-and-paste, edited by that high-bouncing drum-major.

None-the-less, this is an ambitious, grand, and often wise book from one of our well-loved authors. "American muse," wrote Stephen Vincent Benet in the invocation to his "John Brown's Body, "whose strong & diverse heart, So many men have tried to understand...." Readers may feel Bryson has invoked this muse and that she has, in her strong & diverse way, answered.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read the book;, skip Bryson's reading of the audiobook version, October 12, 2013
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Bryson lights up the showy stages of history, but what I found most appealing is the way he also illuminates the dusty corners. For example, I had no idea that before he became President, Herbert Hoover headed up the massive relief effort for victims of World War I in Belgium and was so successful that he was known as the world's greatest humanitarian. I also didn't know that while he was doing that, Hoover promoted himself at least as tirelessly as Donald Trump does today, and had so little regard for anyone else that he castigated an aide for daring to take him to view on of the relief kitchens his organization had established.

I knew that Al Capone was imprisoned when the Feds ingeniously decided to charge him evading taxes by failing to report his ill-gotten gains, but what I didn't know was that this scheme was the brainchild of Mabel Walker Willebrandt, an impressive woman who received her law degree in 1916, after having decided to go to law school at night when she was a 37-year-old housewife. After making a name for herself in southern California, she was lured to Washington, DC, and became an Assistant Attorney General in Warren G. Harding's administration. Her areas of responsibility were Prohibition and income tax, which probably gave her the idea of whacking crime figures like Capone with the income tax stick.

Everybody knows about Babe Ruth, and Bryson entertainingly describes many of Ruth's excesses on and off the field, but drops in a charming story about Graham McNamee, who became America's best-known sportscaster in the Babe Ruth era––by accident. McNamee asked a radio broadcaster if he could audition as a singer, and was immediately hired as an announcer and occasional singer. McNamee found himself announcing a Yankees/Giants World Series in 1923 when the lead announcer walked out. Though he didn't know much about baseball, he knew how to make radio listeners feel they were present at a grand drama, and he went on to become a tremendously popular showman.

Bryson also drops in an amazing factoid about Al Capone's older brother, Vincenzo, some scandalous revelations about Charles Lindbergh's love life, and many details about the Black Sox scandal that give the tale a poignancy I was never before aware of.

The book bogs down for a bit about halfway through, but it rallies and has a strong finish. I wish Bryson hadn't chosen to read the audiobook version himself. His voice is weak and constricted, and he reads without emphasis and some odd cadences. A professional voice actor could have added a lot more life to the production.

The idea of focusing on one short period in history is a good one, and I hope Bryson will do it again. Maybe 1954, when Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, Bill Haley & the Comets released "Rock Around the Clock," the Army McCarthy hearings began and Senator McCarthy's luck ran out, Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile, and the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but Not Great, November 12, 2013
I love Bill Bryon's work but One Summer was just not that great. If you're into reading a lot of facts laid out in helter-skelter form, then it's for you. He jumps from one subject to another just when things get interesting and once you get back to that point, it's like--oh well, big deal. Byson's at his best when it's on a personal level, and with Katz, such as his travels in Neither Here Nor There, or A Walk in the Woods. The writing is good, but the Bryson magic (and his humor) is not here. If he was around in and involved with 1927, I'm sure it would have been a lot more interesting.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Can't Put it Down Kind of Book!, November 13, 2013
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DebiLita (Monterey, California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: One Summer: America, 1927 (Hardcover)
I was thoroughly engaged in this book! I felt like it brought me right to the era that my parents grew up in, and told me the stories that they only glazed on: in fact, I bought a copy for my Dad (who is 90, and who then bought copies for his elder friends!), and it was the talking point to pull out the stories from him that I have longed for. It also becomes profoundly clear through Bill's writing how history really does repeat itself. Seems to me it should be on required reading lists with the bonus: it is entirely wonderful to read! It's incredible to me how much has happened in really so short a time: aviation, television, and so much more. I would tell my friends: "Can you believe that the first stop light had just appeared in New York City in the 20's?" and it goes on and on from there. I so wish it were longer! (Now that is an indication of what a good book it is).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Basic for Bill Bryson, October 26, 2013
This review is from: One Summer: America, 1927 (Hardcover)
Like grading on a curve I find myself giving this review more criticism only because Bill Bryson has set an amazingly high bar with works like a Brief History of Nearly Everything and At Home. This is a serviceable history of the Jazz Age done through the lens of one year, 1927. Bryson does a great job of probing some of the great social issues of the day and showing us how the 1920s were an era of huge societal change. What is lacking is Bryson's usual depth of historical probing. Yes he does a great job of showing us how characters both big and small were key players in this program but what's lacking is the usual Bryson method of telling one story and have it turn into dozens more, all of which tie back.

Still this is a Bill Bryson book which means it's worth your time. A mediocre book by Bill Bryson is better than a great book by most writers. Make time to read this!
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One Summer: America, 1927
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson (Hardcover - October 1, 2013)
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