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One Summer: America, 1927 Hardcover – October 1, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 2,382 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: It’s amazing what a talented writer at the top of his game can do with a seemingly narrow topic. The title of Bill Bryson’s latest sums up the simplicity of his task: to document the “most extraordinary summer” of 1927, beginning with Charles Lindbergh’s successful flight across the Atlantic. Even though we know many of these stories--Lindbergh’s flight, Babe Ruth’s 60-homerun season, the Mississippi River flood, Al Capone’s bullet-ridden reign over Chicago--in Bryson’s hands, and in the context of one amazing summer of twentieth-century ingenuity and accomplishment, they feel fresh, lively, and just plain fun. The book is so jammed with “did you know it” nuggets and fascinating origin stories (the opening of the Holland Tunnel, the first Mickey Mouse prototype, the source of the term “hot dog”), the effect is like sitting beside a brilliant, slightly boozy barstool raconteur, who knows a little bit about everything. From a tabloid murder trial to a flagpole-sitting record to the secret origins of the looming Great Depression, One Summer offers a new look at a transitional period in history, re-introducing us to such characters as Capone, Jack Dempsey, Al Jolson, Charles Ponzi, and Herbert Hoover. Ultimately, this is a book about the moment when important things, for good or ill, began happening in the US. With a giddy narrative voice and keen eye for off-kilter details, Bryson has spun a clever tale of America’s coming of age. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

*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. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767919408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767919401
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,382 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Schiefelbein VINE VOICE on July 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 realized it, but it was taking its first steps as a world leader - in economics, in the arts, in sports, and in technology. Some of these developments were good, while others were reprehensible. Bryson manages to find either the humanity or the hilarity in each development - sometimes finding both.

Much of the book revolves around Charles Lindbergh's unimaginable feat of crossing the Atlantic in a plane. Today we don't think about Lindbergh much, but this event galvanized the world as no other event had previously done. Bryson writes at length about the other efforts to accomplish the same or similar feats and how many good men (and the occasional good woman) of several different countries died in the attempt. Bryson also focuses on how Lindbergh coped with being the most famous and adored person alive . . . for a time (until his pro-eugenics/Nazi sympathies became public . . . sympathies that Bryson extensively observes were shared by several "leading" intellects of the day). Lindbergh remains the heart of this dizzying book.

But by no means is Lindbergh the sole focus. Lindbergh's feat had tremendous economic consequences as it sparked the American aviation industry to unparalleled heights. Still, this was the summer of Henry Ford, who stopped work on the Model T in favor of the new Model A.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Every since I found a copy of "A Walk in the Woods", I have been a huge fan of Bill Bryson's writing. "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is Science made entertaining, "A Walk in the Woods" is hilarious, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" brings back fond Proustian memories of my own childhood. Thus I was very excited to see this new book.

Bill picked out a fantastic year, 1927, a year when America was really getting to be the nation we know and love. We get to read about The Babe, Silent Cal, Lucky Lindy, Al Capone, and even "Hooburt Heever". We find out why a "Ponzi Scheme" is called that- and much, much more.

As the author says "An extraordinary number of other important things happened that summer- the dedication of Mt Rushmore, the filming of the first talking picture, the great Mississippi flood, the execution of the anarchists Sacco & Vanzetti, Calvin Coolidge's surprising decision not to run for re-election, and a whole lot more. You could make a good case, and I hope I have, that is was the most eventful summer in American history". You have Bill, you have.

Again, the author does his usual of presenting history and hard facts in a entertaining and fun manner. He brings history alive.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's been said that some people can sing the phone book and make it sound beautiful. Bill Bryson could write the phone book and make it interesting and entertaining, not that One Summer, America, 1927 is comparable at all to a phone book. One Summer vividly explores the U.S. during a particularly entrancing time when explorers were taking to the sky, Babe Ruth blasted onto the baseball field, talking pictures were invented and gangsters were rolling in the dough, getting rich from prohibition.

One thing I've always enjoyed about certain writers such as Dumas and Dickens is the cliff hanger. I am such a sucker for them and Bill Bryson at the end of every delicious chapter let it be known that whichever character he was describing at the moment, more was coming with snippets like, 'and it was going to get worse,' or, 'little did he know things were about to change.' For some reason, I love cliffhangers. Bill ingeniously has written a book that culminates the events. Many exciting things in 1927 were happening at the same time.

This is an excellent book - riveting from beginning to end. Every time I read a Bill Bryson book I have forgotten just how wonderful he is. I think high school kids would be better off ditching their dry history courses and would learn more from reading this book. The stories would certainly have more of an impact.

One Summer transports the reader to the lively summer of 1927. You'll be amazed by some stories, saddened by others, encouraged-and all the while, entertained. While you are entertained, you learn so much more about familiar people and important but unfamiliar people. This is a must read! I would have read this book in one sitting if I could have. One Summer is hard to put down, but whenever I picked it up, I was thrust back to the summer of 1927. When the end of the book came, it was hard to leave.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bill Bryson is an author who makes history come to life. I have always enjoyed his work, and I ended up reading One Summer (400+ pages) in a little over a day. Like many of Bryson's other works, this book just captured my imagination from the opening page and held onto it throughout.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* I had never really considered 1927 to be all that special a year, but this book made it seem to be one of the most interesting patches of American History. Bryson does a masterful job of interweaving Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, the stock market, prohibition and a few other topics into a single narrative. In doing so, he points out a number of relationships that I sort of knew, just forgot to think about. For example, I was surprised to realize that Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic before soundtracks were added to pictures.

* The book is full of facts that I had never read before. I never knew that Zane Grey earned more than ten times the amount that F. Scott Fitzgerald ever made from writing, or that Grey led a life that would have shocked most of his fans. The book is full of such facts and observations, and I enjoyed reading them.

* Bryson captures a personal side to many of the people in his book. I had never appreciated how much of a social misfit Charles Lindbergh really was, and can only imagine the pain that years of being a A-list celebrity caused him. It seemed like the man couldn't brush his teeth without a parade and speeches. Similarly, it was amazing political scandals, Hollywood gossip and shady business dealings are as common in the 1920's as they are today.

* The book takes a broad view of topics, and manages to touch on just about everything that seemed important in either the 1920's or today.
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