Friday, October 14, 2016

Bill Bryson's Sharp Snapshot of 'One Summer: America, 1927'

Fascinating little-known facts and warm humor
make 'One Summer' a great read!
When you read or watch the news, do you ever feel that life in the USA is a never ending cycle of crazy celebrities, sleazy politicians, egomaniacal millionaires, and tabloid twits, interrupted only by natural disasters and tragedies? Bill Bryson focuses his literary lens on all of this and more, from nearly a century ago, in One Summer: America, 1927.

The summer of '27 was the creation of Mount Rushmore.
During the summer of 1927, the country was riding high with the Roaring Twenties. On the upside, Bryson maintains that the era’s unbridled profits influenced innovations, feats of accomplishment in sports and other fields, and prosperity for nearly every class of people. The author also notes how financial attitudes and social mores drastically changed accordingly, along with the country’s fortunes.

Babe Ruth had a swingin' summer in '27!
Charles Lindbergh became a world-wide hero with his trans-Atlantic flight.
Heroes like Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, and Henry Ford play prominent roles in Bryson’s snapshot of a specific time in American history. The greatest public figure of the time plays a prominent part throughout this nearly 500 page book: Charles Lindbergh, who made his legendary transatlantic flight, which instantly made him a heroic icon. Bryon offers post-scripts to his subjects’ glorious summer, and in Lucky Lindy’s case, his later admiration for Hitler made him instantly unlucky. Murders dominated newspaper headlines during this time; so did inept politicians and powerbrokers who led America into the Great Depression two years later. Money was often the root of both personal and political scandals. You will be astounded by the ineptitude of our government’s handling Prohibition. One Summer proves that going back to “the good old days” won’t automatically make America great again!

The U.S. government throwing profits down the sewer with Prohibition.
The author deftly weaves legendary events and players from the summer of ’27 with telling details and now-forgotten people, all of whom helped shape our country into the America we’ve become. Bryson’s straightforward style and humor make the reading engrossing, but his real gift is restraint. Bill Bryson subtly draws comparisons of actions and events that were the beginnings of certain modern day American attitudes toward money, politics, celebrity, and power. Bryson’s recapping of natural disasters, scandals, and misfortunes from that storied summer, is the underlying belief that there is nothing new under the sun.

Author Bill Bryson.
For those of you who can manage about 20 to 30 pages of reading at bedtime before the book falls out of your hands, One Summer is the perfect read, with its stand-alone stories within each chapter. And for those who love history written by a great storyteller like Bill Bryson, you will roar through One Summer: America 1927.

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