Two great things about Bill Bryson are that he presents history with levity and satisfies our natural curiosity, by telling the story and taking it one step further, by telling related stories or postscripts. In One Summer, he focuses on the year 1927, but enlarges it in scope to include the events leading up to a particular subject, like baseball and aviation, which feature prominently in this book.
What happened in American in the summer of 1927? Well, Babe Ruth was filling the stands everywhere he played baseball. He and Lou Gehrig were setting records for home runs. Charles Lindbergh became a major celebrity when he became the first person to solo and airplane across the Atlantic ocean. The stock market was on an upward tick and everyone was investing and living large. I liked these stories, but it was some others that really grabbed my attention.
Not knowing much about boxing, I really enjoyed hearing about the rise of Jack Dempsey and the famed Dempsey/Tunney match. I was also fascinated with the mass bombings spreading throughout the country, conducted by an immigrant anarchist group. This group was mostly Italian, and so Italian immigrants were treated with fear and disdain, much like Middle Easterners are regarded today in light of Islamic terrorism.
Bryson does an excellent job, as always. One Summer is well researched, and presented in a way that captures interest, makes you smile, and leaves you wanting more.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013