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on 31 August 2014
How on earth one person can create a book, albeit a very long book, out of such an extreme diversity of events, developments, people and plain downright pecularity, that is quite simply riveting and entertaining and somehow holds itself together? That person can only be Bill Bryson. No idea how he does it, but this is a book that is great fun to read, will contribute at least one fact to quite possibly every subject you can think of, and by the end of it, make you feel as if you have been at the centre of a whirlwind. As America must have felt at the end of the four months of summer in 1927 - whew.

A lot happened or came to fruition over that four months. Bill Bryson would seem to touch on all of them in some way - amongst others the beginnings of television, talking films, manipulation of the US finanical system, Ponzi schemes, Al Capone, boxing, devastating floods in the Mississippi, Henry Ford's new Model T car. But of total dominance, overshadowing everything that occurred during that period are the trans Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh and the magnetic power of Babe Ruth - baseball and planes. You will learn a lot about both, much of which you never really needed or wanted to know, but because it is written about in such an engaging and conversational manner, somehow the facts, and there are many of them, do stay with you.

However this compendium of often quite bizarre, fancy that, overall useless but intensely fascinating informaton is not so much about April to September 1927, but about the years that lead up to the various events that reach their zenith over that particular year. The book more becomes a history, mostly social and economic of America during the 12-13 years since the end of WWI . So the list includes prohibtion, the prejudices and bigotry that evolved from the mass inflow of migrants from Europe, the seeds of eugenics and population control that reached its peak in Nazi Germany, the Ku Klux Klan, the pull of newspapers, America's love affair with skyscrapers, the weirdness of history makers like Henry Ford, Herbert Hoover, and so it goes on. An endless parade of events, people, and behaviours that quite frankly had me wondering how on earth America made it past 1927.

And it is riveting, endlessly fascinating reading written.
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on 24 February 2014
Wonderfully Bryson. Writes like a dream and rambles around, digs up obscure fascinating nuggets of information. Staggeringly elegantly written. That style is as important as the superb stories. If reading is a pleasure for the way words are used then this is a classic example. But it is important to read it slowly to make it last and or savour. I was fascinated to read the review of the ...person ... who gave it one star because they hadn't read it. Hilariously stupid. Read the other 5 star reviews and get a feel for this. One to comeback to in a year - there is too much here to absorb at a single sitting.
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on 8 November 2013
Is there any kind of book that couldn't be improved a thousandfold by getting Bill Bryson to write it? Already my favourite-books-list includes 'Mother Tongue' a glorious history of the English language, 'A Short History of Everything,' which wraps up a thousand years of science and 'At Home' which is a cosy history of domesticity. And I've lost count of the number of times I've recommended Bryson's 'Shakespeare'. So that's linguistics, science, and literary biography to add to the canon of travel books that Bryson is best known for, and now here he is with an off the wall volume of American History that packs about half a million little-known facts about the American Summer of 1927 into five hundred pages and somehow ends up creating the most compelling book I've read since ... well probably since the last Bill Bryson book.

Bryson has stumbled upon a magical and pivotal summer in US history, and in his infectious, folksy style he takes us on a romp from May to September introducing a riotous cast of characters that you simply couldn't invent. Take the writer Zane Grey, for example, who earned a third of a million dollars from his books in 1927. Bryson reveals that Grey's hobbies included compiling detailed journals of his sexual exploits, and being photographed in the act. 'Edgar Rice Burroughs,' Bryson tells us, 'had a tamer life than Grey - but then, after all, who didn't?' It is this deliciously conversational style, a compote of statistics and gossip, that makes this book so compulsively readable. The summer is bookended by two events that gripped the consciousness of America - Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic, and Babe Ruth's record breaking season with a baseball bat. I started the book with a level of interest very close to zero in either event, but finished up almost as delirious with excitement as the crowds who swarmed to see both heroes in action. It is a heavy book, and my arms were aching as I finished it. But it is an amazing and wonderful read. I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 10 November 2013
"One Summer: America, 1927" by Bill Bryson is one of those books that will make you ask yourself why I didn't write something like that.

In his book, Bill Bryson who is great narrator managed to create great story out of the events that are hard to imagine they can make book.
He documented all the events that happened this exciting 1927 year, starting with Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic that happened a bit earlier than this great summer.

For all those who are accustomed to Bryson work, they know what can be expected.
He writes about the history events but he does that on his special way making it more interesting than these stories are when you read them.

Beside lot of big events that happened that year that include Al Capone and Babe Ruth inside reader can also find some people and events related to pop cultural trivia and memorabilia, like Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly flagpole record or Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer" that changed motion picture industry.

The author has succeeded to very well connect all these events, that at first glance seem unrelated, to a very exciting mosaic of interesting events that's a pleasure to read.

"One Summer" is an excellent book from start to the end, and it would be great for today's kids to read his books given his history teachings that are completely different from the usual and will interest everyone.

It seems that 1927 was a very interesting year to live but it is equally interesting to read about it with this historical distance.

Therefore, I can fully recommend you to give a chance to Bill Bryson's book especially if you have never read any other his works.
Although maybe it doesn't sound very interesting to read about most well-known facts, you'll see that due to his style he made great book about great summer of 1927.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 September 2013
I have always found Bill Bryson to be one of the most consistent authors around; I await each of his books with eager anticipation and I am yet to be disappointed.

And so it is with "One Summer: America 1927".

The book itself has striking cover art and weighs in at an impressive 560 pages; the prologue and epilogue are separated by five main sections:

1. May: The Kid
2. June: The Babe
3. July: The President
4. August: The Anarchists
5. September: Summer's End

These in turn are then divided into a large number of chapters.

There are also nearly fifty glossy photographs split across two sections; these are great and really helped bring the text to life.

The book is written very much in the style we have come to expect from Bill Bryson, warm and funny whilst providing a constant stream of fascinating information, some of it well known but much of it new to me.

The concept itself of taking just a few months at a pivotal time in America's history is very clever and it really is fascinating to learn just how much was happening at that time; America was gripped with the pioneer spirit and it was quickly realising that it had the wealth and resources to do pretty much anything it wanted, and it did!

At the end of the book there is a section titled "Notes on Sources and Further Reading"; this is a brilliant addition and provides a wealth of recommended reading material to further the experience.

As with Bill Bryson's superb A Short History Of Nearly Everything this book manages to provide the reader with a detailed history lesson, yet at the same time it is incredibly accessible and makes the experience of learning fun, I just wish we had Bill Bryson writing our history books when I was at school (perhaps I would have gotten a better grade!).

Bring on Bill's next book!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 April 2014
This is a very enjoyable depiction of the summer of 1927 referenced to the years before and after, particularly in the United States. What a cast of character -presidents Coolidge and Hoover, sportmen like Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth, murderers, judges, and mobsters all feature in these amusing and interesting pages, with Babe Ruth's baseball accomplishments featured prominently .

The greatest focus though is on the growth of aviation with new aircraft, celebrity pilots and pioneering flights. Charles Lindberg and his remarable feat in being the first to fly the Atlantic alone is the star of this book, although his later disgrace as a fascist, or a least supporter of Fascism is made very clear.

As you'd expect this is nice and easy reading and although quite long at nearly 500 pages the time flies by, and is gently amusing as well as informative. Taking a single summer as the subject for the book works really well - I got a really good impression of the sweep of events, and what it was like to live at this time, as a result
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VINE VOICEon 21 November 2013
Everyone knows what an entertaining writer Bryson is, but if you read this expecting it to be side-splittingly funny I think you will be disappointed. While it is full of interesting nuggets it also sags badly at times. In particular, there is WAY too much about minor aviators who all start to sound the same. In fact, there is a bit too much of everything. Bryson clearly did a huge amount of research and you get the feeling he couldn't bear to leave anything out. So just as you are getting interested in Al Capone he veers off onto another tangent and you lose the thread. That's not to say there isn't some compelling stuff in the book, but overall I didn't think it lived up to his usual high standards of wit and entertainment.
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on 15 October 2013
This is Bryson at his best; witty, balanced, and immensely well researched. The contrast between the smug self-confidence of the USA and the social upheavals in Europe and in Britain in particular one year after the General Strike, at times make painful reading. In style and content it really deserves five stars, but I found many of the technicalities of baseball heavy going. My fault, of course, but I think a straightforward glossary of the game's terminology would have helped the English reader enjoy the book more.
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on 25 October 2014
Once again Bryson proves to be a most readable author of non-fiction. Lindbergh is the central hero of 1927 with his remarkable achievement of solo crossing of the Atlantic at a time when many died in the attempt and those who succeeded could not navigate like Lindberg. He landed where he intended. Others crossed the ocean only not to know where they landed. The other great hero of the year was the incomparable Babe Ruth. A glossary of baseball terms would help non-americans to understand his achievements. The folly of prohibition is exposed and the awful popularity of eugenics and endemic racism. Lindbergh was the all American hero until his anti-semitism was evidenced. I found the account of anarchist bombings to be a surprise. There was much to like and loathe in 1927 America. This is a great book of social and political history.
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on 25 October 2013
This is an excellent chronicle of just one year of American history, full of little-known but fascinating facts. The only slight down side is the content concerning baseball, which I found just about as interesting as watching paint dry! However, it has to be acknowledged that if the book was about one year in British history, American readers would have the same reaction to any content about cricket.
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