Cover of Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927.

Hotlinked from Goodreads.

I love Bill Bryson’s books. I always leave feeling like someone could’ve removed 100 pages, but I love them anyway. He’s amusing, and I love amusing history books. One Summer: America, 1927 is exactly that. My review on Goodreads is here.

The novel (roughly) follows the summer of 1927. It covers all the big events–Lindbergh’s flight, Babe Ruth and the Yankees of 1927, the trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray, the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, the development of the Model A Ford, and more. And the best part about is how Bryson humanizes everyone. These are people–strange, bizarre, quirky, flawed people–and you get to know them all.

And it brings the 20s to life. You see the movie palaces, the shift of power toward America, and the dawn of modern technology, right next to eugenics and rampant racism. And even though it’s 90 years away, it’s striking what parallels you can find to modern America–at the very least, we’ve apparently been covering sensational murder trials at the expense of actually important news for at least a century. That’s kind of… uh. I don’t know if I want that to be a cultural tradition, actually.

But it’s great. And long. I finished in about 4 days, and that was still too much. I love Bryson’s writing, but… no. I really should not have done that. I was exhausted by the end. But I’d still whole-heartedly recommend it.