One Summer: America, 1927

Bill Bryson. Doubleday, $28.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-7679-1940-1
“People in 1920s America were unusually drawn to spectacle,” states Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) in his prologue—an unusual claim that his latest, a sprawling account of a brief period in a singular year in that decade, seems to want to substantiate. Whether or not the claim is objectively true, Bryson himself is captivated by the events of summer, 1927. And why not? They included Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight over the Atlantic, Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution, Gutzon Borglum’s start on the sculpting of Mt. Rushmore, the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, and Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs—all of which Bryson covers in characteristically sparkling prose. These notable happenings are worth relating and recalling, but others have done so, and more authoritatively and fully. Here, there’s not much connection between them; a string of coincidents (and there are many of those each day) hardly justify a book. So this isn’t history, nor is it really a story with a start, finish, and thematic spine. No analysis, only narrative—it’s diverting but slight. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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