If there’s anything you can say about Bill Bryson’s work, you practically guarantee that it will be compulsively readable. All Bryson’s best works delve strongly into history, and his newest work, One Summer: America, 1927 looks to continue the trend. A lot was happening in late 1920s America. By picking this particular stretch of American history Bryson gets to deliver up all sorts of interesting tidbits about Al Capone’s liquor sales, Babe Ruth’s home run record, the oddities of President Coolidge and future President Hoover, and most importantly from an American historical standpoint, Lindbergh’s inaugural transatlantic flight. At this point America was riding high on the Roaring 20s, and about to fall off the cliff into the Great Depression.
1927 is a lucrative year to mine. Of course, pretty much any year in American history can be done this way. In the past 10 years we’ve had a book about 1959, 1922, 1864, several each about 1908 and 1919, and at least 30 about 1776. And that’s from a simple moment’s contemplation. Historians and writers routinely pick a year and just dive in. Furthermore, One Summer has been getting a bit of criticism early on. Publisher’s Weekly alluded to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much overarching narrative to the book other than Bill Bryson found a lot of things he likes about 1927 (the same criticism could be leveled against Bryson’s 2010 work At Home). But, as that review goes on to point out, Bryson’s wonderful prose still makes One Summer a very enjoyable read. When Bryson is on target, and he’s rarely off, he’s as good a popular non-fiction writer as is currently in the game. That strength alone makes One Summer a must read for the Fall season.