Audie Award Finalist, History, 2014
One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country - a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive for us in this certain best-seller.
©2013 Bill Bryson (P)2013 Random House Audio
I wasn’t worried about buying this book without knowing what it was about, because I trust Bill Bryson to be worth the risk, and he didn’t let me down.
At first it appears to be the story of Charles Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic, but then it expands to also become the story of all the other interesting things that were going on in America that summer. Bryson rambles from story to story in no particular logical order, but all the characters he mentions are colourful and fascinating, such as Babe Ruth, Al Capone and Jack Dempsey.
Bryson’s style is very distinctive, full of superlatives and yet simultaneously laced with dry understatement. He is also the narrator of this audiobook, and he does a great job (although his French pronunciation isn’t great!).
He is such a brilliant storyteller that you wonder if 1927 was an exceptionally interesting year, or whether Bryson could write a similar book about any year and make it just as fascinating. I think the latter is probably true.
BB could tell a story about his shopping trip to YOUR Supermarket and you could be sure of two things:
1. You would be thoroughly entertained, and
2. You would learn a lot about the place where you have shopped for years.
The year 1927 was a year of firsts, lasts, prophetic beginnings and tragic endings - precisely the kind of raw material the BB weaves into a tapestry that is wholly Americana. Along the way he adds flesh and bone to the usual sound-bite rehash 1920's history.
The content of the book; Bryson is such a wordsmith, and I love how he weaves all the events of the summer together with interesting, odd, even weird, details. I could clearly see my grandparents sitting in their parlor, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and discussing these events.
In reverse, my least favorite characters were Hoover, Lindbergh, and Henry Ford. They don't come off as very pleasant people, but I really enjoyed reading (hearing) about their idiosyncrasies.
Warm, pleasant, humorous. I hate to say it, but I was a bit disappointed with the narration of this one, though. It seemed full of unnatural hesitations and pauses.
I was moved by how innocent America was in 1927. Even after the horrors of WWI, it seems like we were just on the cusp of worldliness. My mother was born in the spring of 1927, so it was great fun for me to imagine my grandparents, young and happy with a new baby girl, reacting to the events of that summer.
This is a wonderful book, make no mistake about that. The cadence of the narration just seemed slightly self-conscious. There were parts where Bryson apparently forgot he was narrating and just told the story naturally, and those were the parts I enjoyed most. I will still eagerly anticipate future audiobooks written and narrated by this author.
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
If you have read Bill Bryson before, you know what to expect out of One Summer, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. In fact, in many ways, this is a masterclass in Bryson's unique style: a rapid engaging tour through a series of historical incidents (most of which will be unfamiliar to the reader) organized loosely around an unexpected theme. He has done this with science, with the rooms of a house, and now, oddly enough, with the summer of 1927. This ends up being a particularly interesting choice, since the 1920s is often undercovered in history, and the result is a fascinating glimpse of the world becoming "modern" as talking picture, mass celebrity, airplanes, and a host of technologies become mainstream, even as racism and antisemitism appear in virulent forms.
So, we get to hear about Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and a range of other compelling figures from the summer of 1927. Bryson does not feel particularly compelled to stick with 1927, and the history weaves back and forth, but, simply because Bryson is so good at this, the story stays compelling and suspenseful despite the loose approach to the telling of history and the many rambling directions of the book. And, of course, Bill Bryson is also a great reader. The whole thing is pleasantly gentle and humorous while full of surprising insights into the time.
Really, just a wonderful example of popular history set in an understudied time. A great listen all around.
Letting the rest of the world go by
I've always loved 1927 America and I love this book. The author ties together the three biggest single events of 1927: Jolson Speaks, The Babe Swats, and Lindbergh Dares and ties them altogether into a coherent narrative. The unfolding of these and other events reveal the process of the times.
The author wonderfully reads his own book. He's not a professional reader by any means, but he adds the humor, anger or surprise that only an author of his own work could add at the appropriate spots.
The author, Bill Bryson, puts each major event in its proper context and is at his best when he's not in 1927 but is telling you the before and after stories of the characters. Not to be too much of a spoiler, The Babe is amazing and Lindbergh is a dud (racist, pro-nazi eugenicist, philanderer).
I love the book, it is marvelously read, I learned a lot, but I would only recommend it for lovers of 1927 or at least the 1920s, and if you do love that period of time by all means get it and enjoy.
It's the combination of great narration, a little bit of United Kingdom dialect, the understated way Bryson tells the story, and knowing the listener has no responsibility to remember any of it....that make Bill Bryson's gems such a wonderful listening experience.
To summarize, listen to be wonderfully entertained, even if you don't recall one morsel of what the book actually was about.
amidst all the glowing praise for this audio book is one written by a reviewer named Sarah. her description fits my experience almost perfectly. i have to say that I didn't enjoy the subject matter as much as she did, partially due to the "herky jerky" aspect of mr bryson's narration. while a brilliant writer, mr brysons speaking voice is strangely lulling. I found myself mentally wandering away from the story often, and struggling with the odd emphasis' and cadence of his speech.
to soften this review, I have to say that "A Walk In The Woods" is one of my favorite books, ever, and I have read, and enjoyed, most of his other books. this is the first audiobook of his work that I have attempted to listen to.
Over the years I have liked and to some degree not liked Bill Bryson's books. I am one of the few who thought his ' A Walk In The Woods ' book to be rather boring. I started reading 'At Home' and never finished it, too long and too much detail. But with this book he has hit a home run. I found the details behind the legends to be fascinating and he presented each story with just enough detail, no boring facts to fill a few more pages. I learned a lot about individuals and important moments in history that previously I thought I knew all that could be known. Mr. Bryson delivers in a fun and easy to listen to way. So I can recommend this enjoyable book to anyone with even the smallest amount of curiosity. A really, really good book. Congratulations Mr. Bryson.
Yet another great book by a great author. Is there anything this guy cannot write about. I loved his travel books, his book about a history of everything and even the book about our homes. I was fearful of a failure but once again Bryson brought to life an immensly compelling story. This guy could write a dictionary and I would love it.... Oh yeah, he did and it was great reading believe it or not. Even the book on Shakespere was excellent. Good job Bill, only start cranking em out faster. :)
I have read or listened to many Bill Bryson books, and One Summer is definitely my favorite. It grabbed my interest at the start, and never let go. There were just so many fascinating things that happened in America in 1927. Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, prohibition and gangsters, anarchists, etc.. This book goes deeply enough into the key characters to satisfy, but also has so many fascinating stories. I sometimes look at life today and think with nostalgia about what life must have been like in those simple olden days. Reading this, you see America in 1927 for the good and the bad, and I realize life today is not so bad. If social history has any interest to you, you should try this book. The author narrated it, and it took me a while to get used to his voice. I wish he had left that job to a professional. Still, I loved the book.
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