One Summer by Bill Bryson (review by Andrew R. ’17)

One Summer: America, 1927One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Modern American culture doesn’t pay much heed to the events of the 1920s, a decade crowded out by the Great Depression and with two World Wars looming on either side, but this was the decade that gave rise to some of our country’s biggest names. Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone—all make appearances in this lengthy work of narrative nonfiction, even if they have to share the stage with a throng of less famous figures (including a frustrating number of forgotten aviators, small-time criminals, and local politicians). Even if One Summer is ostensibly a chronicle of the events of 1927, the year Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic by airplane and Babe Ruth clobbered an especially impressive number of baseballs, Bryson can’t help himself: he constantly backtracks to the 1910s and jumps ahead to the 1930s in search of more and more amusing anecdotes to stuff into his narrative. Some of these historical stories provide necessary context; others feel like dead weight. In the end, One Summer delivers all the information it promised, but the gems of historical factoids are all too often buried in a heap of gratuitous detail. – Andrew R. ’17

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