genre: non-fiction history
1927 was, in many ways, a banner year for America. Progress, that giant of wealth, technology and creativity, was moving forward at break-neck speed. Air travel, celebrity, talking pictures, notorious crimes, musical theater, television and radio, nationwide sporting events as American institutions - all of this was just either being invented or coming into its own. It is astonishing how from the happenings in one four month period, you can get such a cross-section of modern American life that was just beginning to take root and flourish. In One Summer, Bill Bryson begins in May and takes us through September, highlighting major events but also giving an in-depth background that fleshes out the landscape and makes those events meaningful in context.
I really enjoyed it. But, then again, I am a nut for popular and pop culture history. I loved learning about Babe Ruth and the Yankees, Al Capone, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge and Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly. I am so intrigued by this pre-depression era, where it felt like America was finally coming into its own. Flight is a major overtone to the entire book, as Charles made his historic journey that summer and became the darling of the world, and often events would be chronologically compared to whatever Charles Lindbergh was doing at the time - I had no idea he was such a huge phenomenon!
Bryson has such a readable style, he always seems to find the fascinating tidbits to make any event more interesting and memorable. I enjoy listening to him narrate his own books and I find them very easy to pay attention to, which isn't always the case with non-fiction. If I am truthful, the epilogue was actually sort of a downer, I almost wish I hadn't listened to it, and I did catch one error (BYU is in Provo, not Salt Lake, Bill!) - aside from that, I really feel like I have put a lot of ideas in order in my head with the help of this book.