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Book Review

‘One Summer’ is one to remember

1/8/2014

bookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Cathryn Lang

Doubleday

10/1/13

$28.95

HIV

509 pp.

Does the idea of reading history turn you cold? Learning dates and dry facts killed the subject for many beyond what was required. Luckily, we have Bill Bryson to serve up history with his own humorous insight.

Des Moines native/Roosevelt alum Bill Bryson has lived in England for more than 40 years, yet he still maintains an interest in the cultural history of America. His latest work, “One Summer: America, 1927,” came about when he realized the summer of 1927 was the culmination of a number of milestone events. These included: Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 60 home runs, the first “talkie” movie, the invention of TV, the meeting and decision of world bankers that precipitated the crash of 1929, the birth of Mt. Rushmore and many more pivotal American events. Bryson has organized the book by the months of that summer — May through September. He gives you the complete back-story of all these events with his trademark wry humor. Bryson also shares the eccentricities of the historical icons — Ruth, Capone, Coolidge, Gehrig and Hoover — who dominated the era. We get a rare honest glimpse at these men behind the curtain of traditional history.

But the greatest significance of 1927 was the shift of the world’s focus. America had always been in the shadow of Europe in the areas of popular culture, economics, invention, technology and military strength. All of the sudden, America was the sharp new kid on the block. No achievement signaled this change more the Lindbergh transatlantic flight. He became the face of this fresh new country where the “sky was the limit” (pun intended). CV

Cathryn Lang was introduced to Bill Bryson’s writing while living in the San Francisco Bay area and feeling homesick for Iowa. She has been a fan ever since.

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