One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer America 1927 Cover

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

On a warm spring evening just before Easter 1927, people who lived in tall buildings in New York were given pause when wooden scaffolding around the tower of the brand-new Sherry-Netherland Apartment Hotel caught fire and it became evident that the city’s firemen lacked any means to get water to such a height.


In the summer of 1927, a young man named Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic alone and landed the Spirit of St Louis successfully in Paris. But it was not the only thing to happen in that long summer in America. Bill Bryson tells the events and stories of that summer and the effects they had on future events, focussing on some key themes: flying, baseball, boxing and Prohibition.


I was sceptical at first. A whole book about just one summer? How much could really have happened in a couple of months?

I was so wrong.

This was an amazing book. Bill Bryson is a gifted writer and makes history come to life.

He lived through the Boxer Rebellion in China, hacked through the jungles of Borneo, rode camels across the red emptiness of Western Australia, rubbed shoulders with Wyatt Earp and Jack London in a Klondike saloon, camped beside the Great Pyramids of Egypt. He had experiences as rich and memorable as any young man has ever enjoyed, and was moved by none of them.

There are few key topics he tackles in this book: Flying, Prohibition, Baseball, Boxing, the presidency. The focus is on the events of 1927, but he also explains what led to them and what effects they would have in the future.

This book is a great collection of anecdotes, characters and events that more often than not changed history.

I really enjoyed the history of the first Transatlantic flight. This part is really the theme that runs throughout the book. It is full of odd characters and hair-raising stunts. And a lot of tragedies.

Nungesser had so many injuries that after the war he listed them all on his business card.

One Summer is also a great book to read for people who think that back in the days everything was better. Because a) it wasn’t and b) people weren’t all that different back then. They stop and stare to watch burning buildings, they have a celebrity cult.They even had their own version of photoshop.

The Graphic became famous for a form of illustration of its own invention called the ‘composograph’, in which the faces of newsworthy figures were surperimposed on the bodies of models who had been posed on set to create arresting tableaux.

But, while people may not have changed all that much, times are definitely better now. More equality, more rights, and of the technological advancements, like antibiotics. It’s scary how much we take them for granted. One of the stories that stayed with me the most was about president Coolidge’s son.

Calvin Junior wore sneakers without socks and developed a blister, which became infected. Within a day or so, he was running a high fever and was drifting in and out of delirium.

He got a blister. A blister was enough to kill a man back then.



A great book about a fascinating time in American history.


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