One Summer covers events in the USA from May to September 1927. It starts with a fire in a brand new, 38-storey hotel, an event that drew an estimated 100,000 spectators. Nowadays a video would be posted on YouTube. How things change in 90 years! Bryson quickly moves on to the various attempts to fly the Atlantic from New York to Paris. He also looks at baseball, Prohibition, high finance and the advent of talking pictures and its effect on the movie industry, to name just a few of the topics covered.
I have to admit that I didn’t know much about baseball before I read One Summer, and I cared even less. Now I know a bit more, and Bill Bryson almost made me care – for a while. (I’m feeling better now! 😉 ) I knew that Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly the Atlantic, but I didn’t know anything about him or his flight beyond that. I didn’t know that he couldn’t see where he was going, which must have made take-off and landing a bit hairy. I also didn’t appreciate why the flight had to be from New York to Paris, or that attempts to do it the other way all failed – fatally, in some cases. I knew that Henry Ford pioneered the production line. I didn’t know that he was an ill-educated bigot and that his company succeeded in spite of him, almost going under during the switch from the Model T to the Model A. I didn’t know that the Wall Street Crash and subsequent depression were caused by four international bankers making economic plans that were blindly followed without consideration of the consequences.
One Summer, like all the other books by Bill Bryson that I’ve read, is an easy read. It’s well written, informative without being too serious. There are even some humorous moments. By the time I finished the book I felt that I knew and appreciated a bit more about America and its history. I was amazed how a few months could contain so many important events affecting the world as well as the USA. It’s definitely worth reading.