Fascinating American History by Bill Bryson
All my life I have enjoyed reading about history. I will read about the history of anything—the obvious history of political and social issues, but also the history of crime, entertainment, language. I’ve read a book about scientists who “read” dust to discover geological events (The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes), and the historical uses of cadavers (Stiff : The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach). I’ve learned about toothpicks in A Splintered History of Wood (Spike Carlsen) and bathing (or lack of) in The Dirt on Clean : An Unsanitized History (Katherine Ashenburg). I will even read about the history of sports.
Twentieth-century American history includes fascinating people and events in many areas and at varying levels of renown—or notoriety. Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic. In crime, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for robbery and murder. Four powerful bankers met secretly and made a decision that led directly to the 1929 stock market crash—and the Great Depression.
In sports and entertainment, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig thrilled Americans with a home-run contest—which the Babe won by breaking his own home-run record. Jack Dempsey lost to Gene Tunney in a controversial rematch. Al Jolson became the first star in a talkie. And Alvin Kelly broke his flag-pole sitting record when he sat for 12 days atop a tower in Newark, New Jersey.
I knew about all of the above events, but one common element I did not know: They all took place during the summer of 1927.
Bill Bryson has written a fabulous, fascinating book about the “most extraordinary summer” of 1927, which he explains was the year that America became a star player on the world’s stage. He includes all of the above events and much, much more.
Bryson’s writing is wonderfully witty and amazingly accessible. This book will be great for American history classes for upper level high school students—and a great narrative nonfiction choice for anyone who loves history.
One Summer : America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. 9780767919401. 2013. Gr 11-Adult.