What’s so special about the summer of 1927? Before reading this book I couldn’t tell you. I could fathom a few guesses about a stellar economy, jazz music and the ‘Roaring 20’s’ as a whole, but couldn’t nitpick any specific events. In fact, the 20’s was a peaceful decade, sandwiched between World War I and the Great Depression.
Oftentimes in history, it is periods like these that are neglected. Instead, eras of warfare and turmoil are given nearly all the attention. In One Summer by Bill Bryson the author is exposed to a little discussed, but incredibly fascinating period of just a few short months.
While easily overlooked, America in the summer of 1927 was slowly realizing its potential as a world power. Through the nation’s booming economy, entertaining sports and music, as well as the growth of technologies such as radio, television, aviation and automobiles America was slowly garnering the world’s attention.
Prominent Figures from 1927
In One Summer Bryson discusses a multitude of different events and figures, Charles Lindbergh and his flight from New York to Paris in May of 1927 and its aftermath hog a large chunk of pages. Lindbergh is a fairly well recognized figure today, but I never realized the absurd popularity he achieved following his historic flight. It was as if he were a demigod.
Other prominent figures include Babe Ruth who hit 60 home runs, Hebert Hoover who dealt with the Great Mississippi Flood, Al Capone and his growing criminal empire, Jack Dempsey’s legendary boxing bouts and many more.
One of the values in reading history is that it allows us to look at the past and learn from their mistakes so that we can apply it in modern day. However, that tends to rarely happen. For example, Prohibition during the early 20th century is essentially what is going on today with the War on Drugs. Check out this quote from One Summer:
[Prohibition] has brought about a vicious criminal situation, with the offshoots of perjury, murders, the moral poisoning of public officials, assaults, thefts and all manner of interrelated lawbreaking. All the good which the law may produce is worthless compared to the chain of serious crimes which it is producing every day.”
Sound familiar? It should.
An Entertaining Read
If you’re a fan of history, or just would like to learn more about this period in general I highly recommend this book.
I loved this book for several reasons. First, it was jammed full of interesting tidbits of history that are relevant today. Bryson’s writing was both informative and amusing with the book having entertaining anecdotes sprinkled in every few pages. And lastly, I always enjoy learning about people, places and ideas that I didn’t know much about before.