Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors of narrative non-fiction and I loved One Summer: America 1927. This book is not in the Tournament of Books; it was the February selection for my book club. Bryson did extensive research into the high-profile events of that summer, including: Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic, Al Capone at the height of his power during Prohibition, a few sensational murder cases, the home-run battle between Ruth and Gehrig on, perhaps, the best baseball team ever, and the less-than blockbuster presidency of Calvin Coolidge. I thought the book was fascinating! It was a slow read just because it was so dense with facts and information. Bryson keeps it all readable with his connecting threads, his ability to organize all the material, his occasionally snarky editorializing, and his overall great writing.
Surprisingly, it turned out to be a below average book club discussion. One person compared it to a collection of short stories that can be hard to discuss because there isn’t any primary focus to the discussion. That is definitely what happened as someone would bring up this or that aspect/fact that she enjoyed/learned and people would agree or not and the discussion would drop off until someone else said what they liked/learned. I actually had a better discussion one-on-one with a friend on the way to book club.
If you’re in the mood for some American history, I highly recommend One Summer. I just wish history textbooks could be written as well.