I have probably stated this before, but there are times when I feel like reading 'a bit of Bryson'. I've been a fan of this fantastically talented author ever since I happened to read his A Short History of Nearly Everything. Unfortunately it is relatively rare these days that I can read a bit of Bryson when the craving sets in. It happens at least twice a year, and already four to five years ago I had caught up with everything the man had until the produced. (I do have a fond memory though of being in that state of mind, wanting to read something by Bill Bryson, and then wandering into the press/book shop in Maynooth - a small University town in Ireland where I was living at that time - and completely unexpectedly finding his "Shakespeare" waiting for me at the new arrivals table.)
In any case, there is now a new Bill Bryson book: One Summer - America 1927 - and I was fortunate to have lots of time to spend with it last holiday season. In my opinion it is Bryson's best book since 'A Short History…'; and that I may only say because I have not read it in a long time. One Summer is interesting, funny, very well written, and about a something I never thought would interest me that much: May-September 1927 in America. Of course, Bryson did not pick a summer at random, rather 1927 was the year Charles Lindbergh flew over the Atlantic, they year of the Mississippi flood, of baseball games, boxing matches, and many other events. One Summer touches them all, providing a very interesting accounts and tales. None of the subjects alone would have gotten high priority in my pile-of-books-to-read if the author had not been Bryson. It is not that I don't want to know, I am truly interested, only there are so many other things to read about. But, as soon as I started reading I was thinking "Wow, this is fascinating!" So much so that it felt like I breezed through a much too short pocket-book rather than the hard-bound somewhat more than five hundred pages.
Bryson has a way of chaining together events, places, and people in order to create a very exciting narrative, and making it a joy to read. Never lingering too long with any one subject, but moving on, and then returning to it later, providing updates as the book and with it, the summer, passes. He is telling history like no one else, both through sober observations and funny commentary. One Summer avoids nostalgia; instead there is reflection, wonder, bewilderment, sometimes horror, sometimes appreciation exhibited for America as it was then. In many ways, without Bryson ever once referring to the modern times when One Summer was written, it is clear that many things that was then is also now. Little is learned from history, even such recent times as 1927. Mostly it is simply just fun to be there for the ride, and to delight in all the details and facts being so fantastically presented.
I can really recommend One Summer - America 1927 to anyone interested in things. You don't need to be interested in America, or the nineteen-twenties, or anything specific, it is enough that you get excited about things you did not know before. Bryson will do the rest.