"One Summer: America 1927" by Bill Bryson (2013)
"Nothing, however, was stranger than that it became the avowed policy of the United States Government to poison a random assortment of citizens in an attempt to keep the rest of them sober"
Bill Bryson is an American historian living in Britain. He has written many books, among which "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is probably his most famous. This is the first of his books that I have read.
As the title indicates, this book describes the summer of 1927 as it transpired in America. The author has of course supplied some background for the events of this summer, but the majority of events in this book fall between May 1927 and September 1927, with a short epilogue outlining the subsequent failures and successes of notable individuals.
Of all these notable individuals, Charles Lindbergh stands as the most noteworthy person alive in 1927. It is his transatlantic crossing which kicks off the book, and the intense, almost unimaginable level of fame he achieved afterward spans the entire summer. In an age of supersonic aircraft and space travel, Lindbergh's immense fame might be hard to understand, but he was indeed a very big deal during that fateful summer, now 87 years past.
Other events from summer 1927 are described in rich detail, among them Al Capone's rise to prominence in Chicago, the now forgotten sash weight murders, the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, the arrival of Prohibition, the discovery of television and "talkies," and other related events, too numerous to list here. I particularly enjoyed the parts illustrating the eccentricities of Henry Ford, the popularity of eugenics, and Lindbergh's later fall from grace.
"One Summer: America 1927" is a captivating book, written in an almost flawless manner. My only complaint is that it contains a bit too much baseball trivia, though this fault can certainly be excused on the count that baseball was, in 1927, a very national pastime. Reading about Babe Ruth's sexual indiscretions was interesting, but I've never been a big baseball fan.
I enjoyed this book very much, and I'm sure I'll be reading Bryson again.