Monday, December 5, 2016

One Strange and Magical Year

One Summer: America, 1927One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know I'm Johnny-come-lately on the Bill Bryson bandwagon, but I am fast becoming a full-fledged fanclub member!

Honestly, I'd read just about anything that dude wrote. In fact, if I can convince him to write my obituary, I'm going to throw myself in front of a bus the first chance I get just so I can read it!

The title of One Summer: America, 1927 explains pretty clearly what's between the covers. And oh boy, what a whole heck of a lot happened that year! Here's some of the highlights >>>

Charles Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic

The Great Mississippi Flood
The worst national disaster in U.S. history at the time, affected well over half a million people.

The advent of television

First real talkie, The Jazz Singer
Brings about the sudden death of silent films.

President Calvin Coolidge
Least hard working US President of all time.

Babe Ruth broke the current home run record

Lindbergh's story and that of flight in general takes up a large portion of this book. Babe Ruth and the Yankees also feature prominently. The tragic trial of Sacco and Vanzetti is discussed at length. But it's not just a book about the historic events of '27 or a relating of the principle players and their doings, but rather an all-era-encompassing work that takes in the broad epic of America's strange, exciting, dangerous, and in the very least, interesting happenings.

Bryson is a great storyteller. Here he does an excellent job in putting the reader into the time and place, giving you a feel for the general undercurrent of the people, the importance of an occurrence and its aftermath.

But it's not all about 1927. What led up to the big happenings that year are just as important to the greater understanding of the thing, and Bryson sets the table admirably. He also placates the curious by giving us the epilogue of the major players and events of this time, so the reader gets that comforting closure.

All in all, One Summer is a very satisfying way to endure a history lesson!

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Everything's Out to Kill Bryson

In a Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Bill Bryson. Yep, it's a full-blown, one-sided bromance. Bryson could write a book about the history of the individual rooms within the typical house and I would love it (he did and I did)! So, when I discovered he'd written about his experiences while traveling Australia, I knew I'd found my next good read!

In a Sunburned Country takes in the Land Down-Under, from today traveling all the way back to its earliest historical findings. You expect and get a look at modern Australia, its UK-convict days, Sydney and other cities, the bush, the outback, and the plight, trials and importance of the aborigines.

All of the above also comes with a healthy dose of Bryson humor. It's self-deprecating, it's consciously delusional for comedy's sake, it's honest and it gives me the chuckles. I appreciate that he puts himself in awkward situations and really enjoy his description of scenes in which he is a participating victim. Australia has countless ways to kill a person, what with all its deadly animals, so there's plenty of opportunity for hair-raising hilarity, especially considering Bryson's the sort of guy who could get himself savaged by a hedgehog.

Fun is fun and all, but in the end this book is about the learning, so if you have an interest in learning more about Australia I couldn't recommend another book more highly. The author has a love for learning, as well as the subject at hand, so the reader is treated to a veritable love-fest spewed all over the pages of In a Sunburned Country!

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