This book treats–in significant detail–a wide range of important people, events, and transitions in our national history. It’s hard to fathom that they all took place at the same time. Much of the book is devoted to the race to fly the Atlantic non-stop, following the rapid rise to stardom of Charles Lindbergh. Along with the development of American aviation, Bryson covers the sports world, including the growth of prize fighting, culminating in the pair of bouts between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney; Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the domination of the New York Yankees; even a brief look at the rise and fall of tennis star Bill Tilden.
In the broader culture, a large portion of the book is devoted to the prohibition era, the corruption of politics, the succession of presidents, the brief rise and reign of Al Capone, the trials and executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, and the economic games played by the rich which would take us into the Great Depression.
Throughout the book, Bryson provides an extensive backdrop that lets us see how the events of that one, long summer grew out of the cultural context, but also how those events would drive America in specific directions as we entered the Depression and then World War II.
As with all of Bryson’s books, the prose is half the joy. And with the AudioBook, there’s the added bonus of Bryson reading his own words. I may not have tackled this one without needing a good road trip companion, but I’m certainly glad I did. It’s an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable book. I wonder if similar treatments of other years could work as well as this did?