• One Day

  • The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America
  • By: Gene Weingarten
  • Narrated by: Johnathan McClain
  • Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (146 ratings)

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One Day  By  cover art

One Day

By: Gene Weingarten
Narrated by: Johnathan McClain
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Publisher's Summary

"One of the 50 Best Nonfiction Books of the Last 25 Years" (Slate)

On New Year’s Day 2013, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten asked three strangers to, literally, pluck a day, month, and year from a hat. That day - chosen completely at random - turned out to be Sunday, December 28, 1986, by any conventional measure a most ordinary day. Weingarten spent the next six years proving that there is no such thing. 

That Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s turned out to be filled with comedy, tragedy, implausible irony, cosmic comeuppances, kindness, cruelty, heroism, cowardice, genius, idiocy, prejudice, selflessness, coincidence, and startling moments of human connection, along with evocative foreshadowing of momentous events yet to come. Lives were lost. Lives were saved. Lives were altered in overwhelming ways. Many of these events never made it into the news; they were private dramas in the lives of private people. They were utterly compelling. 

One Day asks and answers the question of whether there is even such a thing as "ordinary" when we are talking about how we all lurch and stumble our way through the daily, daunting challenge of being human.

©2019 Gene Weingarten (P)2019 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

A Best Book of the Year
The Washington Post
Slate
Parade
New York Post
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"The book adds up to something greater than the individual stories...Weingarten taps into the wonder of what it is to be alive." (Mike Hill for the Associated Press)

"An absorbing snapshot of America." (The New Yorker)

"As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less interested in elaborate fictions or spectacular histories and just want to know how life is lived. I want a book about how other humans get things and lose things, and deal with both, how they cope and how they fail and how they live and how they die. This is the book I’ve been waiting for. The people described in this book are wonderful and flawed, some of them evil, some of them impossibly good. But none of them have lived the kind of lives that normally get told in books, and in finally seeking them out and telling their stories, Gene has done them, and us, a priceless service." (Peter Sagal, host, NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" and author of The Incomplete Book of Running)

What listeners say about One Day

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I'm giving this book more credit for its concept

Because if I didn't like the idea of this book so much, I would probably not have finished it. It's not that the stories contained within aren't interesting (some of them are banal, but you'd expect that from a book about life in one day), but that the execution is a bit flawed.

That, and the prose is so purple, even Prince would have asked the author to tone it down some. Really. All the manly men in this book walk with a hitch and a little swagger, and it was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

I guess you can forgive that a little, given the author's roots are from newspaper journalism, where literary aspirations take a back seat to deadlines. But I also would have appreciated an increase in the book's scope. There was a whole world of things to cover from December 28, 1986, and I felt like we barely got out of our American backyard.

I give it an A for the idea, but a C for production.

5 people found this helpful

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One day you won’t forget

Weingarten is an under-appreciated (and yes, that’s with the two Pulitzers) genius. His writing is beautiful, his guts extraordinary. That would be enough, but there’s more. There’s always more, and Weingarten knows it, and THAT is his true genius. He’s the rare reporter, the rare person, who finds what he’s looking for and keeps looking.

4 people found this helpful

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I finished this book...

And I agree with the author that it is a bit of a stunt: as explained in the introduction, it is an attempt to tell the history of 24 hours in American life. It's quite the undertaking. The author doesn't limit himself to a "24"-style chronological plot, instead emphasizing the significance of this single date in a larger context. Many of the stories are not over, and require "as of publication" clauses, even though the narrative begins in 1986.

If you are wondering whether you will enjoy listening to this book, consider whether you have ever enjoyed listening to This American Life, The Daily, or another news/narrative podcast. The author's humorous prose, full of interview questions and personal descriptions, reads aloud like something that would last a long time on the air if the concept "One Day" were taken to producers.

If you are wondering if the book might disappoint you in some way: in two stories, the connection to the date felt a little tenuous. The book is most interesting when the author tells the story, not when he tries to philosophize about the book's premise or possible conclusions from the story. There were a few uninspired forays into "drawing conclusions". Hardly a deterrent to enjoying the book as a whole.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful

My only complaint; too short. What a beautiful work of art. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath, I restrained myself from Googling endings and when I felt like he was starting to wrap it up, I screamed "wait... no! this is just going to be the end of part 1 or something right????"

Perfect for anyone; great gift idea.

1 person found this helpful

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Eye Opening read

such a unique and powerful work. a showcase of the genius of journalism and the vastness of humanity.

1 person found this helpful

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It'll make you say "OK, Boomer."

Weingarten's tin ear for race and identity make this book a rough slog. That's doubly true because so many of the "compelling" stories he chooses pivot around the ways that minority groups were marginalized in the 1980s and continue to be marginalized in similar (or even identical) ways.

He flat-out doesn't understand women, people of color, or queer subjects, and shows time and again that he probably shouldn't be the one to tell the stories of the people for whom this day is special.

1 person found this helpful

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Decent Read, Don't Come Looking for Inspiration

This book contains a great premise. the authors do a thorough job of reporting, and I appreciated their following each story through to the end. However, this is a slog in depressing news, with brief moments of uplifting commentary. I walked away not knowing if I should feel worse about humanity, or in awe that these tiny moments mean so much in the end.

1 person found this helpful