• One Summer

  • America, 1927
  • By: Bill Bryson
  • Narrated by: Bill Bryson
  • Length: 17 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (4,399 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, History, 2014

One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country - a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive for us in this certain best-seller.

©2013 Bill Bryson (P)2013 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about One Summer

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Why 1927?

I wasn’t worried about buying this book without knowing what it was about, because I trust Bill Bryson to be worth the risk, and he didn’t let me down.

At first it appears to be the story of Charles Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic, but then it expands to also become the story of all the other interesting things that were going on in America that summer. Bryson rambles from story to story in no particular logical order, but all the characters he mentions are colourful and fascinating, such as Babe Ruth, Al Capone and Jack Dempsey.

Bryson’s style is very distinctive, full of superlatives and yet simultaneously laced with dry understatement. He is also the narrator of this audiobook, and he does a great job (although his French pronunciation isn’t great!).

He is such a brilliant storyteller that you wonder if 1927 was an exceptionally interesting year, or whether Bryson could write a similar book about any year and make it just as fascinating. I think the latter is probably true.

67 people found this helpful

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  • e.
  • 10-15-13

Bryson Doing What He Does Best

BB could tell a story about his shopping trip to YOUR Supermarket and you could be sure of two things:
1. You would be thoroughly entertained, and
2. You would learn a lot about the place where you have shopped for years.

The year 1927 was a year of firsts, lasts, prophetic beginnings and tragic endings - precisely the kind of raw material the BB weaves into a tapestry that is wholly Americana. Along the way he adds flesh and bone to the usual sound-bite rehash 1920's history.

34 people found this helpful

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Bryson is really good at what he does- a standout

If you have read Bill Bryson before, you know what to expect out of One Summer, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. In fact, in many ways, this is a masterclass in Bryson's unique style: a rapid engaging tour through a series of historical incidents (most of which will be unfamiliar to the reader) organized loosely around an unexpected theme. He has done this with science, with the rooms of a house, and now, oddly enough, with the summer of 1927. This ends up being a particularly interesting choice, since the 1920s is often undercovered in history, and the result is a fascinating glimpse of the world becoming "modern" as talking picture, mass celebrity, airplanes, and a host of technologies become mainstream, even as racism and antisemitism appear in virulent forms.

So, we get to hear about Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and a range of other compelling figures from the summer of 1927. Bryson does not feel particularly compelled to stick with 1927, and the history weaves back and forth, but, simply because Bryson is so good at this, the story stays compelling and suspenseful despite the loose approach to the telling of history and the many rambling directions of the book. And, of course, Bill Bryson is also a great reader. The whole thing is pleasantly gentle and humorous while full of surprising insights into the time.

Really, just a wonderful example of popular history set in an understudied time. A great listen all around.

21 people found this helpful

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Another fascinating foray with Bill Bryson

What made the experience of listening to One Summer the most enjoyable?

The content of the book; Bryson is such a wordsmith, and I love how he weaves all the events of the summer together with interesting, odd, even weird, details. I could clearly see my grandparents sitting in their parlor, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and discussing these events.

Who was your favorite character and why?

In reverse, my least favorite characters were Hoover, Lindbergh, and Henry Ford. They don't come off as very pleasant people, but I really enjoyed reading (hearing) about their idiosyncrasies.

What three words best describe Bill Bryson’s voice?

Warm, pleasant, humorous. I hate to say it, but I was a bit disappointed with the narration of this one, though. It seemed full of unnatural hesitations and pauses.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I was moved by how innocent America was in 1927. Even after the horrors of WWI, it seems like we were just on the cusp of worldliness. My mother was born in the spring of 1927, so it was great fun for me to imagine my grandparents, young and happy with a new baby girl, reacting to the events of that summer.

Any additional comments?

This is a wonderful book, make no mistake about that. The cadence of the narration just seemed slightly self-conscious. There were parts where Bryson apparently forgot he was narrating and just told the story naturally, and those were the parts I enjoyed most. I will still eagerly anticipate future audiobooks written and narrated by this author.

21 people found this helpful

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i should have listened to sarah

amidst all the glowing praise for this audio book is one written by a reviewer named Sarah. her description fits my experience almost perfectly. i have to say that I didn't enjoy the subject matter as much as she did, partially due to the "herky jerky" aspect of mr bryson's narration. while a brilliant writer, mr brysons speaking voice is strangely lulling. I found myself mentally wandering away from the story often, and struggling with the odd emphasis' and cadence of his speech.

to soften this review, I have to say that "A Walk In The Woods" is one of my favorite books, ever, and I have read, and enjoyed, most of his other books. this is the first audiobook of his work that I have attempted to listen to.

14 people found this helpful

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another gem by bill bryson

It's the combination of great narration, a little bit of United Kingdom dialect, the understated way Bryson tells the story, and knowing the listener has no responsibility to remember any of it....that make Bill Bryson's gems such a wonderful listening experience.
To summarize, listen to be wonderfully entertained, even if you don't recall one morsel of what the book actually was about.

13 people found this helpful

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Good author…who should NOT read his own work.

I stuck with this book for the duration, and the story--interwoven stories really--were interesting and well told. The reason it was hard to stay the course, however, was Bill Bryson's performance. I found his voice strange in affect, cadence and pronunciation. His odd manner and herky jerky style were a constant distraction for me. I can't imagine why he was allowed to do his own narration, so I can only assume that he insisted. Too bad, because the book really is worth your time. I'd just recommend you get it through your eyes instead of your ears.

8 people found this helpful

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Bryson's best!

I have read or listened to many Bill Bryson books, and One Summer is definitely my favorite. It grabbed my interest at the start, and never let go. There were just so many fascinating things that happened in America in 1927. Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, prohibition and gangsters, anarchists, etc.. This book goes deeply enough into the key characters to satisfy, but also has so many fascinating stories. I sometimes look at life today and think with nostalgia about what life must have been like in those simple olden days. Reading this, you see America in 1927 for the good and the bad, and I realize life today is not so bad. If social history has any interest to you, you should try this book. The author narrated it, and it took me a while to get used to his voice. I wish he had left that job to a professional. Still, I loved the book.

7 people found this helpful

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Bryson is a great writer, but . . .

This is a very good book. Bryson weaves together the worlds of politics, aviation, sports, entertainment, crime, invention, and business to give a snapshot view of the United States in 1927.. It works very well and is a pleasure to read. However, Bryson should stick to writing. I had just listened to several books read by actors, and there is a big difference between a professional voice and an amateur. With Bryson, the listener is distracted by his uneven accent -- where is he from, California? with a touch of Brit? Canada? I kept thinking of the characters on Saturday Night Live's skit, "The Californians."And it is just not smooth. The wrong words are emphasized in the narratives and it is really distracting. I finally bought the book and started from the beginning to read it myself. I loved it!

7 people found this helpful

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Anecdotal telling of history for one pivotal year

I've always loved 1927 America and I love this book. The author ties together the three biggest single events of 1927: Jolson Speaks, The Babe Swats, and Lindbergh Dares and ties them altogether into a coherent narrative. The unfolding of these and other events reveal the process of the times.

The author wonderfully reads his own book. He's not a professional reader by any means, but he adds the humor, anger or surprise that only an author of his own work could add at the appropriate spots.

The author, Bill Bryson, puts each major event in its proper context and is at his best when he's not in 1927 but is telling you the before and after stories of the characters. Not to be too much of a spoiler, The Babe is amazing and Lindbergh is a dud (racist, pro-nazi eugenicist, philanderer).

I love the book, it is marvelously read, I learned a lot, but I would only recommend it for lovers of 1927 or at least the 1920s, and if you do love that period of time by all means get it and enjoy.

7 people found this helpful