I could have started this review by writing “Bill Bryson’s done it again. Go to Bookazine and buy this book. B. 468 for over 600 pages. Bargain of the year!” However, the editor expects me to write over 500 words, so I shall continue. But if you get bored with my prose, just go to Bookazine and buy it. You will not regret it.
One Summer America 1927 (ISBN 978-0-552-77940-1, Black Swan, 2014) has Bryson researching the events of that era in America, which was not the most powerful country in the world in those days.
This book has history by the gonads, and dealt out in a manner that only Bryson can. For example, did you know that America did not have tabloid newspaper before 1920, but by 1922 a tabloid had the largest circulation of all. When there were regular passenger flights in Europe between capitals, America was still in the barnstorming days with pilots left over from WW1.
Bryson has the ability to lead the reader quite astray, then return to fact, turning everything upside down that he had written before. He describes Charles Lindbergh’ scholastic achievements as “attended 11 different schools before graduating from high school, and distinguished himself at each by his mediocrity.”
I have enjoyed every one of Bryson’s books I have read so far, so it was time to really look at his style of writing and his subject matter to try and work out why he, as an author, is just so popular.
The first that comes to mind is his very detailed examination of his subjects. The early 1920’s are almost 100 years ago, but Bryson has obviously spent much time with dusty tomes in even dustier libraries to give his readers an accurate picture of some of the great characters in that time frame, such as Lindbergh, President Coolidge, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford and more.
His books cover Travel, Language, Science, Biography, History and Memoirs. 20 books written in a span of 20 years.
He writes in a narrative style, interspersed with wit, including much sarcasm, satire and irony. He provides an immediacy between himself and the readership to allow a greater enjoyment of the facts in his books. Almost a wink-wink, nudge-nudge revelation for the reader’s ears only.
In one chapter he looks at America’s social engineering attempt, called the Prohibition, in which poisons were added to industrial alcohol to stop the citizens drinking it, but killed them instead. This was why Al Capone did so well, he didn’t kill his customers.
At B. 468 for over 600 pages with small font (I would prefer larger font, Black Swan), this is a book which will take you more than one weekend to get through, and at the end you will be sorry you have finished it, being just so enjoyable. It is no small wonder that Bryson has received so many awards and honorary degrees from prestigious universities and even the keys to the city of Des Moines (USA) where he was born, and featured in his book The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.
I was sitting having a quiet beer and chatting with Kim Fletcher, the Landlord of Jameson’s Irish Pub, when the subject of books came up. In his opinion, one of the most powerful books from a local writer was Mango Rains by Daniel M Dorothy (ISBN 978-1-905379-66-8, Maverick House, 2010) the 442 page blockbuster. I had to agree.
Outliers, the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (ISBN 978-0-141-04302-9, Penguin Books, 20090) follows on from his books The Tipping Point (How little things can make a big difference) and Blink (The power of thinking without thinking).
The book I have reviewed this week, is it really too much to ask? (ISBN 978-1-405-91413-0, Penguin, 2014) is the fifth volume of The World According to Clarkson. These books are comprised of the collections of his weekly columns in the British Sunday Times. Ah, if it only were possible to collect these review columns to become a best seller. But unfortunately not.
Most of the long time ex-pats who read the Pattaya Mail would relate to this book by Dr. Roberto Di Marco, “What do you pack (if you’re never coming back)” [ISBN 978-9-7452415-27, Orchid Press, 2014 (English) 2007 (Italian)].
Solo (ISBN 978-0-099-59034-7, Vintage Books, 2013) is a “follow on” in the James Bond novels, this one written by William Boyd with his James Bond now aged 45, which fits in with Fleming’s Bond apparently. Boyd is a prolific writer with 17 books to his credit, but this is the first 007 one.
During my weekly trawl of the Avenue’s Bookazine shelves, I spotted the book by Nicholas Wade, called A Troublesome Inheritance, subtitled Genes, Race and Human History (ISBN 978-1-50420-623-8, Penguin, 2014).
There are not too many books that have provided new phrases for the English language. Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 (ISBN 0-09-947731-9, 1961, Random House) is one of the foremost.
Pirates have flourished in our society for thousands of years. From the Pirates of Penzance, to Pirates of the Caribbean to Somali Pirates and now some in the Straits of Malacca, pirates have held a fascination for us all (me included).
The Great Escape is one of those movies that has attained ‘cult’ status. With a star-studded cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn and Hannes Messemer, the actors carry the plot. But is the story, as seen on the silver screen, the ‘real’ story? No, says Guy Walters, the author of The Real Great Escape (ISBN 978-0-553-82611-1, Bantam Press 2013).