one summer: america, 1927

I remember seeing One Summer: America, 1927 when it first came out and being somewhat interested, but at the time I was intimidated by it’s length and I had mixed feelings about the one other book I had read by Bill Bryson before, A Walk in the Woods. But I’m less freaked by long books now, and this seemed like a great one to listen to on audio. Edited from Goodreads:

The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record. Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

Bryson was matter-of-fact with the events, with a little bit of observational humor thrown in but not interjecting his own views, and not sugarcoating the bad stuff. As a reader in 2018, I couldn’t help but notice it’s largely about white men… however, yes, this book is about a very specific span of a few months of one particular year. And the major achievements and events that took place then were certainly carried out by white men. However! I appreciated that Bryson exposed these men for who they were—Lindbergh wasn’t the American hero the press made him out to be. He was bland, rude, and had secret mistresses (and children) in Germany. Coolidge couldn’t be bothered to do much, if anything, during his presidency. Henry Ford was a stubborn anti-Semite. And I loved learning about Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the U.S.’s second-ever woman assistant attorney general, and first woman to head the Tax Division. She came up with the idea of investigating tax evasion as a way to prosecute major criminal figureheads, which was used to bust Al Capone in 1931.

I learned a lot from this book. One thing leads to another. For example, I had no idea about the anarchist movement at the time, the example used here was the 1927 electric-chair executions of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, convicted of murder and armed robbery. Bryson profiles the executioner, Robert Elliot, who was basically America’s most prolific killer, if you want to look at it that way, and you learn about the rise of the electric chair. He also executed Ruth Snyder in 1928, convicted of killing her husband the summer of 1927. So then you learn about Snyder and her case… which made headlines in the brand-new type of news magazines, tabloids…

There’s so much more. The season of arguably the best baseball lineup ever, the 1927 Yankees’ Murderer’s Row, as well as the rivalry between Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. The development of tabloids and the popularity of barnstorming (wild stunts that enthralled huge crowds, like flag-pole sitting). The rise of cinematic “talkies” just at the peak time of Broadway. The first national radio broadcasts and the invention of television. The beginnings of Mount Rushmore. Jack Dempsey’s historic boxing career and his final fights in 1927. Eugenics and the horrifying, unnecessary (but, at the time, totally legal) sterilization of tens of thousands of Americans.

I was especially captivated by the baseball (I had a mild obsession with Babe Ruth as a kid), organized crime and Al Capone, and the achievements of early aviation. Bryson does a wonderful job placing everything in context so you understand exactly how monumentally historic and important this time was, setting up what led to the events of summer 1927 (showing how America was woefully behind Europe regarding flight innovations, for example) and then laying out their lasting effects. This is a fascinating, engaging book!

Listened to audiobook in March 2018.

it’s monday! what are you reading?

royals mags

HOW ‘BOUT THEM ROYALS?? We are sooooo excited here in Kansas City today! It’s been a long time coming for the Royals to head back to the World Series (29, last year) and finally win again (30, this year). We’re having a blast celebrating our boys in blue. The big victory parade and rally are tomorrow downtown. I wish I could have made it to more games over the summer, but have really enjoyed cheering on this team that I used to pay $8 to sit in good seats in a practically empty stadium to what they’ve become today—World Series champions! These two magazines are my current reading material this week 🙂

What are you reading?

it’s monday! what are you reading?

WELL. How is it possibly the end of October already?? So much has happened and IS happening. This time of year is always busy. I have been reading a bunch, but hardly finishing anything. One thing I did finish that I’ve been working on the past month is this drawing, a gift for my husband for our 5-year anniversary on October 16:


Not bad for my first drawing in like six years, eh? Just pencil and paper, nothing fancy. I think it took me about 30 hours. This is a portrait of Werner Herzog, an influential, esoteric filmmaker whose work we enjoy. Nick was at a composer residency the whole month of September, and he said he drew something for me, so I was inspired. It was a great way to pass the time while he was gone, very cathartic and fun to draw again. I realized I had never done a drawing for him, it was about time! I want to draw more!

Rehearsals have started in full, taking me out of the house a few nights a week after work. I’ve also had two family visits and a few concerts these recent weekends… either playing in them myself or ones I’m working for my “day job.” And LAST weekend, my husband and I went to Denver to celebrate our anniversary… with a SLASH concert. It was epic! I have forthcoming posts about the concert and trip planned for this week, stay tuned!


ROYALS! It’s so exciting to see them back in the World Series again! Game 1 is tomorrow night here in KC. While I was working on that drawing, I “rewatched” (had on in the background) almost all of The Sopranos on DVD. Damn, that was a great show. Nick and I also recently saw The Martian in 3D at the cinema—better than the book, and the book was great! We’re also getting back into The Walking DeadAmerican Horror Story, and The Last Man on Earth. Happy to see Tandy’s beard is back this season! I have EverestSelma, and Black Mass (even though I didn’t finish the book yet) on my list.


Speaking of Slash, I’m still reading his autobiography, Slash. About halfway through at the moment. It’s a bit of a chunkster! I’ve also dabbled a bit in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot (I don’t kid myself that I’ll be anywhere near finished by the end of the #SalemAlong), and I have a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last from the library that I’m going to have to renew here soon since I’m only a few pages in so far. Nick and I also listened to the audiobook version of Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari during our Denver road trip.


Still really enjoying our turntable. I have a bunch of classic rock records, and Nick is building a decent collection of all sorts of metal on vinyl. Stuff by Slash, of course, with his new band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (Apocalyptic LoveWord on Fire), his eponymous first solo album, and revisiting Guns N’ Roses albums like Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion.

This past weekend I dug out my copy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and gave it a listen, after seeing that Friday (October 23) was the 20th anniversary of its original release. I still remembered all the lyrics! My dad took me to see them on this tour in October 1996, their stop at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. What a great show, great memories!

I wanted to jump in on this week’s It’s Monday, what are you reading? despite my not exactly reading (or rather, finishing) much lately. What are you reading this week?

i never had it made

I had all these plans to write and publish blog posts over the holiday weekend (and after work this week) but couldn’t bear to be on the computer. Instead, I read, hung out with my husband and friends, and visited the Liberty Memorial at the National World War I Museum on Memorial Day. I also finished reading I Never Had It Made by Jackie Robinson on my e-reader. Edited from Goodreads:

Before Barry Bonds, before Reggie Jackson, before Hank Aaron, baseball’s stars had one undeniable trait in common: they were all white. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke that barrier, striking a crucial blow for racial equality and changing the world of sports forever. I Never Had It Made is Robinson’s own candid, hard-hitting account of what it took to become the first black man in history to play in the major leagues. Originally published the year Robinson died, I Never Had It Made endures as an inspiring story of a man whose heroism extended well beyond the playing field.

I was reminded I had this in my e-reader when I was watching the Royals game on April 15—all the players (on all teams) wear #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (April 15 was opening day in 1947, Jackie’s first season in the majors.)

Jackie’s autobiography was surprising to me in a few ways, namely that it was less about baseball and more about other aspects of his professional life in business and politics. I also found it rather relevant to our current racial tensions and issues—I wonder what Jackie would have to say today.

The first freedom for all people is freedom of choice. I want to live in a neighborhood of my choice where I can afford to pay the rent. I want to send my children to school where I believe they will develop best. I want the freedom to rise as high in my career as my ability indicates. I want to be free to follow the dictates of my own mind and conscience without being subject to the pressures of any man, black or white. I think that is what most people of all races want. (96)

While I’m glad I read Never Had It Made and enjoyed getting a better idea of who Jackie was beyond his time on the field as a Brooklyn Dodger. He didn’t deeply analyze events or his feelings much, except for the very moving chapter about the death of his oldest son and throughout you can tell his love for his wife and family was palpable. But he recounting several hardships he faced growing up and “breaking the color barrier” in sports and business (being the first black corporate VP), and spats he had along the way with sports journalists and politicians alike.

I do wish he had covered his baseball career more extensively. I can’t be alone in that being the main interest for readers of this book, although his remembrance of his days in Montreal Royals was great—clearly he loved his time there! I admit to glazing over during the business sections a bit, and I also would have loved to learn even more about his role in the Civil Rights Movement. The prose is straightforward but rather blunt and dry, and can sometimes not feel so natural. But, Jackie was not a writer and from an era of strong-but-silent types, and I think the co-author here did a good job of conveying Jackie as a person and what concerned him during his lifetime.

On a personal note, this reminds me that I should stop by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum here in Kansas City soon! It’s been quite a while since my last trip. Jackie played for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. (Just a fun fact from the biography project I did on Jackie Robinson in elementary school! 🙂 ) I’ll have to check out 42 soon, the movie that came out a couple years ago based on parts of I Never Had It Made.

I Never Had it Made is my third of twelve books read for my Ebook Challenge.

Read from May 9 to 23, 2015.

yo-yo ma + kathryn stott

KCMetropolis.orgNew issue of today, and I have one review: Yo-Yo Ma, cello and Kathryn Stott, piano on the Harriman-Jewell Series. The recital was on my wedding anniversary, October 16, but my husband was out of town! So this was a nice treat that evening, even though Nick wasn’t with me—we’ll find another time to celebrate. Anyway, the recital was brilliant, masterful, so amazing. Yo-Yo Ma exceeded all my expectations—he is really a wonderful musician to witness live, he plays with such joy and passion. He even shouted “Go Royals!” on his way off stage after the performance! (For those who don’t know, our Kansas City Royals are in the World Series this week… the last time they were in the World Series was 1985, 29 years ago! So we’re all pretty excited here in the City of Fountains.)

Read my full review at Captivating and masterful duo recital