One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
That Fateful Year: 1914 by Mark Bostridge
It is no secret that I like to read non-fiction, in fact so far this year I've read a lot more fact than fiction but one new trend that I really like is the fashion for picking a year or a season and writing its biography.
Last year Bryson's 1927 made my top 5 books and I loved the way that he flitted from topic to topic, place to place, person to person but connected them all to tell the story of just a few months. I know his style is light and almost whimsical but it was also informative and got a lovely balance between being too scatty and too in depth. I raced through it.
Mark Bostridge's book about 1914 can't be quite as light-hearted but he does manage to pick a wide variety of stories to show what England was like in the last few months before the First World War broke out. He moves from child murder on a train, to the Prime Minister's love affair with a much younger woman to the serious situations caused by the Suffragettes and the Irish Troubles. The war almost sneaks up on you, and even by the end of 1914 the true horror hasn't quite hit home to most people. There is also a lovely chapter all about the Burston School Strike here in Norfolk - something I'd heard of but not known much about.
Both authors manage to bring their subjects to life in a way that a straight history or the biography of just one person could never do. They are popular reads not complicated reference tomes but they are good starting points and both have excellent bibliographies if you want to explore further.