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1. At Home: A Short History of Private
2. A Short History of Nearly Everything:
3. Bill Bryson's African Diary
4. Shakespeare (The Illustrated and
5. In a Sunburned Country
6. Seeing Further: The Story of Science,
7. Made in America: An Informal History
8. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering
9. I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes
10. Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome
11. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt
12. The Lost Continent: Travels in
13. Neither Here nor There: Travels
14. Notes from a Small Island
15. The Mother Tongue
16. Bryson's Dictionary for Writers
17. Walk About: "A Walk in the Woods",
18. Bill Bryson Collector's Edition:
19. Bill Bryson the Complete Notes
20. Notes from a Big Country

1. At Home: A Short History of Private Life
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover: 512 Pages (2010-10-05)
list price: US$28.95 -- used & new: US$14.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767919386
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
From one of the most beloved authors of our  time—more than six million copies of his books have been sold in this country alone—a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Bill Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and he is a master at turning the seemingly isolated or mundane fact into an occasion for the most diverting exposi­tion imaginable. His wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010: Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) turns his attention from science to society in his authoritative history of domesticity, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. While walking through his own home, a former Church of England rectory built in the 19th century, Bryson reconstructs the fascinating history of the household, room by room. With waggish humor and a knack for unearthing the extraordinary stories behind the seemingly commonplace, he examines how everyday items--things like ice, cookbooks, glass windows, and salt and pepper--transformed the way people lived, and how houses evolved around these new commodities. "Houses are really quite odd things," Bryson writes, and, luckily for us, he is a writer who thrives on oddities. He gracefully draws connections between an eclectic array of events that have affected home life, covering everything from the relationship between cholera outbreaks and modern landscaping, to toxic makeup, highly flammable hoopskirts, and other unexpected hazards of fashion. Fans of Bryson's travel writing will find plenty to love here; his keen eye for detail and delightfully wry wit emerge in the most unlikely places, making At Home an engrossing journey through history, without ever leaving the house. --Lynette Mong

... Read more

Customer Reviews (62)

5-0 out of 5 stars One simple word, fascinating!
Bill Bryson has the amazing ability to find the interesting and fascinating in what most people would hardly think of. In At Home, he continues to find and share the history of such items as ice, sanitary disposal and the lives of servants and he does it in an informative and enjoyable manner. Bryson deserves a lot of credit as this book must have taken an enormous amount of research and he really shows how much thought he has put into the book.

Now speaking as someone who is a huge fan of his previous works and enjoys Bryson's wit, I will warn any readers that the normal humor and wit is almost entirely missing here.But still the extraordinary origins of our lives is so fascinating that it is a small price to pay to hear these fascinating histories.The way he finds the smallest cue to lead into a fascinating segue into such things as burial rituals (in gardening of all things) is just fascinating.

This is a great and enjoyable book. I strong recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the world around them and broadening their minds, while being greatly entertained!

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
If you are expecting Bryson's usual humor and wit, you will be disappointed in this book.He leads the reader by hand and discusses minutiae of everyday life in England, how things came to be and where they came from.If the average reader has this much time to devote to such things, then go ahead.However, for Bryson fans of A Walk in the Woods and I'm A Stranger Here Myself, this will be a pure disappointment.

3-0 out of 5 stars Reusing earlier research?
While this has the usual Bryson hook of starting out with something familiar (his house) and expanding on the theme, an awful lot of material in this book seemed to be recycled from his earlier "A Short History of Nearly Everything". We've heard about the Crystal Palace before, not to mention many of the eccentric-but-brilliant British amateur scientists. And we've seen some of it even earlier - the long section on Victorian plant collectors in this book wasn't very different from the same information in "A Walk in the Woods". I suppose everyone is entitled to have topics they're interested in, but if you're going to recycle, it'd be nice if the book was funny. Which this isn't, mostly. So not my favorite of his books, but it's Bill Bryson, so still a good read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A history of the world, one room at a time
Even more than his boundless curiosity and wit, or his appreciation for the foibles and capacities of human nature, what makes Bryson so much fun to follow as he leads us on a tour of his 19th century English rectory house is the meandering pathway of his thoughts, probing back, back to the nub of things.

He doesn't know much about Mr. Marsham, the rector who built his house in 1851, for instance, but he makes up for that with fascinating snippets about more interesting clergymen. The church was a job for upper-class younger sons and required a university degree, but no study of divinity. "Though no one intended it, the effect was to create a class of well educated, wealthy people who had immense amounts of time of their hands. In consequence, many of them began, quite spontaneously, to do remarkable things."

Bryson, an American who has lived in England for many years, gives us a number of eye-opening examples, like the 18th century amateur mathematician Reverend Thomas Bayes whose elegant probability theorem had no practical use until the invention of the computer. It now models climate change, fixes radiocarbon dates, predicts the stock market, etc.

Readers familiar with Bryson's wide-ranging mind (A Short History of Nearly Everything, A Walk in the Woods, The Mother Tongue) know that a tour of his house is really a framework for a global history, from the vantage point of private life. The dining room provides a portal into the scourge of scurvy and the age of exploration. "I can tell you at once that nothing you touch today will have more bloodshed, suffering and woe attached to it than the innocuous twin pillars of your salt and pepper set."

There's nothing he enjoys so much as delving back to the beginnings of things, including words, and gives us the genesis of most room names as well as the word "comfort," which, until the 19th century, meant solace, there being no concept of "comfortable," as in padded chairs and warm rooms.

He traces the beginnings of the middle class and the interconnections between rising global commerce and the new notion of comfort. Chippendale's mass-produced (comparatively speaking) furniture was made possible by imported mahogany (a type now extinct), shellac and more people with money.

Dining rooms were only invented to save upholstered furniture, which didn't come into being until the flying shuttle was invented in 1733, allowing wider fabric bolts. Once the room was invented, the 19th century took it to absurd lengths with as many as nine wineglasses (plus more for dessert) and up to 146 different pieces of flatware. All meant to distinguish the hoi polloi from the elite, of course.

Behind the excitement of every innovation are the people. Bryson is enthralled (another word he traces the origin of) by the non-professional innovator; men (mostly) of boundless energy and inquisitiveness.

If not for a forgotten canal worker, Canvass White, New York City might still be the backwater it was after the Revolution. At that time The Appalachian Mountains formed such an impenetrable barrier to trade along the Eastern seaboard "that many people believed that the pioneers living beyond the mountains would eventually, of practical necessity, form a separate nation."

While New York City's 1810 mayor (soon to be governor), DeWitt Clinton, gets credit for the Erie Canal, which connected the city with the Great Lakes, and the farmlands beyond, it was White who went to England to learn about hydraulic cement, without which no canal can be built. White not only picked up the English technique, he improved upon it, but instead of becoming rich and famous he was cheated by the manufacturers and died broke and bitter.

Bryson also manages to include histories of interior light, air, and heat, eating and sleeping habits, windows, the politics and consequences of taxes, farming innovations, and horticultural science. "The Stairway" provides a statistical analysis of falls throughout the world; "The Passage" leads us to Eiffel and his Tower, the many Vanderbilt mansions (in one a Rembrandt graced a breakfast nook) and other American excesses, Thomas Edison's crackbrained inventions, one of which was the concrete house, and the history of the telephone.

"The Bedroom" naturally evokes sex and death and surgery before the advent of anesthesia, and "The Bathroom" prompts a history of hygiene. "The Study," favored by Bryson's English mice, leads to discussions of mousetraps, rats, bats, germs and locusts.

Entertaining anecdotes abound and while Bryson debunks some apocryphal stories, he includes others of dubious factuality, like the one about John Jacob Astor wiping his greasy hands on a dinner guest's gown.

He entertains and educates and arouses a sense of wonder and the satisfied reader gets the distinct impression no one is having more fun than Bryson himself. Recommended for all who like their history accessible, idiosyncratic and humorous.

4-0 out of 5 stars Some More Wonderful Reading From Bryson
A jaunty history of the house as a home - the story of the rooms, the meanings, and the historical importance written in Bryson's typical easy to read style.
A pleasurable, easyread to take along as I flew on a three hour flight - and I disembarked feeling better for having read it. ... Read more

2. A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 624 Pages (2010-10-05)
list price: US$28.00 -- used & new: US$17.41
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307885151
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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This new edition of the acclaimed bestseller is lavishly illustrated to convey, in pictures as in words, Bill Bryson’s exciting, informative journey into the world of science.

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, beloved author Bill Bryson confronts his greatest challenge yet: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as his territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. The result is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it.

Now, in this handsome new edition, Bill Bryson’s words are supplemented by full-color artwork that explains in visual terms the concepts and wonder of science, at the same time giving face to the major players in the world of scientific study. Eloquently and entertainingly described, as well as richly illustrated, science has never been more involving or entertaining.

From the Hardcover edition.Amazon.com Review
From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space. With his distinctive prose style and wit, Bryson succeeds admirably. Though A Short History clocks in at a daunting 500-plus pages and covers the same material as every science book before it, it reads something like a particularly detailed novel (albeit without a plot). Each longish chapter is devoted to a topic like the age of our planet or how cells work, and these chapters are grouped into larger sections such as "The Size of the Earth" and "Life Itself." Bryson chats with experts like Richard Fortey (author of Lifeand Trilobite) and these interviews are charming. But it's when Bryson dives into some of science's best and most embarrassing fights--Cope vs. Marsh, Conway Morris vs. Gould--that he finds literary gold. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Customer Reviews (841)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stunning
For those who slept through their science classes, merely memorized facts to pass the tests and concluded that science is either irrelevant or beyond comprehension, read this 30 chapter book.

Better yet,read just the 14 pages in chapter 19 on "The Rise of Life".You'll be hooked by the content, the author's style and the relevance to your life and every life. In a few short pages Bryson manages to connect atoms, amino acids, proteins and DNA to the origin, structure and probability of life and the universe.This book cannot replace the content of university science courses, but it can motivate the reader to invest some time in learning what scientists have found and ponder what it means.

5-0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly entertaining read
His subject matter is extensive, his research comprehensive, his storytelling brilliant.Bill Bryson is able to craft truly interesting and many times captivating narrative out of historical scientific knowledge and the quest for it. He brings forth the petty grievances, and fragile egos that are behind much of the scientific knowledge we enjoy today, and he does it in a way that sometimes will make you laugh.

Not to mention that you may well acquire some real knowledge about dinosaurs, geology, biology, astronomy, taxonomy and more.His writing may even make taxonomy nterest you.

I highly recommend the audio version also as read by Richard Matthews who brings an English style of speaking that is ideally suited to Bryson's writing.

Without question one of the best books I have ever read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Awesome overview of the sciences, and a little history.
Bill bryson does a wonderful job of captivating your imagination, and writing in a compelling manner while still including copious amounts of information.

this should be a required science book for schoolchildren, maybe we would have more scientists, and less business men.

5-0 out of 5 stars A really and truly interesting book!
Who would have thought that a book required for a science class would be written
like a novel?This has been an extremely interesting book.Word of warning though:You may learn some things about this earth and space that will disturb you!Avoid chapter 13 before bed.:)

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful blend of scientific inquiry and human interest
Bill Bryson's narrative is as much about the follies and foibles of scientists and observers past and present as it is about the enigmatic history of the natural world which their human eyes have sought to uncover.This backdrop alone make this wonderful story more informative and engaging than any dogmatic high school or science textbook I have ever had to read and showed me just how truly awe-inspiring the expanse of Creation is.But at the same time, the more I read Bryson's book, the more the admonition of C.S. Lewis sunk into my mind about confusing reading for religious discipleship with reading to stay informed about the world around us. Wrote Lewis:

"Science is in continual change and we must try to keep abreast of it. We may mention such things; but we must mention them lightly and without claiming that they are more than 'interesting.' Sentences beginning "Science has now proved" should be avoided. If we try to base our apologetic on some recent development in science, we shall usually find that just as we have put the finishing touches to our argument science has changed its mind and quietly withdrawn the theory we have been using as our foundation stone."

Bryson's tapestry of human interest stories interwoven into the epic history of scientific discovery eloquently bears this out. ... Read more

3. Bill Bryson's African Diary
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover: 49 Pages (2002-12-03)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$4.30
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767915062
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Bill Bryson travels to Kenya in support of CARE International. All royalties and profits go to CARE International.

Bryson visits Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to eradicating poverty. Kenya is a land of contrasts, with famous game reserves and a vibrant culture. It also provides plenty to worry a traveller like Bill Bryson, fixated as he is on the dangers posed by snakes, insects and large predators. It is also a country with many serious problems: refugees, AIDS, drought, and grinding poverty. The resultant diary, though short in length, contains the trademark Bryson stamp of wry observation and curious insight. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (67)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not the usual Bill Bryson travel diary
It is a very short book, I've probably read longer magazine articles, and I wish it had been longer. I did enjoy his descriptions of Kenya although I feel that in his attempt to be positive he must not have said a lot which is why to book is so short. Most of the humor comes from the descriptions of his fear of diseases, the train and the aircraft, but his compassion for the people of Kenya is felt in the more serious parts of the book. Not the usual Bill Bryson travel diary, it is, in the main, an endorsement for CARE.

5-0 out of 5 stars A short Bryson treat
A lovely short read by Bryson, filled with his trademark wry humor (or is he back in England such that it should be humour?)Comprised of his typical balance of history (some topical, some random, always interesting), stories, and ruminations on ways his life is in danger (crocodiles, bandits) - it makes for a delightful read.

I was left wanting more, but as all proceeds go to charity, I will forgive Mr. Bryson just this once.

4-0 out of 5 stars Too short
Very short book but great insight into Bryson's trip around Kenya at the behest of CARE International, to which he donated all the proceeds. I was left wanting more and think that would have been easy for Bryson to give to his readers without a lot of effort. But how can one fault his intentions to make us more aware?

Guess I will have to read more about present-day Kenya someplace else. My first interest in Kenya occurred back in the late 80s when I read Barbara Wood's amazing GREEN CITY IN THE SUN. Why this book never was a best-seller is beyond me.

4-0 out of 5 stars Shortest Bill Bryson book
This is a good book for a good cause, but definitely the shortest of all of Bill Bryson's books

5-0 out of 5 stars Contains wonderful pictures and explanations of Africa
A small book to get a quick insight into Africa. Bryson writes with his usual humor about traveling through Africa and what his preconception of Africa was before his trip.

Bill Bryson's story about Africa contains wonderful pictures and explanations of the continent. The profits of the book go to CARE to benefit African people. ... Read more

4. Shakespeare (The Illustrated and Updated Edition)
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover: 256 Pages (2009-11-01)
list price: US$29.99 -- used & new: US$17.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0061965324
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Bill Bryson's Shakespeare pairs one of history's most celebrated writers with one of the most popular writers in the English language today. In this elegant, updated, illustrated edition, the superstitions, academic discoveries and myths surrounding the life of one of the world's greatest poets are evoked through a series of full-color paintings, drawings, portraits, documents and photographs. Bryson also discusses the recent discoveries of the Cobbe portrait and the remains of Shakespeare's first theatre in Shoreditch.

The centuries of mysteries, half-truths and downright lies about Shakespeare are deftly explored, as Bryson draws a picture that includes many aspects of the poet's life, making sense of the man behind the masterpieces. In a journey down the streets of Shakespeare's time, Bryson brings to life the hubbub of Elizabethan England and delights in details of his folios and quartos, poetry and plays. He celebrates the glory of Shakespeare's language and his ceaseless inventiveness, which gave us hundreds of now indispensable phrases, images and words.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (107)

4-0 out of 5 stars A good little read
The book is short and a fast, easy read - too fast, really, because it's so engaging and enjoyable that the end comes far too soon.

It's not a definitive, scholarly thing, and doesn't claim to be. It's also not impartial on the question of whether Shakespeare was really Shakespeare - Bryson takes a firm stand that he was, and none-too-gently ridicules those who don't.

It's a great window into Shakespeare's life (what little is known about it) and times, and a very fun read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised
Of coure I knew stuff about William Shakespeare...doesn't everybody?But apparently I didn't know much of anything, because there's just not much to know.

I was admittedly a little skeptical about this book, figuring I'd be hard pressed to get interested in this one.Really about the only thing I thought I knew about WS was what little bit I'd gleaned about him as I've passed through life, but Bryson has shown that much of that may be rumor, legend or myth.However, what Bryson has done is successfully taken what little is known of the man and crafted it into a very good book.Anyone who cares for literature, its history, and "the arts" in general would benefit from Bryson's work.In short, it'll just make the reader a more knowledgeable person - and that's usually a good thing.

5-0 out of 5 stars Like Shakespeare
As a fan of Shakespeare, but no expert, I was surprised to really like this book.However, Bill Bryson is an amazing writer, so I buy anything and everything he writes.This book gives a good review of what we know about Shakespeare (not very much).I read it on my Kindle, so I did not see the illustrations.I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of Bill Bryson's.

4-0 out of 5 stars Funny and demystifying
I like Bryson, so was on a winner to start with, but this I found superb. Having read a bit about Shakespeare over the years (although I'm no Shakespearian, I hasten to add!), it can be difficult to separate fact and legend. This book does that execellently, and in Bryson's lovely light and unassuming anecdotal style. A really enjoyable, useful and informative read, both on a professional and a personal level. A must read, really.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fun and Interesting
I found this brief volume was pitched at just the right level for me.Obviously, this is not original Shakespeare research, and the Shakespeare scholar (and surely many below that level but above mine) will already know much of what it contains.But for someone at my level, who loved Branaugh's Henry V ("we few, we happy few") and "Shakespeare in Love ("Romeo, ooh, good title"), it is perfect.I learned about both Shakespeare and his era, and Bryson's sardonic voice leavened the material, while the material gave some weight to Bryson's musings.In his book about the Appalachian Trail, I ultimately found his self-serving self-deprecation tiresome, but this time, with a more high falutin' subject that can use a little pricking, Bryson is just right.The last section of the book takes on those who claim Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare, and this is where Bryson works hardest.From his (sometimes hilarious) one is left quite certain that Shakespeare is Shakespeare.The absurd provenance of some of the doubting theories is remarkable. ... Read more

5. In a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 352 Pages (2001-05-15)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$6.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767903862
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out.His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods.In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place:Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet.The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiousity.

Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path.Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book.Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.Amazon.com Review
Bill Bryson follows his Appalachian amble, A Walk in the Woods,with the story of his exploits in Australia, where A-bombs go offunnoticed, prime ministers disappear into the surf, and cheerycitizens coexist with the world's deadliest creatures: toxiccaterpillars, aggressive seashells, crocodiles, sharks, snakes, andthe deadliest of them all, the dreaded box jellyfish. And that's justthe beginning, as Bryson treks through sunbaked deserts and up endlesscoastlines, crisscrossing the "under-discovered" Down Under in searchof all things interesting.

Bryson, who could make a pile of dirtcompelling--and yes, Australia is mostly dirt--finds noshortage of curiosities. When he isn't dodging Portuguese man-of-warsor considering the virtues of the remarkable platypus, he visitssouthwest Gippsland, home of the world's largest earthworms (up to 12feet in length). He discovers that Australia, which began nationhoodas a prison, contains the longest straight stretch of railroad trackin the world (297 miles), as well as the world's largest monolith (themajestic Uluru) and largest living thing (the Great Barrier Reef). Hefinds ridiculous place names: "Mullumbimby Ewylamartup, Jiggalong, andthe supremely satisfying Tittybong," and manages to catch a cricketgame on the radio, which is like

listening to two mensitting in a rowboat on a large, placid lake on a day when the fisharen't biting; it's like having a nap without losing consciousness. Itactually helps not to know quite what's going on. In such a rarefiedworld of contentment and inactivity, comprehension would become adistraction.

"You see," Bryson observes, "Australia isan interesting place. It truly is. And that really is all I'm saying." Of course, Bryson--who is as much a travel writer here as a humorist,naturalist, and historian--says much more, and does so with generousamounts of wit and hilarity.Australia may be "mostly empty and along way away," but it's a little closer now. --Rob McDonald ... Read more

Customer Reviews (464)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fun read!
Bryson is one of my favorite authors and he does not disappoint in In a Sunburned Country!

4-0 out of 5 stars I'm biased in favour of Bryson, I admit ... this is still a good buy
Bryson loves England - that is obvious in Notes from a Small Island. In Australia, however, he is an outsider on a visit (not a resident) and the difference is obvious in the style and character of this book.

In 'Notes from a Small Island', Bryson skips easily from topic to topic, highlighting whichever particular memories strike his fancy. Here, however, we are presented with much more of a standard travelogue in which a good deal more historical and geographical detail provided. Most of it though, I am glad to say, is presented in the light, humorous way in which this author usually entertains me and I enjoyed it immensely. I am cognizant that some reviewers have criticized Bryson for being less than accurate and not 'in-depth' enough, but I didn't buy this book as a sociological, political, or 'what-have-you' treatise, I sometimes just liked to hear a story about somebody's experiences... that's what this book is. I should add that, while my wife and I have very different tastes in literature, I gave her this book before she took a trip to a conference in Sidney and she enjoyed it very much.

My only quibble about this book is as follows: When Bryson is at his most fluid and honest, his humor is easy and very natural. When he *tries* to be funny, however, the prose becomes noticeably forced and the resultant humor declines proportionately. In this book, he confesses to a fear of dogs and goes into a lengthy description of an encounter with one in suburban Sidney. Unfortunately, his particular reaction to canines is not one shared by most people so this whole attempt at to provide a comic 'filler' ended up being little more than tedious... for me at least.

Still a great book though :)

5-0 out of 5 stars What an entertaining look at Australia!
This travelogue was filled with not only anecdotes from the author's trips around the continent/country, but also glimpses into its little known history and a plethora of other interesting facts. I learned a lot - and I have been to Australia before! Bryson's writing felt honest and completely authentic. I imagine that if you were to bump into him at a party, these are the same stories that he would share. I really enjoyed reading this and I am looking forward to reading more of his work!
He brought up the couple who were lost at sea quite a few times throughout the book, and I wonder if this had anything to do with that movie _Open Water_ being made. Bryson certainly seemed fixated by their mystery, and while the movie was not great, it was worth seeing once.
The real highlight of the book, to me, was Bryson's trip through Tennyson Park... I had hoped to hear about some of the dogs of Australia, but after that escapade, I understood why this wasn't included in the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Okay OZ, here we come!
Outstanding read!Travels in Australia, urban, rural & outback.One theme throughout is how there is much to know about, and much happens, Down Under, yet the rest of the world never finds out.Not to mention the length of flight to get there!Yet the cities are clean and inviting while the people are friendly, the distances to travel are great, the skies radiant, the weather mostly warm to very hot.

4-0 out of 5 stars A fun, engaging romp Down Under
Bill Bryson delivers his usual medley of breezy storytelling and fascinating factoids, this time about a land many of us think we know (even those who've visited more than once). But as he reveals, this sprawling, continent-sized nation offers up enough secrets and surprises to scintillate the most jaded. Even a decade on, this chronicle retains relevance and import, and should accompany everyone's guidebooks whenever they make pilgrimage to this wondrous country. ... Read more

6. Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover: 512 Pages (2010-11-01)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$23.10
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0061999768
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Edited and introduced by Bill Bryson, with original contributions from "a glittering array of scientific writing talent" (Sunday Observer) including Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Richard Holmes, Martin Rees, Richard Fortey, Steve Jones, James Gleick, and Neal Stephenson, among others, this incomparable book tells the spectacular story of science and the international Royal Society, from 1660 to the present. Seeing Further is also gorgeously illustrated with photographs, documents, and treasures from the Society's exclusive archives.

On a damp weeknight in November three hundred and fifty years ago, a dozen men gathered in London. After hearing an obscure twenty-eight-year-old named Christopher Wren lecture on the wonders of astronomy, his rapt audience was moved to create a society to promote the accumulation of useful—and fascinating—knowledge. At that, the Royal Society was born, and with it, modern science.

Since then, the Royal Society has pioneered global scientific exploration and discovery. Its members have split the atom, discovered the double helix and the electron, and given us the computer and the World Wide Web. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy, John Locke, Alexander Fleming, Stephen Hawking—all have been fellows. Bill Bryson's favorite fellow is the Reverend Thomas Bayes, a brilliant mathematician who devised Bayes' theorem. Its complexity meant that it had little practical use in Bayes' own lifetime, but today his theorem is used for weather forecasting, astrophysics, and even stock-market analysis. A milestone in mathematical history, it exists only because the Royal Society decided to preserve it—just in case.

Truly global in its outlook, the Royal Society now is credited with creating modern science. Seeing Further is an unprecedented celebration of its history and the power of ideas, bringing together the very best of science writing.

... Read more

7. Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 432 Pages (1996-03-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$8.63
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0380713810
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Bill Bryson, who gave glorious voice to The Mother Tongue, now celebrates her magnificent offspring in the book that reveals once and for all how a dusty western hamlet with neither woods nor holly came to be known as Hollywood...and exactly why Mr.Yankee Doodle call his befeathered cap "Macaroni."Amazon.com Review
Readers from Toad Suck, Arkansas, to Idiotsville, Oregon--andeverywhere in between--will love Made in America, Bill Bryson'sInformal History of the English Language in the United States.It is, in a word, fascinating. After reading this tour de force, it'sclear that a nation's language speaks volumes about its truecharacter: you are what you speak. Bryson traces America's historythrough the language of the time, then goes on to discuss words culledfrom everyday activities: immigration, eating, shopping, advertising,going to the movies, and others.

Made in America will supply you with interesting facts andcocktail chatter for a year or more. Did you know, for example, thatTeddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" credohas its roots in a West African proverb? Or that actor WalterMatthau's given name is Walter Mattaschanskayasky? Or that thesupposedly frigid Puritans--who called themselves "Saints,"by the way--had something called a pre-contract, which was a licensefor premarital sex? Made in America is an excellent discussionof American English, but what makes the book such a treasure is thatit offers much, much more. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (66)

5-0 out of 5 stars Another great read from Bill Bryson!
"The American was good natured, generous, hospitable and sociable, and he reversed the whole of language to make the term 'stranger' one of welcome."--Henry Steele Commager

Whenever I am reading Bill Bryson, I am compelled to talk about it incessantly. So, I'm sure it was a long few weeks for my friends and family. Bryson doesn't disappoint in this follow-up to the brilliant, amazing (and one my favorite books ever) The Mother Tongue. Made in America basically tells the history of the United States, using its unique take on the English language as the medium by which to tell a fascinating historical, sociological, psychological, and cultural story, from America's beginnings with the blending of English and native languages that created a poetry of nomenclature, to the immigrant contribution to vocabulary, to the inventive spirit of business and machines that influence linguistics. Americans use English differently, different clichés, different vocabulary, different prose and style, and have contributed greatly to language. Bryson tells a fascinating story, and a brilliant linguistic one. I loved this book. So full of fascinating goodies. Thanks again for another great read, Bill! Grade: A

2-0 out of 5 stars Made in America--Proofread Where?
I read this for an undergrad class (don't ask me why) and at first found it quite enjoyable.My knowledge of history is weaker than I'd like, a fact about which I am sometimes self-conscious.However, what history I do know, I know.Apparently Bryson and I have different areas of expertise.For instance, early on he makes a point about the rhyming nature of "was" and "pass" during the 19th century.While I am not ABSOLUTELY certain that this linguistic nuance was dead by the 19th century (and I would wager money it was dead), Bryson quotes a 17th century poem (one of the Althea poems, if I remember correctly, by Richard Lovelace) to make his claim and then cites the poem as being part of a series of poems written by LORD BYRON.Really??These people are only separated by about 150 years, Bill, and belong to radically different movements.

You might say, "That's no big deal.He made a mistake."I personally can stand an editing mistake--punctuation, grammar, extra words, whatever.Mistakes with facts (especially in a book that presents itself as history--read "fact-based") are a little more difficult for me to swallow.Second example:

Mr. Bryson talks about the "puke stockings"--people who came over on the Mayflower--as being called so because they would puke all over their own stockings from being seasick.Um, no?Puke was a high-grade fabric used during the 16th and 17th centuries with its own distinctive color (which only later became associated with the stuff that comes up after a night of drinking).So Bryson is wrong again.Google this if you don't believe me.

At this point I can only speak from the word of a trusted friend, but Bryson has also apparently misrepresented the nature of Puritan marriage and engagement as well.While he paints a picture of the Puritans as being a little "loose in the sack" (yes, tongue-in-cheek), he fails to understand the nuances of Puritan marriages--what constituted marriage, etc.

Now, yes, these are only three errors.But I must say, they are the only three errors that I caught, and I am no history buff.I could only ask myself as I continued to read, "How much else has he gotten wrong?"Another question continued to pop up: "Has he done these things simply to spice up his own book?"I don't think switching Lovelace for Byron would titillate anyone, but the puke-stockings and the Puritan thing are made to sound more exciting than they might otherwise be.In other words, for me, these errors damaged Bryson' ethos as a historian and I no longer trusted him.

BOTTOM LINE:Bryson's writing engages and his facts (when they seem to be right) are interesting and sometimes shocking.He wries with zest and humor and revitalizes American history in many ways.Just read carefully and take this book with a handful of salt, as these revitalizations may not be historically accurate. Minus three for being sloppy (or dishonest).

4-0 out of 5 stars Informative and Entertaining
The book is a decent read.I found myself laughing out load on multiple occasions while reading it.As is typical with Bryson books there are a multitude of obscure facts and ironic tales.Good book but I was not drawn in enough to give it a full 5 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Walk In The Words
Originally published in 1995, Mr. Bryson's book holds up very well except for his next to last chapter entitled, "Welcome to the Space Age." This was written before the revolutionary impact of the Internet. Googled, Facebook, Pop-Ups, streaming and other assorted terms are not enclosed and, naturally, never explained. However, the author does an excellent job of unearthing some of our more common usages. The book is chock-full of interesting little tidbits. There wasn't a single page that didn't hold my attention. Mr. Bryson has an enjoyable, mildly sarcastic writing style. Over and over again, he debunks many myths about U.S. history and the origin of certain words or sayings. I didn't enjoy this one as much as his hilarious adventure "A Walk in the Woods," but "Made in America" is a lot better than some of the stuff I've read. A carefree journey that makes a great selection when the reader is looking for a book to help them unwind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson never disappoints
If you are a fan of trivial and unusual American history, this is the book for you. Bill Bryson delivers little-known facts about the birth and cultivation of American English with his usual unfailing wit. Enjoy! ... Read more

8. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
by Bill Bryson
Mass Market Paperback: 397 Pages (2006-12-26)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.09
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307279464
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America–majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaing guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way–and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).Amazon.com Review
Your initial reaction to Bill Bryson's reading of A Walk inthe Woods may well be "Egads! What a bore!" But bysentence three or four, his clearly articulated, slightly adenoidal,British/American-accented speech pattern begins to grow on you andbecomes quite engaging. You immediately get a hint of the humor thatlies ahead, such as one of the innumerable reasons he longed to walkas many of the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail as hecould. "It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth"is delivered with glorious deadpan flair. By the time our storytellerrecounts his trip to the Dartmouth Co-op, suffering serious stickershock over equipment prices, you'll be hooked.

When Bryson speaksfor the many Americans he encounters along the way--in various shops,restaurants, airports, and along the trail--he launches into hisAmerican accent, which is whiny and full of hard r's. And hissouthern intonations are a hoot. He's even got a special voice usedexclusively when speaking for his somewhat surprising trail partner,Katz. In the 25 years since their school days together, Katz has puton quite a bit of weight. In fact, "he brought to mind OrsonWelles after a very bad night. He was limping a little and breathingharder than one ought to after a walk of 20 yards." Katz oftenspeaks in monosyllables, and Bryson brings his limited vocabularyhumorously to life. One of Katz's more memorable utterings is"flung," as in flung most of his provisions over the cliffbecause they were too heavy to carry any farther.

The author hasthoroughly researched the history and the making of the AppalachianTrail. Bryson describes the destruction of many parts of the forestand warns of the continuing perils (both natural and man-made) theTrail faces. He speaks of the natural beauty and splendor as he andKatz pass through, and he recalls clearly the serious dangers the twoface during their time together on the trail. So, A Walk in theWoods is not simply an out-of-shape, middle-aged man's desire toprove that he can still accomplish a major physical task; it's also aplea for the conservation of America's last wilderness. Bryson'stelling is a knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud funny trek through thewoods, with a touch of science and history thrown in for goodmeasure. (Running time: 360 minutes, four cassettes) --ColleenPreston ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1193)

3-0 out of 5 stars SHUN THE AUDIOBOOK. Or not.
re: audiobook version.

I listened to this at work (I spend most of my time at work listening to books as it's a lot of tedious computery stuff and I don't need to talk to anyone), and by hour 3 or 4 I was really wanting to smite the author. Not for his mean comments about fellow hikers (we all think mean things about our fellow humans; as long as people don't present this as positive behavior, I don't really mind hearing it) or for his long tangents on items of scientific or historical relevance, which I actually enjoy (the first book by this author that I listened to was the fabulous "A Short History of Nearly Everything"). It was because of his voice. OMG SO BORING. I kept imagining over and over how much funnier, how much more interesting, how much more compelling the words themselves might have been if the reader sounded in any way interested in them. If the book is indeed read by the author (although some of my digital files have a note stating it was "read by Rob McQuay"?), he really needs to never ever do it again. The delightful reader he got for "A Short History of Nearly Everything" should redo this book for him.

That said, the actual content was also a little disappointing; from other reviews, I think I was expecting something more light-hearted and/or encouraging and less... depressing. I dunno, everything was just rather sad, from the commentary on fellow hikers (mostly annoying prats or stupid monkeys) to the commentary on the local people and towns (well... southern) to the commentary on the nearly criminal incompetence of the US Forest Service at protecting trees or even at turning a profit for taxpayers when giving away our forests to loggers. The tragedy of America's lovely wilderness slowly going the way of the dodo. The awkwardness of humanity. The selfishness lurking within us all. The ignorance everywhere. Everything. It was just all very sad to me.

Many people no doubt thought the bits with Mary Ellen were hilarious -- oh, how funny, a sarcastic writer has run into an annoying tardling! Let us laugh at how amusingly awful the whole experience was! And I can see how it's funny, but at the same time, it's really pathetic. It was like laughing at a bird flying headfirst into a window and injuring itself. Initially very amusing! But at the same time it's just... sad. I felt similarly about Bryson's companion Katz. Someone whose life has been falling apart for a long time and who is doing the unhappy work of trying to construct a new one. Someone who has good points and bad ones. Someone whose flaws are not at all noble.

I suppose in the end my feeling is that the book was, possibly, TOO human. It kind of made me despair for my country and my people. I kept thinking, "I HAVE met those people! I HAVE noticed those things! It's TRUE! ....but why?? WHY?"

Not that a it's bad story, but certainly not the interesting and fun kind of thing I was hoping for. I guess I'll compare it to old Roadrunner cartoons. If you are the sort of person who laughed every time Wile E. Coyote's schemes failed and he screwed himself over by falling into a gorge, dropping an anvil on himself, or accidentally blowing himself up, then you'll probably like this book. On the other hand, if you felt a bit sorry for him and don't really find the suffering (even when a person brings on his/her own misfortune) or foibles of others to be particularly amusing, well, this book might simply make you reflect rather soberly on the exact nature of what the author was observing. In other words, the book relies a lot on schadenfreude for its entertainment value, so your mileage may vary.

(As a caveat I have to say that the reading voice really REALLY influenced my feelings. I absolutely 100% think this book would be at least marginally funnier, less depressing and definitely less dull at parts if one were reading it in print. The enthusiasm-free reading style made funny things unfunny, serious or unfortunate bits much more pronounced, and definitely killed any potentially exciting moments stone dead.)

4-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic look at a life-changing hike
I have to be honest -- as someone who loves the outdoors and who likes to hike a little, the Appalachian Trail is one of those things that I've known about. Truth be told, it would be cool to thru-hike it. BUT, the reality is I'll never do it. So, to see a book like this, it gives readers the feel of what it would be like out there.

Two people recommended this book to me and I'm glad they did. It's one I am glad I read.

If you are looking for a book that shows you every mile of the Appalachian Trail and about how great and successful of a hike this can be, look elsewhere.

If you are looking for an entertaining read and the reality of what is this amazing trail, look no further.

Bill Bryson delivers a wonderful story of the trail, hiking with a long-lost friend, realities of the trail and how hard and demanding a trip like this can be. It's not all pie and candy, that's for sure. Bryson gives readers a view of the trail in many different ways and mixes in a history lesson at times, too.

He's witty, funny and, at times, emotional. He shows how hard this trip can be and what it can do to a person. The wear and tear to a person's body and mind and what it's like to be away from loved ones for so long. I laughed many times throughout the book at Bryson and his traveling pal, Katz.

This book also gives you a real respect for those that make it through this whole trail. Bryson and Katz did a lot, but it's almost incredibly amazong to know how much they actually did when it's all said and done.

The ending is fitting -- and one I almost saw coming with how the book went.

If you are thinking of hiking this trail, or just like the stories and tales about it, this book is a good one. It gives you a glimpse of people and life on the trail and some of the most wonderful things you'll ever see. It's worth every penny and an excellent read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Rollicking Read
I truly enjoyed this book.Normally I prefer stories of true adventure, as in something that involves a taste of danger.I was surprised to find myself smiling all the way through this book.Bill Bryson is a very talented writer, and he turns something rather unremarkable into a great story.Hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable!

5-0 out of 5 stars Warning label needed...
This was my first introduction to the wit and intelligence of Bill Bryson.Wonderfully educational and insightful.However, there should be a warning label, "do not read in public".This book is laugh-out-loud funny.

5-0 out of 5 stars Motivation
Loved the details of the actual hike. This humorous book cemented my determination to hike the Application Trail upon retirement. A must read for outdoor enthusiasts. ... Read more

9. I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 304 Pages (2000-06-06)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$3.78
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 076790382X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly 3 million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens--as he later put it, "it was clear my people needed me").They were greeted by a new and improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item.

Delivering the brilliant comic musings that are a Bryson hallmark, I'm a Stranger Here Myself recounts his sometimes disconcerting reunion with the land of his birth.The result is a book filled with hysterical scenes of one man's attempt to reacquaint himself with his own country, but it is also an extended if at times bemused love letter to the homeland he has returned to after twenty years away.

Amazon.com Review
In the world of contemporary travel writing, Bill Bryson, thebestselling author of AWalk in the Woods, often emerges as a major contender for Kingof Crankiness. Granted, he complains well and humorously, but betweenevery line of his travel books you can almost hear the tinny echo: "Iwanna go home, I miss my wife."

Happily, I'm a Stranger HereMyself unleashes a new Bryson, more contemplative and less likelyto toss daggers. After two decades in England, he's relocated toHanover, New Hampshire. In this collection (drawn from dispatches forLondon's Night & Day magazine), he's writing from home, in closeproximity to wife and family. We find a happy marriage between humorand reflection as he assesses life both in New England and in thecontemporary United States. With the telescopic perspective of onewho's stepped out of the American mainstream and come back after 20years, Bryson aptly holds the mirror up to U.S. culture, capturing itsabsurdities--such as hotlines for dental floss, the cult of thelawsuit, and strange American injuries such as those sustained frompillows and beds. "In the time it takes you to read this," he writes,"four of my fellow citizens will somehow manage to be wounded by theirbedding."

The book also reflects the sweet side of small-town USA,with columns about post-office parties, dining at diners, andThanksgiving--when the only goal is to "get your stomach into theapproximate shape of a beach ball" and be grateful. And grateful weare that the previously peripatetic Bryson has returned to the U.S.,turning his eye to this land--while living at home and near hiswife. Under her benevolent influence, he entertains through thoughtfulinsights, not sarcastic stabs. --Melissa Rossi ... Read more

Customer Reviews (250)

4-0 out of 5 stars Collection of funny essays
I got this book from the library without really knowing anything about it.I just really like Bill Bryson.So of course, I was a little surprised by the format of the book.This is not a book for me to read in one sitting.However, I read a couple essays before bed or before reading another book.Sure he complained, but who wouldn't if they had to fill out American government forms, saw people who cannot enjoy the beautiful outdoor weather in their car, or experience the closing of true diners while fake ones become popularized.I chuckled and enjoyed the book overall.

4-0 out of 5 stars Amusing rants on American life
I originally bought this book because it was required reading for a class I was taking. We were assigned only the first 17 or so stories and I decided to finish it on my own because it was an enjoyable read overall. Yes, he does have some passages that are more whiny than others, but overall the book has a nice to tone to it. If you're not one to laugh at yourself, you may not enjoy it, but if you enjoy finding humor in simple, everyday situations you often find yourself in then I suggest reading this.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not really humor, more like arrogrant grousing.
I looked forward to reading this book, as I had read some of his previous work and thought them entertaining and even witty.For whatever the reason, this book never rises to that level.He takes a more aloof tone and is relentless in making fun of everything and everyone he encounters.I have to be completely honest, that I did not actually finish the book.I grew weary of his insults and negative humor.I took offense at his continual belittle of small towns and the people that live there.
Hopefully he is now past that period of his life and is back to lighter and less mean spirited observations of others.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hilarious!
The book is a joy to read. I was laughing out loud in my flight while getting crazy looks from people. There are sections which are serious and are a subtle hint at the wasteful ways of American life. Overall, its a pleasure to read. Bill Bryson has done a fantastic job in this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Re-Discovering America
Bill Bryson's I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF is a collection of newspaper articles he wrote between 1996 and 1998 for a London newspaper.As the subtitle, Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away, indicates, the pieces mostly concern Bryson's readjustments to being in the States after living abroad, in the U.K., for so long.Upon returning to the United States, Bryson, an American, sought with his English wife a "nice place" in which to live.They settled on and in quaint Hanover, NH, home of prestigious Dartmouth College.

The articles, which were published weekly and by and large unfold with a certain sequential coherence, work best when they are focused on Bryson's observations of America as a returnee: everything's familiar, or becomes so again, tinged with the distinct alienation that comes from living abroad: he sees things as if new again.Written for a British readership, the columns appeal to a certain British sense of humor--occasionally you feel as if you're eavesdropping on a joke, but still you laugh.Bryson's trenchant criticism of American follies of government and society almost invariably hit the mark as well.His parodies of the IRS tax form and the computer set-up guide are less successful, perhaps because the models on which they're based are already ridiculous and, more to the point, tedious.

In fact, the more Bryson strays into invention, the less compelling his prose.Far more enjoyable are his seemingly effortless observations, including such slight things as the sound of a porch screen door banging shut in summer.What's more, his commentary on ordinary daily life as well as on the greater American political and social scene is laugh-out-loud hilarious and dead on.This is a quick read and highly enjoyable.
... Read more

10. Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 256 Pages (2004-09-14)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.91
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767910435
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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One of the English language’s most skilled and beloved writers guides us all toward precise, mistake-free usage.

As usual Bill Bryson says it best: “English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense. This is a language where ‘cleave’ can mean to cut in half or to hold two halves together; where the simple word ‘set’ has 126 different meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective; where if you can run fast you are moving swiftly, but if you are stuck fast you are not moving at all; [and] where ‘colonel,’ ‘freight,’ ‘once,’ and ‘ache’ are strikingly at odds with their spellings.” As a copy editor for the London Times in the early 1980s, Bill Bryson felt keenly the lack of an easy-to-consult, authoritative guide to avoiding the traps and snares in English, and so he brashly suggested to a publisher that he should write one. Surprisingly, the proposition was accepted, and for “a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth,” he proceeded to write that book–his first, inaugurating his stellar career.

Now, a decade and a half later, revised, updated, and thoroughly (but not overly) Americanized, it has become Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, more than ever an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. With some one thousand entries, from “a, an” to “zoom,” that feature real-world examples of questionable usage from an international array of publications, and with a helpful glossary and guide to pronunciation, this precise, prescriptive, and–because it is written by Bill Bryson–often witty book belongs on the desk of every person who cares enough about the language not to maul or misuse or distort it.

From the Hardcover edition. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great writing reference
I got this book at the advice of my English professor.It has proven to be an excellent reference.I found out I was making some of the everyday mistakes in my writing that Bill Bryson points out.He injects humor throughout, but it is aboe all a handy reference book.

5-0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down
If you love words and the quirky nuances of the English language, you will savor this book. Bryson applies wit and wisdom to every clause. He clears up sticky issues of grammar and syntax likely to bother even the most accomplished writers, and points out shades of meaning that are important but not at all obvious. A few things I learned -

1. "Comic" is something intended to be funny; "comical" is funny whether intended or not.
2. Stalemates don't end. A stalemate is the end, whereas a standoff or deadlock can end.
3. "Meticulous" has a negative connotation of being excessively careful. "Scrupulous" or "painstaking" might be better choices.

Not sure about when to use "who" versus "whom"? "Shall" versus "will"? "If I were ..." versus "If I was ..."? "Compare with" versus "compare to"? Bryson clears it all up.

Another area he addresses is troublesome names of proper nouns. For example -

1. "Notes from Underground", not "Notes from the Underground".
2. Big Ben is the bell, not the clock.
3. Leonardo is the preferred second reference for Leonardo da Vinci.
4. "Finnegans Wake" has no apostrophe.
5. National Institutes of Health - plural.

His clarifications on spelling, though few in number, were amazingly well selected. These, for example, were news to me -

1. Expressible
2. "Hear, hear!", not "Here, here!"
3. Just deserts (not desserts)
4. Ukulele

Reading this book will help you write with greater precision and clarity. At 240 pages, it's surprisingly comprehensive and every bit as good as a desk side reference as The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law

4-0 out of 5 stars A Toastmaster's reference book
Bryson's dictionary of troublesome words is a delight for a Toastmaster. In out club we have debvated for a couple of years about the difference between poldium and lectern; Bruson explains it succinctly.
The book is also an excellent source for a word of the day and can also be used to suggest two words that are similar in ways but different as well. Great book for any wordsmith.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fun to read, and a good reference
This book is a light, fun read for people who enjoy the nuances of the English language and maybe would like to become better readers/writers/editors.I always have this book handy when I'm making editing corrections at work. While I don't consult it regularly, it has definitely clarified three or four things that I couldn't find explained clearly or concisely enough on the internet.Also, someone wrote a review about this book and claimed that it was obsolete because you can find everything that Bill writes about explained somewhere online.This may be true, but Bill's writing style is interesting, concise, thorough, and written colloquially enough to be easy to digest-- so you're more likely to retain this nuanced information of usages than trying to locate these things somewhere else.

2-0 out of 5 stars The Lost Continent
Rather mundane descriptive work. It is outdated by a quarter century. I would not recommend this book to anyone. ... Read more

11. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 270 Pages (2007-09-25)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$6.81
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767919378
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language, a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as "The Thunderbolt Kid."

Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and OF his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson’s earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends.

Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is as wondrous a book as Bill Bryson has ever written.It will enchant anyone who has ever been young. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (356)

5-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted memoir.

After reading the dreadful news in the paper these days and some of the heavy selections of my book study club, I found this book very enjoyable and a breath of fresh air.I am a little older than Bill Bryson and grew up in the 50s in a small town so I could relate to his experiences. The author has a wonderful way with words in describing people, places and events.There were passages that I shared with my husband that left us both laughing so hard that we were in tears.

Definitely a good read!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid:A Memoir
This is a wonderful book about growing up in the time when kids could go out and ride their bikes (without helmets)and hang out till the streetlights came on.The author reads it beautifully and it makes you nostalgic for simpler times.It was a great road-trip book!

4-0 out of 5 stars Thunderbolt Kid for those over 50
Humorous book reminiscing about the good old days of growing up in the 50's...couldn't put it down. Fond memories abound!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Thunderbolt Kid
Typical Bill Bryson - exaggerated humor - laugh out loud funny. Book is a kind of tongue-in-cheek remembrance of growing up in Iowa. Very enjoyable reading

3-0 out of 5 stars The 50's
I read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" and laughed so hard I was crying.I was expecting the same with "The Thunderbolt Kid".However, this is more a reminiscence of life in the Midwest in the 1950's.There were a few funny moments in this book but not nearly as many as a "A Walk in the Woods".

If you are a baby boomer and enjoy reading about growing up in that era, then this book will appeal.There are things here that all of us can enjoy if you are like me, a child of the 1950's.

The author uses the book as a tool for rants against the United States in some of the last chapters.He particularly has great unhappiness with Republicans, the CIA, and Nixon among others.

However, if you like to read about the past and remember some of the good times of the erathen this is a fun book; it is just not as laugh out loud funny as "A Walk in the Woods". I did enjoy catching up with Bill Bryson's old friend, Stephen Katz, who accompanied him on his walk in the wood on the Applachian Trail.Since it is not quite as funny as the other book, I chose to give this book 3 stars.I like Bryson best when he is making me laugh. ... Read more

12. The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 320 Pages (1990-09-12)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060920084
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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An unsparing and hilarious account of one man's rediscovery of America and his search for the perfect small town.Amazon.com Review
A travelogue by Bill Bryson is as close to a sure thing asfunny books get. The Lost Continent is no exception. Followingan urge to rediscover his youth (he should know better), the authorleaves his native Des Moines, Iowa, in a journey that takes him across38 states. Lucky for us, he brought a notebook.

With a razor wit and a kind heart, Bryson serves up a colorful tale ofboredom, kitsch, and beauty when you least expect it. Gentler elementsaside, The Lost Continent is an amusing book. Here's Bryson onthe women of his native state: "I will say this, however--andit's a strange, strange thing--the teenaged daughters of these fatwomen are always utterly delectable ... I don't know what it is thathappens to them, but it must be awful to marry one of those nubilecuties knowing that there is a time bomb ticking away in her that willat some unknown date make her bloat out into something huge andgrotesque, presumably all of a sudden and without much notice, like aself-inflating raft from which the pin has been yanked."

Yes, Bill, but be honest: what do you really think? ... Read more

Customer Reviews (318)

5-0 out of 5 stars Very, very funny!
It helps to be from the Midwest to understand this one, but it is full of belly-buster laughs...and wherever you are from, you have to be willing to laugh at yourself (or your neighbors, if it makes you feel better). Definitely worth a winter read!

3-0 out of 5 stars Bryson's bad mood is funny!
Bryson was in a bad mood when he wrote this book back in the early 1980's. That's not a criticism of the book, just an observation. Who in the U.S. wasn't in a bad mood then?He's just as funny when he's cranky travelling through the small towns of the U.S. as when he's in a happy mood, looking at the beautiful vistas of Europe.

I had to wonder as I was reading this book if it was something he actually wanted to do, or if his publisher insisted he had to write a travel book on the U.S.Either way, his bad mood makes the book just as funny and just as charming as all his travel guides, but with a dark edge, that I enjoyed.

2-0 out of 5 stars Bryson's hypocritical ignorance
I've read the other reviews and they all seem to sum up the variety of perspectives I would expect.However, there is one point I feel should be addressed.I've spent much time in the town of Gettysburg as my girlfriend's family lives there.I normally wouldn't fault someone for being unfamiliar with the history or progression of the battle but Bryson is a different story.Given that Bryson himself points out the immense importance of the battle and despairs at the failure to respect the battlefield, I feel that some nitpicking is warranted.He mentions sarcastically that he could picture the Confederates advancing from the north through the town during Pickett's charge, through parking lots and tacky shops.In fact, Bryson is wholly incorrect in this description.Pickett's charge advanced from the West about a half mile south of the town across open field that has since been, and is today, open and unadulterated.

I recognize this distinction as nit-picky but as someone who feels so justified in lambasting the American education system but demonstrates his own massive ignorance about an event he considers to be of monumental importance, I can't help but be disappointed in Bryson.In fact, I wonder how accurate any of his irreverent anecdotes are, or if he even went to any of these places at all.

I will admit that he is enormously funny and his humor resonates with me.I find myself laughing out loud at some of his anecdotes.However, I can't help but be disappointed in a person so close minded as to hold everything that is different from his own personal lifestyle (even if he only gets a glimpsing look) in utter contempt.

Prepare to be:
a) offended
b) lied to and/or misinformed
c) laughing at the end of it all

4-0 out of 5 stars Acerbic
I liked it.Pretty funny.Fairly harsh and quite critical of general American society.It is very frank.He didn't pull punches.He called the towns as he saw them.I spent 10 days in Europe last summer and when I came back, there were a lot of things about American society that really drove me nuts.I can see how spending several years in England, especially if you have a rather 'liberal' ideology could lead you to making several of the comments that he did in the book.(I'm not saying Europe is the greatest place on earth, it is just different, and some of that difference is better).Lots of Americans are way overweight.Lots of Americans don't walk anywhere.In most places in America, it is damn near impossible to walk anywhere without climbing over barriers or worry about being hit by a car.

The book is basically one pot-shot after another, since he doesn't spend enough time in any one town to get to really know anyone or truly get to know anything about the town.You have to read the book for what it is, one long road trip with the only destination being returning home.Just long stretches of road with small towns along the way for stopping points to sleep in.It is a light read, but not very enlightening.Still pretty funny.

As has been noted well over 200 times here, this work is the account of a rather lengthy road trip Bryson took covering 38 of our states.Now Bryson is one of those writers you either like or you dislike.As we can tell by some of the reviews here, he does have a way about him, or at least his writing dose, that sort of rubs some people the wrong way. Even though I am a fan of this particular author and count some of his more recent work among my favorite reads, I can understand perfectly the hostility of some readers.This is particularly true with this account of his journey where he tried to recapture the feeling and essence of some of the places he had visited with his family as a young boy, while at the same time trying to find his "perfect American town."Mr. Bryson steps on a lot of toes here.

Now as for the good, the bad and the ugly; let's start with the good and work toward the ugly:

The Good:Bill Bryson is a good writer.He can be a very funny writer.He is a keen observer and there is no doubt, after reading his more recent works, that he is an excellent researcher.I found myself snickering and even laughing quite often while reading the book being reviewed here.Some of his snappy comments on the way we live are truly funny.We all have at one time or the other had the same thoughts Bryson has had, but he has an excellent way of articulating his.He is quite skillful at this.I also enjoyed his critique of various aspects of our society, even though some of his observations were quite painful...truthful, but painful.A people who cannot laugh at themselves are in big trouble.An examination of where we have been, where we are, and where we are possibly going as a nation is healthy from time to time.Bryson is able to give us a bit of a different slant on things and does it quite well.I know that it is easy to take offense when someone makes fun of your particular area of the country, your culture, your way of life, but after reading this book, you will note that the author does not play favorites...be bashes just about everything he sees and ever one he sees or meets with the same sarcastic and snotty zeal.This aspect of the book was fun, healthy and enlightening.

The Bad:Whine, whine, whine.We all have or moments of whining now and then; it is human nature.Bryson though takes this whining to a new level; almost a nonstop level.This can be a bit annoying at times.As an example we learn very quickly that the author does not like the Golden Arches, or any other fast food chain for that matter.Well neither do I, but it did not take be 36 years to learn to simply shut up about it and go find somewhere else to eat.It is not like someone is twisting your arm.Having traveled through almost ever section of the country the author traveled through...several times I might add, I have never one time found myself in a situation where I was forced to eat Big Macs.Bryson keeps eating them and whining about them...go figure.This is one example of many, many, many. Good grief, the whine list is endless!

At the same time the author is whining about food, he is taking some pretty sharp jabs at groups of people who really have not much control over their situation.He seems to hate all tourists, all of them being fat, loud and poorly dressed.He hates all regional accents (more about that under the heading "Ugly").He despises all poor people, unemployed people, rich Republicans, Rich Democrats, motels, restraints, monuments, road signs, fat people, old people, and did I mention fat people?After reading a few pages, I am not at all sure if he is overly fond of his mom and other members of his family.

It was almost as if the author had a pre-set notion of where all the ugly places were in American, why they were ugly, and then set out to find them.While I agree with many of his observations, I can also assure you that there is far more beauty than ugliness in each and every place he visited.You merely have to look to see it. This most certainly includes the people he seems to have such distain for.

The Ugly:There were a couple of places in the book that truly offended me.The first was when he tied into the black lady who was running the visitor center in the Deep South and tried to helped him.He ranted for over a page, making fun of her black southern dialect...really mean spirited of him I thought.The second time is when he more or less summed up all Native Americans as "drunken Indians" driving around in trashed out, over sized cars, weaving all over the road.This was his description of the Native Americans who live on the reservations of the west.Again, mean and tacky.I would not want to say it was racist, per se, but it sure sort of smelled like it. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck......!

Now there is not much doubt that Bill Bryson is a bit of an elitist.After reading this and some of his other works, there is not much doubt on that account.Or might I say a want to be elitist.That is okay though...everyone has to be something.But knowing Mr. Bryson's background, I could not help thinking of the main protagonist and narrator of Tobias Wolff's wonderful book Old School.It is sort of sad then you think about it. I can see a lot of Bryson in that young man in this story.

This is an amusing read on many levels.I found that as I read it I became more interested in this author's maturing as a writer, this being his first work, and comparing it with the work he is turning out now.

The book is okay, just be sure you know whatyou are getting into before you start reading it.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
... Read more

13. Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 245 Pages (2001)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$4.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0380713802
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Like many of his generation, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe in the early seventies -- in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. Twenty years later he decided to retrace the journey he undertook in the halcyon days of his youth. The result is Neither Here Nor There, an affectionate and riotously funny pilgrimage from the frozen wastes of Scandinavia to the chaotic tumult of Istanbul, with stops along the way in Europe's most diverting and historic locales. Like many of his generation, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe in the early seventies--in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. Twenty years later he decided to retrace the journey he undertook in the halcyon days of his youth. The result is Neither Here Nor There, an affectionate and riotously funny pilgrimage from the frozen wastes of Scandinavia to the chaotic tumult of Istanbul, with stops along the way in Europe's most diverting and historic locales.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (182)

5-0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
In all fairness, I will admit that I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. I fell in love with his jovial good-natured and honest manner, when I read, "A Walk in the Woods" about his adventures walking the Appalachian Trail.When I first read that book, I knew nothing of Bryson. I thought I'd found a memoir by some guy who walk the Trail.Afterwards, I found out that Bryson is a considered a "travel writer" by trade. What!? Really!? Travel writing, I had always assumed, is boring, but when Bryson does it, it is a wonderful personal peak into, not only other places, but into his mind and heart as affected by his journies.

This book was about Bryson's trip alone across Europe. He first travelled across Europe in his early 20's with his exasperating childhood friend, and infrequent travel companian, Katz. This book chronicles his return to Europe 20 years later, this time alone. He recounts stories of what he experienced then with what he's seeing two decades later. It's so simple, in lovely straightforward prose, often funny, and more than occasionally sarcastic.He describes what he sees and experiences seemingly without filter. All the bad experiences, bad food, and bad attitudes (the Swiss being the worst) are shared in amusing and sometimes heartbreaking detail (the anti-semitism in Austria.)

Several times I laughed out loud. Several times, I wished with all my heart I could see with my eyes the beauty he was describing, but was happy that I had him to describe it to me. I felt I lived a trip through Europe vicariously through his experiences as described in this book. If you haven't read him, start with A Walk in the Woods. But if you are planning a trip to Europe, definitely read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Master of EmBillishment
Bill Bryson is to embellishment like a hammer is to a nail. They go together.

Slamming his typical sarcastic wit to the sights, sounds, smells and situations throughout his European travels, Bryson rivets the reader with an imbibed smile. Swallow it down. This is humor at its sneering finest.

I've never had a desire to go to Europe. Just never have. Still don't. But to read of Bryson's experiences and the way he details it, makes for a fun read. Sure there is exaggeration and ridicule, so what? This is what makes life enjoyable.

Some can not take embellishment or fault-finding humor (evidently they missed out on the laugh chromosome when born or developed that way later in life). Sad. They are missing out. What a dull, gray existence if one can not laugh at themself or get a chuckle from observing others. Might as well live in a cave. Which nowadays many seem to do.

Anyway, if there is anyone to bring a smile within the pages of a book, it is Bill Bryson.

1-0 out of 5 stars More Fiction than anything else
A desperate effort of an American living in the UK to surpass his true heritage of 'american humour', the books has its moments but all in all is more fiction than anything else. Mr Bryson does not understand a thing about Europe or it's culture, no matter how many places he visits, how many miles he covers or how many years he chooses to live here, he remains and represents the average American mind, short of the ability to understand - and even worse, wanting to understand - anything that lies beneath the surface.

1-0 out of 5 stars I hope I never have to sit next to Bryson on a plane.
Neither interesting, nor funny. Neither entertaining, nor educational. Neither provacative nor engaging.


Not funny.

Maybe I've travelled too much to appreciate this book, but it was awful, bordering on offensive. I would have thought that Bryson would be an enthusiastic and passionate traveler, but he wasn't. At least not in this book. In this book he was bitter, whiney and did nothing but complain.

Let me sum up the book for you:

the food is bad
People are different than him, therefore, awful
something poop related

He bashed the culture of every country visited in some way. When he was in Switzerland and bored he made up some riddles. Here's one: "What do you call a gathering of boring people in Switzerland?" ... "Zurich."

Every once in a while something seemingly positive would happen, and I would think ... maybe ... maybe he's going to have ONE good experience on this trip. But nope. Always a "but". Murphy's Law always right around Bill Bryson's corner.

I'm shocked that this book was published. I've written better travel commentary on the back of an American Airlines cocktail napkin.

4-0 out of 5 stars Neither brilliant nor dismal
Bill Bryson's "Neither Here Nor There" is another great travelogue from one of the funniest travel writers out there.The book chronicles Bryson's solo journey through Europe in 1990.He spends most of his time in Western Europe, but also ventures east for brief visits to Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.The chapters are compact.Like most backpackers, Bryson gets footloose after staying in one place for more than a few days, and quickly packs his pen for his next exciting destination.

Many reviewers fault Bryson for being too negative about the people he meets and the places he goes.I don't hold that against him.He's a satirist, who's in his element when exaggerating the foibles of what he discovers.In fact, the funniest vignettes in the book involve his awkward and uncomfortable encounters with all of those smelly, noisy, oh-so-clueless locals.My only complaint is that I wish he had taken it a bit further.I think Bryson was sensitive to being criticized for being too critical.To address that, he throws in far too many "it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen" and "it was the most delicious meal I had ever eaten" to keep the overall tone more or less balanced.Splashes of Rick Steves isn't what I wanted to read.

Perhaps the problem is that Bryson traveled alone.Without his trusty foil, the pseudonymous Stephen Katz, the stories lack that zesty punch that make "A Walk in the Woods" so memorable.But this isn't a major blemish.When it comes to humorous travel writing, there are few who can keep pace with Bryson. ... Read more

14. Notes from a Small Island
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 324 Pages (1997-05-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$5.65
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0380727501
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it."

After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestsellingauthor of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to returnto the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out ona grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.

"Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it."

After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestselling author of ,i>The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.Amazon.com Review
Reacting to an itch common to Midwesterners since there's beena Midwest from which to escape, writer Bill Bryson moved from Iowa toBritain in 1973. Working for such places as Times of London,among others, he has lived quite happily there ever since. Now Brysonhas decided his native country needs him--but first, he's going on aroundabout jaunt on the island he loves.

Britain fascinates Americans: it's familiar, yet alien; the same insome ways, yet so different. Bryson does an excellent job of showinghis adopted home to a Yank audience, but you never get the feelingthat Bryson is too much of an outsider to know the true nature of thecountry. Notes from a Small Island strikes a nice balance: thewriting is American-silly with a British range of vocabulary. Bryson'smarvelous ear is also in evidence: "... I noted the names of thelittle villages we passed through--Pinhead, West Stuttering, Bakelite,Ham Hocks, Sheepshanks ..." If you're an Anglophile, you'lldevour Notes from a Small Island. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (297)

4-0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it, but...
My cousin loaned me this book knowing my travel habits.She was correct, BB and I have some similar ways of visiting a country.The author here describes his journey around Great Britain, and the book has much to recommend it. BB has a keen eye for detail and some well formed opinions.That said, every so often, he showed a mean streak which bothered me.Most days I might enjoy traveling with him, but there might be a few where he would get my goat, and maybe me, his.

5-0 out of 5 stars A favourite
I have read this book a half dozen times or so. It is Bryson (almost) at his best. There is very little in the way of historical fact, or socio-economic observations here, rather, Bill takes an endearing look at the quirks and foibles of the English and the places they live. It is clear, even at his most cutting, that he loves the country and people and he tells his stories in a way that guarantees a belly laugh or two in every chapter.

My only quibble is that Bill does go on a bit of a rant about the clearance of the old and construction of the new. It is obvious he loves the ancient buildings and is absolutely horrified by the concrete monstrosities that replace them, but he goes on a wee bit too long on this pet peeve of his. I can identify with him, having been born in Oxford, which he specifically targets, but after several diatribes one wanted to shout... 'Okay, Bill. Make your point and give it a rest.'

Other than that, I love this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars PURE BRYSON
After living in England for quite a number of years, wedding an English girl, starting a family, working there and I suppose actually coming of age on that distant island, Bryson is leaving; returning to his home country, America.As one of his last acts before departing, the author takes a seven week trip through England, Wales, and Scotland to more or less say goodbye.He travels by rail, bus, automobile and walks.This work is an account of his journey.

To begin with, Bill Bryson is one of those authors that can be and obviously is a bit divisive; readers seem to love him or hate him.He is at this time, a very prolific writer with many books under his belt.Some of his books are better than others of course, but there is one thing certain; when it comes to travel books he is pretty consistent.If you have read one of them you can be pretty sure of what you will be getting before you read the next. Some people like his style, others do not.This is good.I happen to be one of those folks who enjoy his books but will be the first to admit that some of the stuff he writes can...well, anger me...just a bit.You just have to keep remembering that much of what he writes is pure tongue-in-cheek; that much is embellished and even exaggerated at times.He can be and is funny though, most of the time.

After reading this work and several others, I know for pretty sure that Bryson does not like old people, fat people, tourists, service personal and is not overly fond of domestic pets.All of these are continually at the receiving end of his sarcastic jabs.I suppose on one hand you can take this to mean that he is a pretty mean character who enjoys taking shots at those who really cannot fight back.But on the other hand, most of what he says (there are exceptions which I will point out in a second) is actually pretty true.Most people have many of the same feelings about his targets but are simply too polite to say them out loud. As an example, some of his observations as to the elderly are absolutely spot on...cruel to an extent yes, but spot on.Being rather old myself, I should know. Same would hold true as to his caustic remarks about tourists.Being one myself, i.e. a tourist, many times, I feel he has us down pretty well.I could go on, but you see my point.Bryson says and writes what many of us think but simply don't articulate it in public.

There is a down side to this though, a side of this writer that I am not overly fond of.Like another reviewer here, I thought it was very offensive when he would recount how he spoke to and treated service people.There was one instance in this work where he verbally assaulted and tied into a McDonald employee; a young kid that was only doing what he was paid to do, which I felt was completely out of line.As the author was telling this tale, I was sort of hoping the kid would come around the corner and kick his behind, or at least dump a soft drink over his head.

But that is Bryson...if you read him you have to put up with the bad and ugly along with the good.

As with his other work, this one is completely filled with good bits of trivia.Bryson does do his research.I don't really feel you can pick this work up and expect to read a complete and comprehensive travel guide to the English Islands as I do not feel that was the intent of the book.No, what you get is on person's view of a place at a given brief span of time.Much of this work is quite humorous and I found myself laughing out several times.It should also be noted, that if you look and read closely, Bryson makes as many cutting and sarcastic remarks about his own failings and weaknesses as he does about others.

I note that this work was pretty well received in England, a people who have always been willing to laugh at themselves and it was nice to find that the author sharp tongue could be turned to other countries other than his home.

If you like the works of Bill Bryson, you will enjoy this read.If his style is distasteful to you, then you will not like it...simple as that.I am giving this one four stars and not five simply because I feel some of his other work was and is better and I simply enjoyed it more.Others may find just the opposite.One way or the other, it is a quick read so you at least will not loose much of your life while you are doing the reading part.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks

3-0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed the trip, but I'm glad I wasn't there!
I love armchair travel books and _Notes from a Small Island_ didn't disappoint, altho' I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Bryson's _The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid_ or _A Short History of Nearly Everything_, two of my favorites. Also, I'm glad I don't travel with the author---his consistently poor choice of accommodations would have had me running off screaming into the night. The man really needs a keeper or a social secretary, even his wife, anyone, someone(!) to make his travel arrangements so he's not stuck in a room where he can't use the shower because of the accumulation of the manager's spit in the corner!! YUCK!

3-0 out of 5 stars Funny In Spots
I have always wanted to go to England and see for my own eyes what it is like there and Bryson did a good job of describing it ... if one is looking for a monotone description of Britain. He is funny in spots but I'll be honest ... this book has taken me quite a long time to finish it. I read it in five minutes snatches here and there because it was all I could stand. It wasn't until halfway through the book that I really started enjoying the stories he was sharing and I finally found myself laughing out loud. Others have been telling me for years that Bryson is an excellent author. I am still not convinced that he's that good but at least I finally did get to enjoy this book.

It will never be one of my favorite books but it was a better read once I finally got through the first part of it. If you like Bryson's books, then you will probably enjoy this one. I haven't completely given up on Bryson yet as I still have one more of his books in my collection but I am not completely convinced that he's as funny as some of the other authors I've read.


... Read more

15. The Mother Tongue
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 272 Pages (1991-09-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$6.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0380715430
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson--the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent--brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can't), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world's largest growth industries.Amazon.com Review
Who would have thought that a book about English would be soentertaining? Certainly not this grammar-allergic reviewer, butThe Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson--azealot--is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodize about"the colorless murmur of the schwa" with a straight face? Itis his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every sentence,that carries the book.

Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and thisinevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about a subject,the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do wellenough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well astossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser:"This product will self-destruct in Mother Earth."), Brysonfrequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with otherlanguages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), andalways shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feelfortunate to speak English. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (159)

1-0 out of 5 stars Way too many errors
I'm a huge Bryson fan, especially given my total lack of talent when writing. So I was completely disappointed to read so may mistakes in the first 10 pages of _The Mother Tongue_. How did this get past an editor?

I'm certain that there must be some really great stuff in the middle of the book, but since there were so many errors in the beginning, I had to take ever single fact with a grain of salt.

For the record:

- The French language can indeed make a distinction between "I wrote" and "I have written" (page 13 - the book starts on page 11, BTW)

- There are not 50 (or any other huge number) for snow in Inuit languages -- and why did he use the word "Eskimo"? (Page 14)

The chapter on swearing was interesting, but failed to tie in well with the rest of the book.

Take anything your read in the book with suspicion.

2-0 out of 5 stars Humour doesn't always save the day
I should perhaps firstly state that I am a "fan" of Mr. Bryson's writing and particularly enjoyed reading "A short history of nearly everything". The qualities that made me appreciate that book, ie thorough research, good method of chronology and chaptering and humour, I did not find in "Mother tongue". Limguistics, as opposed to science, is in my opinion an art and requires a full knowledge of the culture and history behind any language and hence also behind all those that "chipped in" to shape it. I bought the book for an insight into the roots of the English language, but instead stubmled on Mr. Bryson's enthusiasm, or should I say patriotism (both of which I'm sure he would suggest are English words) Yes, I am a Greek speaker, and bilingual -if further assurance than this very comment is necessary- and I do appreciate the English language as it happens to be my "mother tongue" -I was born in Australia-
but one can only take a sense of pride for one's country so far, and humour I'm afraid cannot always save the day, even for one who uses it as graciously as Mr. Bryson. Impressions and emotions, when blended with historic facts might make for good novels, but they could not satiate a language "fanatic" like myself.
Thank you for your time.
Georgina Grammatikos

5-0 out of 5 stars A lovely little book
I owned this book for many years before I read another Bryson book... It was a book I loved the first time I read it and every time thereafter. I never paid attention to the name of the author, at first, and, for some inexplicable reason, had always had some vague the author was a woman. Many years after acquiring the book I was lent a copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything (which I ended up reading in one night). Afterwards, I made a note of the author's name (intending to buy more of his/her works) and realized that the writer of this highly enjoyable book was the creator of the 'Mother Tongue'.

I realize this book has been roundly criticized for numerous factual errors and I would prefer to know that some areas had been better researched. However, that being said, if you want an erudite scholarly work you will generally end up with something that reads like an erudite, scholarly work... this book is a light-hearted romp and I don't think Mr Bryson has ever pretended it was otherwise. He makes me laugh with many of his turns of phrase... I can always go check facts against other works if the need arises.

C.J. Thompson

5-0 out of 5 stars I feel coke & sound special.
In his book "The Mother Tongue," Bill Bryson provides wonderful descriptions of English as it is used and abused (or should we say "made their own") by people around the world. Consider an advertising message for company called Cream Soda: "Too fast to live, too young to happy." Did their advertising executives speak English? How about a can of Coke from Japan: "I feel coke & sound special."

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3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed.
Book took forEVER to arrive. I ordered a book from London at the same time that I ordered The Mother Tongue, and the book from London arrived weeks earlier. Not only that, but the condition of The Mother Tongue was poorer than the seller described. ... Read more

16. Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 416 Pages (2009-05-12)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$8.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767922700
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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From one of America's most beloved and bestselling authors, a wonderfully useful and readable guide to the problems of the English language most commonly encountered by editors and writers.

What is the difference between “immanent” and “imminent”? What is the singular form of graffiti? What is the difference between “acute” and “chronic”? What is the former name of “Moldova”? What is the difference between a cardinal number and an ordinal number? One of the English language's most skilled writers answers these and many other questions and guides us all toward precise, mistake-free usage. Covering spelling, capitalization, plurals, hyphens, abbreviations, and foreign names and phrases, Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors will be an indispensable companion for all who care enough about our language not to maul, misuse, or contort it.

This dictionary is an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. As Bill Bryson notes, it will provide you with “the answers to all those points of written usage that you kind of know or ought to know but can’t quite remember.” ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

2-0 out of 5 stars better done in other books
This book added nothing to my personal writing library.It just weakly covered some nooks and crannies better covered in other refernce works.I rate this an "N" for not worth the price or the time.

1-0 out of 5 stars Do not waste your money
No idea why this was even published except that anything with Mr. Bryson's name will sell.Simply useless.

This is one of those little works that may or may not appeal to the average reader, and may or may not live up to the expectations of its title.I have a very large shelf of reference books, dictionaries, and the like setting above my desk.I also have my computer in front of me (obviously, as I am using it now).A small 300 plus page book is in no way going to replace these books or my temperamental machine, or even come close.When I purchase this little volume, I did not have the unrealistic expectations that in was the beginning and end of all reference books.Rather, I enjoy Bryson's writing.I enjoy trivia.I enjoy having little books around that I can pick up, read a few lines and enjoy them and learn something to boot.This work fulfilled my personal needs quite well. I seldom take anything Bryson writes all that serious, but I personally think he is funny and I do enjoy his quirky, curious mind.

This, according to the author's statement is a persona list of words, names, places, etc. that he has encountered over the years.It addresses the usage of these words; it gives a brief one line description of places, people and things.It also, as the author points out, addresses words that are sort of at the edge of your mind, i.e. you know of them, sort of, you know of their usage, sort of, but you are not quite sure.As an example, and this pertains to just me, Bryson tells us the difference between "douse" and "dowse."Now I know these two words, but to be frank, was not real sure of the difference when I really stopped to think of it.This book quickly explains it in just twelve words.Neat!I have always, for some reason had problems with the usage of "its" verses "it's."(I know, I am an illiterate clod, no use in pointing it out).Bryson explains their usage in a quick, pain free, three lines. This is sure nicer than digging through The Little, Brown Handbook, and trying to figure out what in the world they are talking about.

If you spend your hard earned money on a short work such as this and expect to receive an all inclusive reference book, then you probably deserve to be parted from your cash.If you buy this simply for the entertainment value, then you will probably get your monies worth.

4-0 out of 5 stars Bryson's Dictionary For Writers and Editors
BRYSON'S DICTIONARY FOR WRITERS AND EDITORS BY BILL BRYSON: Bestselling author Bill Bryson has already amassed quite a career for himself with successful travel writing books like A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as books on literature and language like The Mother Tongue and Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and even attempting to present a concise history of science with A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bryson now returns with Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors.

He admits in his preface that it is a personal collection, "built over thirty years as a writer and editor in two countries," and that some of the obscure references and definitions may not be useful to many, like the name of the Sydney district Woolloomooloo, or that the residence of the Danish Royal Family in Copenhagen is the Amalienborg Palace. Nevertheless, Bryson addresses many of the common issues that make a writer hesitate - amoral or immoral? Effect or affect?. He dispenses with the dictionary's phonetic alphabet, instead providing pronunciation help where necessary; as well as cross indexing so that in the example mentioned above, the entry can be found filed under both amoral and immoral for the writer's and editor's ease.

Bryson's Dictionary is filled with innumerable references and spellings for authors, book titles, series, philosophers, scientists . . . you name it, making them even easier to find than looking up on the Internet. Bryson also includes appendices of punctuation and its definitions, words ending in -able and -ible, a list of the world's airports and their codes, the different currencies of the world, conversion tables, and an extensive glossary on grammar.

Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors is the ideal book for most people who do any sort of reading and writing, whether it is the freshman heading off for college for the first time, the freelance writer looking to get published, or the retired crossword addict looking for exact spelling at their fingertips.


4-0 out of 5 stars Bryson rides again!
This book is FUN and so helpful.Keep it by my bed and read a few pages before falling asleep.I keep learning more wonderful and unique facts about language, about life, about so many things.Try it.You'll love it!

May D ... Read more

17. Walk About: "A Walk in the Woods", "Down Under"
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover: 699 Pages (2002-10-01)
list price: US$22.70 -- used & new: US$18.13
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385604831
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Combined in one volume are Bryson's "Down Under", an account of his memorable walk across Australia, and "A Walk in the Woods", that tells of his lengthy stroll along the longest continuous footpath in the world - The Appalachian Trail, with his old friend Stephen Katz. The Trail stretches along the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine, through some of the most arresting and celebrated landscapes in America - the Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts and the Great North Woods of Maine. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars 2 Soujourns that you just don't want to end!
These are narratives for nature lovers and stay-at-home readers alike. They are about all about friendship.
Definitely happy trails! One is Appalacia, one is the Land Down Under, but they are well-paired together!

5-0 out of 5 stars Desert Flower Las Cruces NM
Book in great condition as advertised. Quick delivery time. Would do business with this vendor again.

5-0 out of 5 stars What can one say about Bill Bryson
Actually, Bill Bryson has a fault; he doesn't write enough. Reading his works lightens ones life. He manages to critique life's little foibles (and some larger ones, too) and in so doing, brings tears of laughter and gut-wrenching belly laughs all the while educating us in geography. He is a gem of the first quality. ... Read more

18. Bill Bryson Collector's Edition: Notes from a Small Island, Neither Here Nor There, and I'm a Stranger Here Myself
by Bill Bryson
Audio CD: Pages (2006-10-17)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0739342622
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Notes from a Small Island
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to move his wife and kids back to his homeland of the United States. But not before taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. The result is a hilarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain.

Neither Here nor There
Thirty years after backpacking across Europe, Bill Bryson decidesto retrace the journey he undertook in the halcyon days of his youth–carrying with him a bag of maps, old clothes…and a stinging wit honed to razor sharpness by two decades of adult experience.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself
Bill Bryson read “somewhere” that nearly three million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens–clearly the Americans needed Bill back. So after years raising his family in Britain with his English wife, the brood moves to the United States, and leaves Bill to chronicle the quirkiest aspects of life in America as he reveals his own rules for life.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson anything............
I love this guy!!!!!!!I'm addicted to his books, and I've passed along my addiction to kids and grandkids.What a mind.Plus, hearing him read his books adds another dimension.He's the best possible kind of teacher: dispensing factual information inside a capsule of wonderful entertainment.His wife, by the way, is a saint.Bill Bryson Collector's Edition: Notes from a Small Island, Neither Here Nor There, and I'm a Stranger Here Myself

5-0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Bryson Package
Pretty simple: if you're a Bryson fan, you will love this. I have read many of Bryson's books, but honestly find the audiobooks much more enjoyable, mostly because Bryson's voice is so contagiously endearing and funny. All 3 of these books are great, but they are not necessarily his best. Check out "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and "The Lost Continent" if you'd like to continue on with this author.

3-0 out of 5 stars Worth buying but not Bryson's best
I have always been an ethusiastic fan of Bryson. From "The Mother Tongue" to his recent, "The World is a Stage", Bryson writes objectivly, clearly, and with humurous cynacism. So, I was very excited when this audiobook of three of his older stories came out.
In quick summary, I found "Im a Stranger Here Myself" remarkably funny (just listen to Bryson's explanation of the American phenomana of the attic, american hosptality, or the garbage disposal) from beginning to end. "Notes from a Small Island" starts off exciting, with Bryson reminiscing over his first trip to England as a teenager, while parelling it to his most recent trip as a wiser adult, noting both physical and cultural differences (with an extremely funny account of his stay in an English Inn), although it wanes after awhile, with Bryson seeming to run out of novel things to say as he heads north. "Neither Here nor There" I was dissapointed with.Bryson tries to quickly summarize the nuances of many European countries, noting their eccentricities and habits. I think Bryson bit off a little more then he could chew; you can't summarize the history and culture of Switzerland, Italy, France, Sweden, and many others in just a few hundred pages without appearing redudent and hasty. I was in danger of falling asleep in my car.
Bryson narrates and is very soft spoken. My volume was all the way up just to hear him. But he is a great narrator, and I wish I had more his books spoken through his voice. Overall worth getting and a great value for three Bryson books, but certainly at this point in his career not the cream of the crop.

3-0 out of 5 stars AN INTERESTING RAMBLE
I bought this set to listen to on a long car trip, too.It seems to me that these stories would be quite usefully informational to the prospective traveler.There is a strong male perspective, especially in Neither Here Nor There, that I expect the male reader will get a kick out of.

Notes from a Small Island gives a different slant on Great Britain, that is, a pedestrian point of view.Bryson delves into minutia of potential interest to those backpacking, and especially some good tips on where not to go.The populace of remote locations is interestingly illuminated, proving that not every one lives in the current century.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself draws attention to American foibles, with specific humorous references to modes of transportation.It also scores many good points regarding the excesses of the American lifestyle.

All in all a fun ramble.However, do not expect a life-altering experience.

2-0 out of 5 stars Great stories - when you can hear it.......
I purchased the audio book to listen to on a long car trip.The reading by the author is great, however the quality of the recording is inconsistent.Mr. Bryson's natural intonation is fairly low to flat, but as his voice rose (occasionally) and fell (frequently) during his reading of the material, there was little to no effort by the post production team to modulate and equalize the volume - making the lower tones inaudiable.At one point I had the volume on my car stereo at maximum and was still missing words and parts of sentences, only to be almost blasted from my seat when a new chapter would start and the volume level rose precipitously.I own 2 other audio books by Mr. Bryson and did not have the same experience with those products. ... Read more

19. Bill Bryson the Complete Notes
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover: 679 Pages (2000-10-05)
list price: US$26.85 -- used & new: US$18.28
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 038560131X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This work combines two of Bill Bryson's best-loved books and demonstrates his take on life - from either side of the pond. The books, "Notes from a Small Island" and "Notes From a Big Country", went on to become major bestsellers. "The Complete Notes" combines these two popular books into one volume. Written in the form of bite-sized essays, both books are gently humorous as they highlight the idiosyncracies of the USA and Great Britain. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Can Bill Come to Dinner?
One of the games people sometimes play is around the question, "If you could have anyone to dinner that you'd like, who would you have?"Bill Bryson is at the top of my list (along with Barbara Kingsolver and John McPhee).I've never not liked one of Bryson's books. This one is another winner. Some of the content is a bit "rehashy" for devoted readers, but Bryson rehashed is much better than most other writers. The processes revealed here make for a better understanding of the author's work. Great read. ... Read more

20. Notes from a Big Country
by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 448 Pages (1999-09-16)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$8.61
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0552997862
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Des Moines, Iowa born writer Bryson's first success was the travel book "The Lost Continent". After living in England for several years, he wanted to go back to the USA to find the perfect little US town of his past, he lovingly called Amalgam. More travel books followed, in the form of "Neither Here Nor There" (where he travels through Europe), "Notes From A Small Island" (where he travels around the United Kingdom, before returning back with his to the USA to live there for good) and "A Walk In The Woods" (where he walks the Appalachian trail). After moving back to the States, Bryson started to write a column for "The Mail on Sunday Night and Day" magazine. This is a collection of these column entries. Bryson writes about everything from everyday chores, to sueing people, the beach, TV, movies, air conditioners, college, Americana, injury dangers, wasting resources and holiday seasons. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I recently finished Notes from a Small Island (which I thoroughly enjoyed), and was eager to dig into what I expected to be kind of an equivalent synopsis of life in America.I am very disappointed because it seems that Bryson spends most of the time pandering to the Brits who can never seem to find anything good to say about America.If things are really so dire over here, then why do they come in droves and never leave again?I was relieved when I finally reached a chapter in which Bryson's British wife points out that all he does is complain, and he finally got around to mentioning the friendliness of the American people.

I lived in England myself, and it's funny that some of the same things he seemingly resents about America are the same things that I couldn't wait to return to.In his prior book he speaks endearingly about the many quirky aspects of life in Britain but seems not be nearly as receptive toAmerica's quirks.Just when will America be entitled to its own culture and way of life without having to apologize to its stodgy European predecessors?

There is an unspoken rule in English culture that one never (directly) brags about one's own family, or indeed anything. I suppose Notes from a Big Country is a good indication of just how 'English' Bryson became while he was there.By no means should he brag about America, particularly to his British audience, but the book could have been so much more positive.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson is aLeft Wing Fruitloop and Probably a Terrorist
How dare the curmudgeonly Mr. Byrson poke fun at the absurdities of American culture and society? You'd think that he'd been living in some odd little island-nation (like England, say) for the past two decades from the way he disparages the so-called dumbing down of America (we prefer "gravitating toward quiet imbecility," Mr. Bryson) and our beloved enthusiasm for formal procedure (for your information, red tape keeps our homeland stuck together). And when the author comments on our casual disregard for the environment and the American proclivity for predictability, he does so as though these are somehow bad things. And then, of course, Mr. Bryson attempts to cover up his unpatriotic tracks with anecdotes of how nice everyday Americans really are (like when new neighbors welcomed his family with freshly baked pies), but by then his agenda has already been exposed; the treasonous damage is done. What perturbs me most about Bill Bryson is his opinions and the fact that he seems to be filled up with them. Oh, and his humor. Someone needs to inform this man that humor is not always funny. Well, sir, you may have had the first laugh, but since the time you wrote this spiteful little tome, America has put itself on a new and correct political track and is determined to right all of the wrongs. And so I ask you, Mr. Bryson: who is laughing now?

PS: I am currently reading your book on Shakespeare. It's quite good.

Troy Parfitt, author

3-0 out of 5 stars Triple Dipping
In spite of all the xenophobic rants from our "love it or leave it" reviewers, Bryson is not out to bring down the good ole U.S. of A., but only to give to British readers glimpses of America that they don't normally see on reruns of "Law and Order", "The O.C.", or the myriad other American TV imports that are slowly taking over British television.If some of his subjects might upset some of these readers, they need to get over it.The columns, and the book in which the columns were compiled, were NOT meant for them in the first place.The columns that make up this book were written between October 1996 and May 1998 and published in the Mail on Sunday's Night and Day magazine for a primarily British audience.The selling point for this run of articles was that Bryson would be returning to the States after some twenty years in Britain and that the America he would be describing would be seen by the eyes of an American, but an American that had absorbed enough of Britannia to become something of a hybrid.The resulting columns would naturally be informative, witty, and penetrating.

Unfortunately, this goal was only partially successful.Bryson can be a very insightful observer, and his writing style is infectious enough, but now and then it seems that he is neither interested in the subject of which he writes nor is he able to bring the full talent of his art to the task.Both of these weaknesses are apparent in this collection of articles.The subject of his notes run the gamut from the obesity and ignorance of a goodly portion of the American population to the wonders and brilliance of the American landscape.And since these writings were intended for "light" reading there is an attempt to make them humorous.Bryson can be VERY funny when he is not TRYING to be funny; alas, most of the humor in this book is of the contrived type: Bryson acting the dunce for a few cheap laughs.Equally annoying is his way of ending each of his notes, where the reader is to believe that Bryson is bringing his weekly musings to a close because of some outside event like eating dinner, decorating the Christmas tree, or playing catch with his kids, rather than the fact that his word quota has been met.

And since I'm being finicky here, it must be mentioned that ole Bill is triple dipping.First, he writes these 70 odd notes for a weekly periodical; he then incorportes them into this book; and then he incorporates THIS book (minus those Briticisms and British spellings so anathema to the "love it or leave it" crowd) into another book, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, which is intended for an American audience.Not a bad return for some random musings originally intended for British readers passing a lazy weekend.

4-0 out of 5 stars British humour the American way
One explanation of the conception of 'British humour' is that by laughing about it was the only way for the Brits to cope with the misfortune of loosing an empire. It this 'just wonder and laugh about it' attitude which Bryson applies to all kind of Americanisms and every day wonders and (mis)fortunes. And who better then a funny bloke like Bill Bryson to reflect on these in a combined 78 news paper columns as an American who lived in the UK for over twenty years who masters the art or exaggeration. This is the ideal book to pick up every now and then, read a few notes and move on with a smile on your face.

5-0 out of 5 stars A good laugh
If you are able to laugh at your own faults and mistakes - this is a great book. Otherwise stay away because it'll just get you frustrated (as one of the reviewers mentioned, this book may only be a bestseller in the Middle East or a favourite of illegal immigrants).
I definitely recommend. ... Read more

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