Author: Bill Bryson
First Published: 1995
No. of Pages: 317
Synopsis (from B&N): "After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson - best selling author of 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."
Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction
Comments and Critique: If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I adore Bill Bryson. His travel books crack me up, in part because his sense of humor is very similar to my husband's, so I feel that he and I would really hit it off. This one is another winner.
One of the things I enjoy about Mr. Bryson is that he is so much an everyman. The average reader can really relate to him and his style of traveling. He goes to the same type of restaurants, stays in the same types of hotels and B&B's, and visits the same types of sites as most of us. I love this, as it makes for a very realistic armchair travel experience. It's nice to read about ritzy places and all, but sometimes you want to read about travels that you would actually take and not just dream about.
Another thing is the ruminations and digressions you get along with the descriptions of wherever he happens to be. This is not unusual in these type of books, but part of the reason that I enjoy his reading so much is that his ruminations and digressions are so close to what I can imagine myself or my friends saying. It's less theoretical and intellectual than you may get in other books but always interesting and often amusing. He also throws in little bits of history relevant to the location; it's not always the kind that would make it into a history book but will probably stick in your mind longer.
One other thing to love about this book is that it includes a glossary of British words so that American readers will have some idea of what the author is talking about. Several I'd heard or read before but didn't know the meaning of ("bank holiday," for instance), so this was extremely welcome.
Challenges: 999 ("Travel")