Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Big Country is the first Bill Bryson book which I’ve read, I’m wondering just how it has taken me so long to get around to him? I’m reliably informed by Joan@ Planet Joan that in the US this book is titled I’m a Stranger Here Myself. The book was first published in 1998 which means that in places it is a bit outdated and quaint, because sadly the UK often ends up copying the mistakes of the US, such as people trying to sue folks for the daftest of reasons. It also reminds us just how massive the US is compared with the UK. I learned from this book that it isn’t at all unusual for aeroplanes to crash – and never be found! Planes as big as Lear jets, not just wee two seaters, mind boggling.

This book which is made up of newspaper columns which were mainly published in the Mail on Sunday I think, is a hoot and perfect bedtime reading, in fact anytime you have a spare few minutes you could dip into this book to cheer you up, whilst you’re waiting in a queue maybe!

The topics are wildly different, so never a dull moment. Here are just a few of the titles:
Coming Home
Our Friend the Moose
Drowning in Red Tape
Why No One Walks
A Visit to the Barbershop
Where Scotland is, and Other Useful Tips

I’ve heard that Notes from a Small Country is also hilarious so that’s the next one in my sights. Does anyone have any other books by Bryson they can recommend?

12 thoughts on “Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

  1. I’ve read A Walk in the Woods, Neither Here Nor There, The Mother Tongue, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Notes From a Small Island, and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and liked them all. My least favorite was Neither Here Nor There, in which Bryson seems grumpier than usual and less funny.

    Bryson and I are the same age, so The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, about growing up in small town American in the 1950s and 1960s, was in many ways almost like reading my own autobiography.

    • Joan,
      I have such a lot to catch up with! It must have been a real nostalgia fest for you reading The Thunderbolt Kid. I can’t wait to read what times were like then. I’ll compare it with my own childhood, when I get around to reading it.

    • Totally agree Joan. Neither Here Nor There was one of my first reads, and grumpy is the perfect word. I continued on and enjoyed them a good bit. Especially when he talks about raising his family in England, then to the U.S. and then back to England. His books are also easy to find used.

      • Lorraine,
        Thanks, I had meant to mention that his sojourn back to the US hadn’t lasted that long, he seems to have settled in Norfolk in East Anglia, not the bonniest of counties.

  2. I’ve only read At Home: A short history of private life which goes through different rooms of a house and looks at the history of the sorts of things people did/do there. It was pretty good. I’ve got to get around to reading some of his other stuff. I’d really like to read A Walk in the Woods.

  3. I definitely recommend A Walk in the Woods. The only other one I’ve read of his is The Lost Continent and I found his mood really sour in that one, so I’d give that one a miss.

    • Christy,
      It would seem that Bryson is a bit prone to moods as I’ve been advised to avoid some others. I’ll definitely read A Walk in the Woods, thanks.

  4. I slogged through a couple of his, years ago. Gifts. Don’t even remember which ones…left that much of an impression. I get weary of the whining why-America-is-so-screwed-up business. I rather like it here. (BTW – I’m a very frequent flyer, and a statistician by trade. Airplanes actually very rarely crash if one considers verifiable aviation statistics (rather than the musings of a professional misanthrope.) With the possible exception of Malaysian airlines…

    • Pearl,
      Yes flying is I suppose the safest way of travelling but he does mention that a Lear jet crashed into woodland, people saw it in trouble but apparently the crash site was never found, which seems amazing to me, can’t imagine such a thing happening and there being no trace of it.
      I think when he wrote this book he was quite enamoured with the US, he certainly wasn’t slagging it off too much, apart from maybe the health industry. But he must just prefer life in the UK because he’s back and East Anglia isn’t a place I managed to live in for long, we gave up after two years!

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