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Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
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Notes from a Small Island (original 1995; edition 1997)

by Bill Bryson

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8,153171627 (3.8)301
Member:PAKelley
Title:Notes from a Small Island
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (1997), Paperback, 324 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (1995)

Recently added byAngelaB86, mdwedington, mnemeth01, RobNoB, mcnally7, kmh1969, NimsAcres, private library, amjad_awan, hejmarguerite
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Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
The second Bryson book I've read, I looked forward to his acerbic view of Britain and its inhabitants. It was standard Bryson fare - some caustic comments on various cities, and some delightful descriptions of hotel rooms. He painted a good but tatty picture of Liverpool, and was enchanted by Port Sunlight (and the art gallery is open all year round now!).

A nice distraction from fiction, and an easy and entertaining read! ( )
  peelap | Feb 3, 2019 |
My third try at reading something by Bill Bryson and -- like the last two -- I was unable to get more than about 50 pages into it before losing interest. He thus joins Kim Stanley Robinson and a select few others on my list of "authors who, despite their obvious talent and enormous popularity, do nothing for me."

Bryson's signature travel-writing style strikes me as a blend of three things: 1) A "game-but-hapless schlub" persona that may be the real Bryson or may be a put-on; 2) Elaborate, almost Dickensian descriptions of colorful characters and settings he encounters along the way; 3) Comic exaggeration that starts where Mark Twain went in his more unbuttoned moments and winds up somewhere on the far side of Dave "I am not making this up" Barry . . . and that, I think, is why I find his work off-putting.

Game-but-hapless schlubs and cringe comedy (in which Bryson often traffics here) are, for me, anti-entertaining. Dickens-style baroque characters with improbable names are marvelous if done well, but (again, for me) they only work if the author, and all the characters around them them, treat them as essentially normal . . . but Bryson-the-author always feels like he's waving and pointing from the margins, saying: "Look! A caricature!" I'm always up for a well-done example of the comedy of overstatement -- Twain's "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" remains the funniest thing I've ever read -- but outside of a novel it is (last time: for me) virtually impossible to carry off at book length. What's funny in a 1,000-word column or 3,000-word article goes flat in a 100,000 memoir.

If you've never read Bill Bryson, don't let this put you off. Millions of people love his books, and--statistically speaking--your literary tastes are more likely to align with theirs than mine. If, however, you've tried reading him and can't figure out why he leaves you cold . . . maybe this is why. ( )
1 vote | ABVR | Feb 3, 2019 |
Maybe the funniest book I've ever read. Very well done. ( )
  VinceLaFratta | Sep 25, 2018 |
Maybe the funniest book I've ever read. Very well done. ( )
  VinceLa | Sep 23, 2018 |
Bryson relates tales of his travels across Britain, making witty and self-depreciating comments along the way. At times it made me laugh and I wanted to share his wit with others. After a while it started to get a bit repetitive. So a book of ups and downs for me but I appreciated most of all the look at another culture from a fellow American's point of view. I'd recommend this most to people who are really interested in British culture and landscapes. ( )
  debs4jc | Aug 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bauer, JerryPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Case, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLarty, RonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pék, ZoltánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruschmeier, SigridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torndahl, LenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilde, Suzan deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My first sight of England was on a foggy March night in 1973 when I arrived on the midnight ferry from Calais.
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Bill Bryson, although living in Yorkshire, England, was born in America, and after deliberation with his wife, decided to move back there. Before departing, however, Bryson travelled one last time around England, from Dover to Liverpool to John O’Groats, keeping a record of his experiences. The result was Notes from a Small Island, a book filled with trains, tea-rooms, and (mostly) polite, amiable people.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380727501, Paperback)

Reacting to an itch common to Midwesterners since there's been a Midwest from which to escape, writer Bill Bryson moved from Iowa to Britain in 1973. Working for such places as Times of London, among others, he has lived quite happily there ever since. Now Bryson has decided his native country needs him--but first, he's going on a roundabout jaunt on the island he loves.

Britain fascinates Americans: it's familiar, yet alien; the same in some ways, yet so different. Bryson does an excellent job of showing his adopted home to a Yank audience, but you never get the feeling that Bryson is too much of an outsider to know the true nature of the country. Notes from a Small Island strikes a nice balance: the writing is American-silly with a British range of vocabulary. Bryson's marvelous ear is also in evidence: "... I noted the names of the little villages we passed through--Pinhead, West Stuttering, Bakelite, Ham Hocks, Sheepshanks ..." If you're an Anglophile, you'll devour Notes from a Small Island.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:01 -0400)

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Before returning to America after spending twenty years in Britain, the author decided to tour his second home and presents a look at England's quirks and its endearing qualities.

(summary from another edition)

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