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The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town…
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The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (original 1989; edition 1990)

by Bill Bryson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,472721,094 (3.68)65
Member:atrautz
Title:The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (1990), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Non-Fiction, Read (Personal Collection)
Rating:****
Tags:Memoir, Humor, Travel, America

Work details

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson (1989)

20th century (22) America (192) American (27) American culture (13) Americana (21) autobiography (28) Bill Bryson (28) biography (21) Bryson (32) comedy (14) essays (34) fiction (14) Folio Society (18) funny (20) humor (462) Iowa (16) memoir (117) non-fiction (436) own (22) read (63) road trip (30) small town (32) to-read (65) travel (953) travel literature (13) travel writing (82) travelogue (54) unread (28) US (16) USA (244)
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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Not as good as some of his other books, but I enjoyed it none-the-less ( )
  Jessi.Rhodes | Dec 31, 2013 |
3.75 stars

Bill Bryson, after having moved from the U.S. to England and living there for a number of years, came back to the States and took a road trip through several “small towns”.

I liked it. I am adding in an extra ¼ star for the amazing narrator of the BBC Audio, Kerry Shale. He spoke very quickly, but that seemed to fit the pace of the book itself. In fact, the audio was so short, I had to double check whether or not what I was listening to was abridged (but Overdrive says it was not)! The narrator was also very good at voices and accents. It's not non-stop laughter (but it never it for me, with Bill Bryson), but there were enough funny parts to keep me happy. I do have to giggle a little bit at what he considers a “small” town, though, having grown up in one (in Canada) myself - one that is pretty small itself, but there are plenty of even smaller ones around. I guess that's relative. ( )
  LibraryCin | Sep 15, 2013 |
I can't help myself and snigger at most of his humor, but I recently find that in his (granted earlier) books he's using a humor he actually doesn't need to use. He goes below the belt a lot, which he could absolutely do without. ( )
  borhap | Aug 27, 2013 |
As an experiment, if you ever decide you might like to read this book, first pick it up and simply read the opening sentence of each chapter. If I had done so, I probably wouldn't have bothered with the rest, and I would have been just as well off.

The Lost Continent and I got off on the wrong foot. I knew something was amiss when the first chapter consisted of nothing more than Bill Bryson taking an enormous steaming dump on his home state of Iowa. Not a cutesy, ironic dump; nor even a sardonic-yet-affectionate dump; but a real, live, mean-spirited, rhetorical bowel movement. Here, I'll sum up the entire first chapter for you, in my own words: Iowa is boring and all the people there are fat and slow-witted. Plopbbt. (And that's Iowa, the state where his parents lived. Wait until you see what he does to Mississippi and New Mexico. Or, better yet, don't.)

This was all very unpleasantly surprising, partly because of the way I've approached Bryson's written catalog in reverse chronological order. Having read [b:A Short History of Nearly Everything|21|A Short History of Nearly Everything|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320540603s/21.jpg|2305997], [b:A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail|9791|A Walk in the Woods Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320519729s/9791.jpg|613469], [b:Made in America|10541|Made in America An Informal History of the English Language in the United States|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1166253979s/10541.jpg|412584], and [b:At Home: A Short History of Private Life|7507825|At Home A Short History of Private Life|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1285287802s/7507825.jpg|7800569], I had formed a mental picture of Bryson as a fifty-something professorial type: rambling, erudite, a bit geeky, smart-assed but in a wry, self-effacing manner, with a fierce populist streak.

With that expectation in mind, The Lost Continent was a shock, as it is the work of a thirty-something Bryson, snarky and evidently angry. And I generally like snark and anger: [a:Anthony Bourdain|1124|Anthony Bourdain|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1274724018p2/1124.jpg] is one of my favorite writers. But where Bourdain leavens his writing with humor and occasional tenderness, The Lost Continent is just relentlessly negative, never passing up the opportunity to take a cheap shot.

Ironically for a book titled "travels in small-town America," Bryson appears to hate 90% of the small towns he visits on his road trip, speaking disapprovingly of their poverty, their inhabitants' provincial ways and funny-sounding accents, yet he waxes ecstatic over such non-small places as Savannah, Charleston, and Times Square (!). I actually agreed with quite a few of his sentiments; e.g., how tacky, inauthentic, and Disneyland-like some of our national historic sites have become, but his voice makes even those shared sentiments hard to swallow.

The last quarter of the book is the best part, as it slowly becomes apparent that this book is an elegy to his recently-deceased father, and perhaps a regret for having spent his adulthood in England rather than America, but it was honestly too little, too late for me. Maybe I would have enjoyed this book more if I'd read it when it was new, or at least before I read so much of his later, better work, but as it is, I couldn't really recommend this book to anyone, either as a first Bryson or a tenth. ( )
  benjamin.duffy | Jul 28, 2013 |
A most uninteresting book about a roadtrip, although if reliving the chidhood traumas of a 30 y.o. so full of scornfulness that he hates pretty much anything and anyone that he finds on his way ... maybe then this is a good book for you. ( )
  emed0s | Jun 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
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Schalekamp, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Haiku summary
he drives through the states,
acts miserable,
eating junk and talking shit.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060920084, Paperback)

A travelogue by Bill Bryson is as close to a sure thing as funny books get. The Lost Continent is no exception. Following an urge to rediscover his youth (he should know better), the author leaves his native Des Moines, Iowa, in a journey that takes him across 38 states. Lucky for us, he brought a notebook.

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

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:59 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When a native of Iowa returns from England to wander across America's heartland in search of the perfect small town, the result is a string of hilarious anecdotes and biting social commentary

(summary from another edition)

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