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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
4,647771,022 (3.68)73
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
Rating:****
Tags:Memoir, Humor, Travel, America

Work details

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

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Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Read by William Roberts, this was a much more enjoyable experience than my last attempt to listen to a Bryson book. In this, he heads home and then heads far and away across the USA in his Mum's car. At times it seems to have a purpose, to revisit childhood experiences, or to discover an idyllic American small town, Amalgam, USA. It doesn't exist and the places of his childhood have changed. Some of them are rather expensive, some have run down, a lot seem to be surrounded by car parks. He is not universally complimentary about his home country, but it becomes apparent that it's not one country at all, it's too big, too far ranging and too different in climate and geography to really be a unified entity. Slightly pointless but enjoyable travelogue. ( )
  Helenliz | Jul 21, 2015 |
Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent is a travelogue of Bryson’s attempt to find the perfect small town in America. You know the one. There’s a soda shop on the corner, and a drug store run by a man sweeping the sidewalk in a white apron, and a kid rides by periodically on his bike, delivering papers. As he travels across 38 states looking for Amalgam, America, he explores overlooked (and sometimes overpriced) museums, bad diners, and picturesque tourist traps. With his characteristic humor, Bryson paints a portrait of life in these small towns while on the ultimate road trip.

Though I love Bryson, this one was one of his weaker ones for me. He starts out strong, with recollections of his childhood and family vacations. It is curious that he manages to paint a picture so personal, and yet immediately familiar to anyone. Reading it brought to mind my own family vacations as a kid: dad getting lost and mom gently saying we should stop for directions, picnicking at rest-stops along the road where the wind is always 96% worse than anywhere else, even the beloved billboards promising wondrous attractions in Podunk towns. He also turns his razor sharp wit on the general boringness of many of these towns and the monotony that driving cross-country can be.

And this is where it starts to falter. Though the beginning is strong, tinged as it is with obvious affection for memories of his father, the trip itself starts to grow monotonous as well. I lost count of how many times he mentioned that the road he took was marked “scenic” on his map (while repetition can make a joke funnier, in this case, it just made it more repetitious), or that every place he stopped felt the same. There were very few anecdotes that stood out, because all of them started to meld together – which may be true, in that small towns usually all do feel alike, but unfortunately doesn’t work in book form.

I have not read anything but his books, but I suspect Bryson would be a master of the short story. If it were confined to one or two towns, it would be hilarious; after twenty or thirty, it just starts to wear on you. There are still some witticisms and bon mots thrown in to liven things up, but during the last chapters especially, I felt myself going into highway hypnosis. Bryson is also curiously self-contained. For someone claiming to be on a journey to find small-town America, he barely interacts with anyone; the book seems to take place in the car more than the towns. He intersperses them with trips to museums or landmarks, but most of these offer little more than an honest guidebook - I'd rather hear about the people he meets on the trip, or the weird, quirky things, not a long description of, "I hopped in my car to go to another place, where I would then hop into my car to go to yet another place." I kept thinking, "What's the point of this?" Like the American tourist who goes to France to eat at McDonald's, Bryson travels America to eat at chain restaurants and avoid anything remotely unique to the place.

While not a bad book, per se, The Lost Continent doesn't hold a candle to his other novels. I would recommend starting with some of his other ones, like Notes from a Small Island or A Walk in the Woods, if you’re looking for an introduction to Bryson’s best.
( )
1 vote kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
Reading this was like eating the Tootsie Rolls because all the good chocolate from the Halloween candy is gone. I want to read more like [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|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388189974s/9791.jpg|613469], but I'm going to have to try other authors. I have had more than enough of Bryson. I'm just glad I didn't actually go on these trips with that man. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Hilarious in places but a bit 'samey'. Bryson is not your typical travel writer ( )
  Tony2704 | Mar 23, 2015 |
Bill Bryson is a funny guy with many highly quotable sentences scattered throughout this book as much as any of his others. One thing that grated with me after a while, though, was his constant reference to fat women. Not fat people in general, which may well be the case in many parts of America, but fat women in particular. I didn't like this aspect much at all. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
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Bill Brysonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schalekamp, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I come from Des Moines.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:34 -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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