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Bill Bryson (1) (1951–)

Author of A Short History of Nearly Everything

For other authors named Bill Bryson, see the disambiguation page.

63+ Works 125,220 Members 3,057 Reviews 661 Favorited

About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa on December 8, 1951. In 1973, he went backpacking in England, where he eventually decided to settle. He wrote for the English newspapers The Times and The Independent, as well as supplementing his income by writing travel articles. He moved back to the show more United States in 1995. His first travel book, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, was published in 1989. His other books include I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, Made in America, The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson's African Diary, A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Walk About, and Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, the Genius of the Royal Society. A Walk in the Woods was adapted into a movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Bryson's titles, The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, Notes from a Small Island and Neither Here Nor There made the New York Times bestseller list in 2016. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Bill Bryson in 2018


Works by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island (1995) 9,861 copies
In a Sunburned Country (2000) 9,142 copies
The Mother Tongue (1990) 7,784 copies
At Home : a short history of private life (2010) — Narrator, some editions — 6,468 copies
Shakespeare: The World as Stage (2007) — Author — 4,835 copies
One Summer: America, 1927 (2013) 2,957 copies
The Body: A Guide for Occupants (2019) 2,912 copies
Bill Bryson's African Diary (2002) 1,297 copies
Icons of England (2008) 329 copies
The English Landscape: Its Character and Diversity (2000) — Introduction — 78 copies
Journeys in English (2004) 64 copies
Bizarre World (1995) 63 copies
Blook of Bunders (1982) 14 copies

Associated Works

The Ascent of Rum Doodle (1956) — Introduction, some editions — 582 copies
The Most of S.J.Perelman (1958) — Introduction, some editions — 361 copies
Granta 26: Travel (1989) — Contributor — 154 copies
Granta 31: The General (1990) — Contributor — 143 copies
Granta 23: Home (1988) — Contributor — 139 copies
A Walk in the Woods [2015 film] (2015) — Original book by — 67 copies
Great Baseball Stories (1979) — Contributor — 47 copies
Coffee with Isaac Newton (2008) — Foreword, some editions — 40 copies
National Geographic Magazine 1992 v181 #4 April (1992) — Contributor — 26 copies
National Geographic Magazine 1996 v190 #5 November (1996) — Contributor — 25 copies
National Geographic Magazine 1998 v193 #6 June (1998) — Contributor — 22 copies
Licensed to Sell: The History and Heritage of the Public House (2004) — Foreword, some editions — 17 copies


America (889) American (350) Appalachian Trail (719) audio (359) audiobook (576) Australia (1,152) autobiography (672) Bill Bryson (659) biography (1,421) Britain (465) Bryson (519) ebook (547) England (1,020) English (799) English language (567) essays (695) Europe (646) fiction (425) hiking (722) history (4,620) history of science (413) humor (6,935) Kindle (399) language (1,735) linguistics (658) memoir (2,347) nature (571) non-fiction (11,453) own (522) popular science (417) read (1,350) reference (608) science (3,280) to-read (4,942) travel (9,587) travel writing (837) travelogue (570) unread (499) USA (1,282) William Shakespeare (540)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Bryson, Bill
Legal name
Bryson, William McGuire
USA (birth)
UK (naturalized)
Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Places of residence
Virginia Water, Surrey, England, UK
North Yorkshire, England, UK
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
Wymondham, Norfolk, England, UK
Drake University (BA|1977)
chancellor (University of Durham)
travel writer
non-fiction author
Bryson, Michael G. (brother)
Bryson, Bill, Sr. (father)
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Awards and honors
Officer, Order of the British Empire (2006)
British Book Award (1997)
Honorary Fellow, Royal Society (2013)
Aventis Prize (2004)
Descartes Prize (2005)
President's Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2005) (show all 10)
Bradford Washburn Award (2007)
James Joyce Award (2007)
Kenneth B. Myer Award (2012)
Golden Eagle Award (2011)
Jed Mattes
Short biography
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. A backpacking expedition in 1973 brought him to England where he met his wife and decided to settle. He wrote for the English newspapers The Times and The Independent for many years, writing travel articles to supplement his income. He lived with his family in North Yorkshire before moving back to the States in 1995, to Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and four children. In 2003 he and his family moved back to England, where they currently reside.



Flying into Australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is. I am forever doing this with the Australian prime minister - committing the name to memory, forgetting it (generally more or less instantly),.then feeling terribly guilty. My thinking is that there ought to be one person outside Australia who knows. But then Australia is such a difficult country to keep track of.
taurus27 | 230 other reviews | Jun 14, 2024 |
The human body is a marvel of a paradox. Inanimate matter that has no conscious, creates miracles of life such as animated humans. Humans are both extremely fragile and extremely resilient. With so many opportunities and things which can kill a human, humans still survive. Healthy living may increase the chances of longer life but it does not guarantee an escape from potential dangers. What we know about what makes the human body is very little in comparison to how much we do not know. Problem is not just the complexity of life but also a lack of research and funding into the many things that make a human body go.

Although each human share 99% of DNA, people are still different. From the way each human smells odors and tastes food, to the different immunity systems. Each person has many different microbes of which many have never been registered. Bacteria evolve to resist antibiotics, with the antibiotics killing good bacteria as well. Because of antibiotics, people have less diverse microbes. Even tears have antimicrobial chemicals which fight pathogens. Part of the reason why people get fevers is that heat kills off pathogens, but people do not stay hot because it would require too much energy. Everyone’s immune system is different and responds to a host of factors such as state of mind and toxins. Although it requires endless work to protect humans from limitless things, the error rate for the immune system is really low. Sometimes the immune system does attack innocent cells.

Everything we know about the world comes from an organ that has never seem the world. The brain creates what is seen by interpreting electrical signals. Seeing is not as important as making sense from what is seen. Curiously, nonmammalian creatures have more color acuity so live in a visually richer world.

Fears of death have changed from communicable diseases to other maladies. Lifestyle is the major cause of the problems humans have. Evolution gave us bodies for a different purpose. As more people live to old age, problems that primarily occur at old age have become more common. Food has become abundant which causes a rise in weight. Weight puts more pressure on the bones which cause suffering over time. Nutrition is the reason why puberty is earlier now than before. Overfed but nutritionally deficient as many of the things humans eat are not the things humans need.

Bryson tells of what is known about the human body, and all the things that science still can not explain about it. Along the way the stories and history behind discoveries and the personalities responsible are told. Besides the complexity of trying to identify what each microbe and hormone does, they may do multiple things in the body. Medications are not panacea and can have problems when used in combination with other medication. Doctors do not always have the best interest of the patient as they are influenced by profit making via getting paid by drug companies.

This book is eloquently written but there are a few caveats to this book. Caveat 1: Each chapter contains many different things about something that makes up a human, which makes it hard for those unfamiliar with the topics. Caveat 2: Although expressing complexity does a wonderful job at showing what is missing, sometimes Byrson does not discuss some methods or ideas in depth either because they are political as there is no consensus, or because there was not enough space, or maybe the topic is just that complicated.
… (more)
Eugene_Kernes | 93 other reviews | Jun 4, 2024 |
A fun book about the human body and it's parts and processes. The author goes into enough detail to be useful, but avoids getting mired in too much minutia. Definitely recommend.
kokeyama | 93 other reviews | May 25, 2024 |
Bryson writes beautifully and I found the information here very interesting. I've always been far more interested in social history and the mundane and that great and the grand (and never good at dates). This book fits that bill precisely, it's full of minutiae that engaged me for all that it's quite a big book. I didn't get tired of reading and was in fact surprised to suddenly find I had finished (the bibliography is quite long so I was fooled as the the length of the text). My only complaint is that although I found almost everything Bryson wrote about interesting, I didn't think it made a coherent whole. It went this way and that, and I enjoyed the trip in every direction, but as to his claim that all this has to do with our homes, I don't think so, no more so than everything in history has to do with us and our homes.… (more)
dvoratreis | 264 other reviews | May 22, 2024 |


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