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

by Bill Bryson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bill Bryson's Travels (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,9421241,394 (3.67)93
And after 10 years in England he decided to go home, to a foreign country. In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America. From the Deep South to the Wild West, from Elvis' birthplace through to Custer's Last Stand, Bryson visits places he re-named Dullard, Coma, and Doldrum (so the residents don't sue or come after him with baseball bats). But his hopes of finding the American dream end in a nightmare of greed, ignorance, and pollution. This is a wickedly witty and savagely funny assessment of a country lost to itself, and to him.… (more)
  1. 20
    Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck (John_Vaughan)
  2. 10
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (rockhopper_penguin)
    rockhopper_penguin: I read these two books one after another. It wasn't a deliberate decision, but the two did seem to work well together. The books visit a few of the same places, and it's interesting to note how differently they are portrayed in each.
  3. 10
    Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry (bnbookgirl)
  4. 00
    The Small Town in American Literature by David M. Cook (RedEyedNerd)
    RedEyedNerd: 26 American works published between the 1870s and the 1960s. Poems and short stories in full length, novels as excerpts. They share the small town setting as an essential ingredient. Editor's headnotes on the small town aspect of every work.
  5. 00
    If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende (bnbookgirl)
    bnbookgirl: most enjoyable
  6. 00
    The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner (Othemts)
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» See also 93 mentions

English (118)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (123)
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
very funny; enjoyable; liked reading about all the places he'd been where I'd been too, and seeing what he had to say about them ( )
  MarkLacy | May 29, 2022 |
yeah - a bit too stereotypical for my liking. ( )
  donhazelwood | Mar 11, 2022 |
Written in the 1980s, this book shows its age. Bryson makes comments that would not be publishable today. He remarks on women's bottoms (fetish, methinks), skin color, and obesity. While never declaring itself a travel guide, Bryson provides uneven coverage. He is overly dismissive of some areas of the US (Detroit, Nevada...) and too adoring of others (Iowa, Iowa, Iowa). Nonetheless, when not cringing, he made me laugh out loud at times. (Tetons --as in the Grand Tetons-- is French for tits...thank goodness the French didn't discover the Grand Canyon) ( )
  mjspear | Nov 23, 2021 |
Want a disappointment this book was for me. I absolutely loved A Walk in the Woods and enjoyed In a Sun-burnt Country, but here Bryson seems to have no lightness of spirit at all.
The occasional laughs found in this book are drowned beneath the unkind and limited view he offers here. Ostensibly this is a chronicle of Bryson revisiting his home country and taking a nostalgic driving tour. And that would have been great! But this book is not that.
Instead it’s a collection of columns Bryson wrote for a British newspaper about his trip down memory lane. I don’t know if he thought he’d get more laughs from Brits by continuously moaning about the US, or if he was a more callow writer then and thought smarminess could be a substitute for wit or humor.
This is one of Bryson’s early books. I’d give it a hard pass. ( )
1 vote Matke | Oct 20, 2021 |
Got to be the snottiest book I've ever read. ( )
1 vote unclebob53703 | Oct 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schalekamp, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my father
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I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.
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For one giddy careless moment, I was almost serene myself. It was a strange sensation, and it soon passed.
"I don't know, dear," my mother would answer mildly. My mother only ever said two things. She said, "I don't know, dear." And she said, "Can I get you a sandwich, honey?" Occasionally on our trips she would volunteer other pieces of intelligence like "Should that dashboard light be glowing like that, dear?" or "I think you hit that dog/man/blind person back there, honey," but mostly she kept quiet.
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And after 10 years in England he decided to go home, to a foreign country. In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America. From the Deep South to the Wild West, from Elvis' birthplace through to Custer's Last Stand, Bryson visits places he re-named Dullard, Coma, and Doldrum (so the residents don't sue or come after him with baseball bats). But his hopes of finding the American dream end in a nightmare of greed, ignorance, and pollution. This is a wickedly witty and savagely funny assessment of a country lost to itself, and to him.

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Haiku summary
he drives through the states,
acts miserable,
eating junk and talking shit.

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