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Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe (1991)

by Bill Bryson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bill Bryson's Travels (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,8201051,462 (3.73)136
Bill Bryson's first travel book, The Lost Continent, was unanimously acclaimed as one of the funniest books in years. In Neither Here nor There he brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Fluent in, oh, at least one language, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before.Whether braving the homicidal motorists of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant or window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations. He even goes to Liechtenstein.… (more)
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English (99)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (104)
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Audiobook read by William Roberts

Subtitle: Travels in Europe

First published in 1993, this is not aged well. Bryson had fond memories of his youthful adventures when he backpacked around Europe, one summer solo and the next with his friend, Katz. He attempted to re-create those magical summers, though this time having traveler’s checques, a travel agent, and full-service (mostly) hotels.

I’ve read several of Bryson’s books and found some of them hugely entertaining. But not this one. He seems far too snide and complaining, the “Ugly American” come to life.

Now, there are a few interesting and engaging scenarios when he’s not being a pain-in-the-a** complainer, and for that I give him two stars.

The audiobook is read by William Roberts, who, if possible, makes Bryson sound like even more of whiner than he is in print. There is also an Abridge audiobook, read by Bryson himself. I wonder if I would have enjoyed that more …. I guess that would depend on whether he cut the complaining part in favor of the nicer interludes, or vice versa. But I’m not going to bother to find out myself. ( )
  BookConcierge | May 26, 2022 |
Neither Here Nor There: Travels In Europe (1992) by Bill Bryson. This is one of Mr. Bryson’s earlier books. Herein he attempts to recapture some of the magic and delight he had 20 years before when he and his pal Steve Katz ventured around Europe just after high school, their hippie tour as it were. This time Bryson is alone, Katz is recalled in some reflections of times past, and Mr. Bryson’s family is back home in England abiding his whimsy.
Over a 4 month period he visits more than 20 different cities to various degrees of experience. He opens with a trip to the Arctic clime of Hammerfest in the far, far north of Norway in search of the Northern Lights add ends in Istanbul looking longingly across the Bosphorus toward the mystery that is Asia. Between he marvels at city parks and grand vistas of mountains or waterways, takes great pleasure in finding a good cafe with great beer or coffee, picks up a few great meals whereas the majority of his dining just provide sustenance, and meets with many, many, many bored autocrats whose main function is to impede his pleasure.
Be it Paris or Rome, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany or Yugoslavia, his humor shines through. There are many great insights into places to go and things to see and do, but I was left with the overall feeling that the trip wasn’t worth the hassle. It seems the greatest impediment to a tourist having a great time traveling, is, well, all the tourists traveling trying to have a good time. Every place worth seeing is sought out by thousands of sightseers from around the globe making the smaller cities and towns jam packed with humanity. The locals accept this crush as a necessary evil but by and large they don’t like it, thus making many a surly attitude toward the self-important foreigner part of the local decor.
And this was in 1992. Think how it is 30 years later. I love watching the Rick Steve’s tours of Europe, but I can’t but feel that unless you have a camera crew in tow, you won’t get treated as genially as he does
Although well written with the kind of humorous insight he is known for, this book left me feeling I would rather stay here than go there. ( )
  TomDonaghey | Mar 28, 2022 |
This was the one Bill Bryson travelogue I've been most looking forward to hearing since I've never yet not loved every place I've been in Europe. So of course it stands to reason it's the one I enjoyed the least.

Let me start by saying that the narrator, William Roberts, does an excellent job. He adds life and personality to the narration so the you often forget he's reading a book.

Neither Here Nor There is obviously one of Bryson's earlier works, written when he was younger and apparently not at all concerned that he might give readers the impression that he aspired to becoming a modern day Benny Hill. It's definitely rawer in language and cruder in thought that any of his other work I've read to date. It didn't offend me, but I found it jarring after reading his later works where he's a kinder, more subtle, more thoughtful writer.

Overall, I enjoyed the listen, but as the places he loved are places already on my list and the places he did not love were places I've never been interested in (except Amsterdam - how do you not love Amsterdam?!?!), I didn't take anything away from this one beyond the knowledge that Bill Bryson's internal, younger self was a bit of a letch. ( )
  murderbydeath | Jan 17, 2022 |
Funny, funny book about his trip across Europe in the early 90's. My favorite line from the book is
"tourism is. You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile effort to recapture the comforts you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.”

What sums up a travel book better.

( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
So this should have been a DNF, but it was short enough that, well , I wasn’t concerned about sunk cost…
I’d read Walk in the Woods years ago and enjoyed it (but thinking more about that while I read this, I seemed to recall the first half of Woods being funny and the rest…meh)
I enjoyed reading about Bryson’s interactions with people - for the most part. But there were too many instances of him treating hotel and restaurant staff poorly- he came off as a rude jerk.
And his attempts at humor, for me, mostly fell flat.
And I’d been to a number of cities that he wrote about, but his writing came across as uninspired, as though he didn’t like to travel.
It was like he had a contract to churn out another book and he met his contractual obligation.

Want to read about interesting travel? Read Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North about his 922 A.D. journey to Rūs and witnessing a Viking funeral. ( )
  jimgosailing | Nov 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cosimini, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holzförster, ClaudiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McShane, MikeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mehren, HegeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pendola, SoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rinaldi, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rogde, IsakTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schalekamp, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was 'A smell of petroleum prevails throughout.'"
Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy
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to Cynthia
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In winter Hammerfest is a thirty-hour ride by bus from Oslo, though why anyone would want to go there in winter is a question worth considering.
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"We used to build civilizations.  Now we build shopping malls."
"I had a hangover you could sell to science..."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Bill Bryson's first travel book, The Lost Continent, was unanimously acclaimed as one of the funniest books in years. In Neither Here nor There he brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Fluent in, oh, at least one language, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before.Whether braving the homicidal motorists of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant or window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations. He even goes to Liechtenstein.

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