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In a Sunburned Country Paperback – Jun 12 2001


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In a Sunburned Country + A Short History of Nearly Everything + A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada (June 12 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385259417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385259415
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (264 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Bill Bryson follows his Appalachian amble, A Walk in the Woods, with the story of his exploits in Australia, where A-bombs go off unnoticed, prime ministers disappear into the surf, and cheery citizens coexist with the world's deadliest creatures: toxic caterpillars, aggressive seashells, crocodiles, sharks, snakes, and the deadliest of them all, the dreaded box jellyfish. And that's just the beginning, as Bryson treks through sunbaked deserts and up endless coastlines, crisscrossing the "under-discovered" Down Under in search of all things interesting.

Bryson, who could make a pile of dirt compelling--and yes, Australia is mostly dirt--finds no shortage of curiosities. When he isn't dodging Portuguese man-of-wars or considering the virtues of the remarkable platypus, he visits southwest Gippsland, home of the world's largest earthworms (up to 12 feet in length). He discovers that Australia, which began nationhood as a prison, contains the longest straight stretch of railroad track in the world (297 miles), as well as the world's largest monolith (the majestic Uluru) and largest living thing (the Great Barrier Reef). He finds ridiculous place names: "Mullumbimby Ewylamartup, Jiggalong, and the supremely satisfying Tittybong," and manages to catch a cricket game on the radio, which is like

listening to two men sitting in a rowboat on a large, placid lake on a day when the fish aren't biting; it's like having a nap without losing consciousness. It actually helps not to know quite what's going on. In such a rarefied world of contentment and inactivity, comprehension would become a distraction.

"You see," Bryson observes, "Australia is an interesting place. It truly is. And that really is all I'm saying." Of course, Bryson--who is as much a travel writer here as a humorist, naturalist, and historian--says much more, and does so with generous amounts of wit and hilarity. Australia may be "mostly empty and a long way away," but it's a little closer now. --Rob McDonald --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

With the Olympics approaching, books on Australia abound. Still, Bryson's lively take is a welcome recess from packaged, staid guides. The author of A Walk in the Woods draws readers in campfire-style, relating wacky anecdotes and random facts gathered on multiple trips down under, all the while lightening the statistics with infusions of whimsical humor. Arranged loosely by region, the book bounces between Canberra and Melbourne, the Outback and the Gold Coast, showing Bryson alone and with partners in tow. His unrelenting insistence that Australia is the most dangerous place on earth ("If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback") spins off dozens of tales involving jellyfish, spiders and the world's 10 most poisonous snakes. Pitfalls aside, Bryson revels in the beauty of this country, home to ravishing beaches and countless unique species ("80% of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, lives nowhere else"). He glorifies the country, alternating between awe, reverence and fear, and he expresses these sentiments with frankness and candor, via truly funny prose and a conversational pace that is at once unhurried and captivating. Peppered with seemingly irrelevant (albeit amusing) yarns, this work is a delight to read, whether or not a trip to the continent is planned. First serial to Outside magazine; BOMC selection. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ayla Slessor on Aug. 7 2008
Format: Paperback
I can't even remember how many times I've read this fantastic, hilarious, well-researched and touching account of author Bill Bryson's travels across distant Australia. There are endless anecdotes which are worked seamlessly into an already wonderful piece of writing. The chapter on cricket on the radio always stands out for me, my mom often quotes favorite lines from that particular section.

But most of all, when I first read this book I was 13. I didn't really know anything about Australia aside from the fact that it was the home of kangaroos and dingos. Well, In A Sunburned Country made me fall in love with Oz. Now I see it as a kind of Canada of the Southern Hemisphere, rugged and very nature driven with a small population and friendly peacful citizens.

Now that I'm 19? I've been accepted to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia and I'm planning on rereading my favorite Bill Bryson book over and over until I'm standing on Australian soil.

What higher praise can there be for an travel author than to inspire his readers to pick up and fly 15,000 km to see the place he's painted so vivid a picture of?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Fitt on Dec 10 2003
Format: Audio CD
I love to hear Bill Bryson read his books aloud. His 10 disc monologue on Australia was, by turns, fascinating, LOL amusing, astonishing, informative, good natured and good company. I won't describe the book's content here - others have done a fine job in their reviews. My focus is, instead, on the experience of LISTENING to Bill Bryson. I regularly listen to books on CD as I drive around Upstate New York for work. After spending many hundreds of hours hearing recordings of books, I fancy myself an experienced and discriminating listener. IMHO, Bryson is an engaging and sociable reader as well as a superb (virtual) travelling companion. I believe he genuinely enjoys the act of reading aloud for others. After hearing this generous yet informal treatment, I am reluctant to read the print verion. I fear that the inevitable change in my experience of Bryson's Voice, caused by experiencing him visually instead of with my ears, would strike me as a loss. Listening to the CD version of In a Sunburned Country, it was my happy experience to feel that Bryson was sharing his stories of Australia directly with me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on June 16 2003
Format: Paperback
Bryson delivers the world's biggest, best kept secret in IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY. Australia is a truly miraculous place. This is a country where a prime minister impetuously dives into the water while strolling on the beach with colleagues, never to be seen again, where the world's most lethal and otherwise poisonous species are concentrated in mind boggling numbers above and beyond the rest of the planet, where the ecosystem is the most diverse of any, where the ores and minerals have yet to be tapped for anything near their full potential, where the features of the landscape vary dramatically, with no look-alikes anywhere else. The world's largest living organism is there-the Great Barrier Reef; also, the world's oldest living organisms, stromatolites. It is the last continent to be colonized by Europeans, and then it was used as a penal colony at first, and as a nation it is barely a century old. It was been the scene of wretched racism and maltreatment of natives; more recently, it has chosen to throw the doors open to all nationalities. And does any of this make it to American news media? Noooo. There's lots to learn from this country and Bryson is an informative guide. In the manner honed in his earlier travel books, he imparts an amazing amount of information thoughtfully, in graceful, witty prose that evokes all the eccentricities and ironies of this mysterious, ancient place. Bryson is happy to tell the jokes, but in the end, he is much happier imparting the wonder.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Thompson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Sept. 6 2010
Format: Paperback
Bryson loves England - that is obvious in Notes from a Small Island. In Australia, however, he is an outsider on a visit (not a resident) and the difference is obvious in the style and character of this book.

In 'Notes from a Small Island', Bryson skips easily from topic to topic, highlighting whichever particular memories strike his fancy. Here, however, we are presented with much more of a standard travelogue in which a good deal more historical and geographical detail provided. Most of it though, I am glad to say, is presented in the light, humorous way in which this author usually entertains me and I enjoyed it immensely. I am cognizant that some reviewers have criticized Bryson for being less than accurate and not 'in-depth' enough, but I didn't buy this book as a sociological, political, or 'what-have-you' treatise, I sometimes just liked to hear a story about somebody's experiences... that's what this book is. I should add that, while my wife and I have very different tastes in literature, I gave her this book before she took a trip to a conference in Sidney and she enjoyed it very much.

My only quibble about this book is as follows: When Bryson is at his most fluid and honest, his humor is easy and very natural. When he *tries* to be funny, however, the prose becomes noticeably forced and the resultant humor declines proportionately. In this book, he confesses to a fear of dogs and goes into a lengthy description of an encounter with one in suburban Sidney. Unfortunately, his particular reaction to canines is not one shared by most people so this whole attempt at to provide a comic 'filler' ended up being little more than tedious... for me at least.

Still a great book though :)
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