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Notes from a Small Island Paperback – Mar 12 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (March 12 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771017049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771017049
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #42,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman on Oct. 22 2002
Format: Paperback
Bill Bryson is usually known for books that provoke an uncontrollable urge to laugh out loud while reading them. That's certainly true of "A Walk in the Woods" where Bryson and a bibulous friend try manfully to hike the Appalacian Trail. It's not so true in "Notes from a Small Island."
Bryson doesn't have his hapless friend Katz along on this jaunt, a walking trip through Great Britain. But his sense of humor is intact and his eye sharp for local foibles. My favorite observation was actually his description of the boundless joy the British express when presented with a steaming hot cup of tea. "Ah, lovely..." At the fifth repetition of this, you begin to appreciate Bryson's description of the British people and their funny rules, such as one that applies to public paths (you can cut right through anything that lies on a public way, and Bryson struts through some remarkable places exercising this right.) He takes the predictable potshots at British Rail and the propensity for tearing down quaint buildings and putting up steel and concrete monstrosities, a trait that Americans seem to share with their British progenitors; I myself felt strangely at home in Birmingham--it could have been any American city except for driving on the wrong side of the road.
While this book was not as scream-with-laughter funny as "Walk in the Woods", it had its moments. If you are a Bryson fan you might be a bit disappointed as this books is a bit subdued compared to his others. And Katz is nowhere to be found. But if you don't require to be entertained every single page, you probably will find this an amusing book. I did.
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Bryson nails what England is like exactly and perfectly. I myself have had similarly bewildering encounters with the english when traveling there, and I was born and raised there. By far the funniest and most personal of his funny and personal "travel guides", it is an honest look at one person's experience with being immersed in a culture just foreign enough to be strange and endearing at the same time. I find some of his other travel books - Walk in the Woods for one and Neither Here nor There in particular - to be a bit mean-spirited, though still hilarious.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I will say that Bryson's writing improved over the years, it's hard not to enjoy reading his perspective on the United States. He is in a unique position as someone who has spent nearly two decades in each of the U.S. and the U.K. These experience are on display in this series of articles as his wit and sarcasm nicely reflect both American and British styles of humour.
A must read for anyone who is a fan of Bill Bryson and worthwhile for those looking for an easy, fun read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas D. Kehoe on July 6 2004
Format: Paperback
Bryson's best book is "Notes From a Small Island," about traveling in Great Britain. It's one of the funniest books I've read. The British are funny, and Bryson knows them well after living in Britain for 20+ years.
His book about Australia, "In a Sunburned Country," is also entertaining. He studied Australian history, met many interesting locals, etc. After reading it, I feel like an expert on Australia and its people.
His book about Europe, "Neither Here Nor There," isn't so good. The problem is that he speaks no languages other than English. He didn't talk to anyone on this trip. Wwithout any characters (other than Bryson) the book isn't engaging. The book has only one joke, which he repeats: "The waiter/hotel clerk/taxi driver didn't speak English so I tried to make him understand that I needed..." Some of these moments are quite funny, but they don't constitute a book. Bryson didn't study the places he visits. Unlike the Australian book, you learn almost nothing about the countries he visited.
Bryson's book about America, "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," failed to make me laugh. It reads like a series of Erma Bombeck columns. Bryson comments about various aspects of his life in a small town in New England. Not other people's lives, which might have been interesting, but only about his domestic life.
I got only a few chapters into his book about the Appalachian Trail, "A Walk in the Woods." I wasn't amused that two people with no backpacking experience would attempt a six-month hike. After several chapters of Bryson repeating one joke -- "I know nothing about any of this!" -- I stopped reading.
This suggests that the old advice "write about what you know" is worth following.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nuts About Books on March 22 2005
Format: Paperback
Like many people, I read this book during an airplane flight, while returning from one of my semi-regular trips to the UK. This is one of those books that make you howl with laughter despite the odd looks from strangers alongside. It's a perfect book to read while travelling, or indeed just about anywhere. If you are at all familiar with England (and I mean on a first-hand basis, NOT by watching Hugh Grant movies), you are going to find this book screamingly funny. If not, it will probably make you want to visit the UK. Bill Bryson is no twee, chocolate-boxy travel writer - he relates all the disasters along with the fun, in a manner that reminds you that most so-called travel disasters are never as bad as they seem. Bryson is not entirely uncritical of his adopted nation (and that's the fun part), but he's never nasty - and it's plain that his enthusiasm for England and all things English comes from deep in his heart.
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