The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America – Bill Bryson

Summary from Goodreads:

‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to’.

And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn’t hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. Travelling around thirty-eight of the lower states – united only in their mind-numbingly dreary uniformity – he discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land. 

I think I have definitely gone on about how much I love Bill Bryson on this blog (see my review of A Walk in the Woods). I will always find him hilarious and this book definitely had me laughing out loud almost continuously. That said though, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by it.

Why, you might be wondering? Because I think Bryson did a really crappy job at representing small-town America. He’s funny, yes. Accurate? Definitely not. He focuses on the ugliness of the suburbs, the stupidity of the people, and he goes on and on about how boring and over-priced the monuments are. But he doesn’t actually talk to anyone from any of these places. I mean, not in any way that isn’t arrogant and condescending. In my opinion, judging a town by the number of restaurants in it rather than by actually listening to and talking to the people who live in it is not fair. It’s C-grade travel writing at best.

I think Bryson seriously missed out on what could have been an awesome and insightful book about the incredibly varied, inspiring, fascinating cultures and landscapes that the US has to offer. Yes, making fun of how ignorant, untraveled, and ugly Americans can be will always be easier/possibly way funnier. But it’s a cop out.

Have you read The Lost Continent? What did you think of it? Have you read any of Bill Bryson’s other books? Please feel free to share your thoughts. I always love hearing from you. ūüôā 

~Anna

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A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

Summary from Goodreads:

The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America‚Äďmajestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you‚Äôre going to take a hike, it‚Äôs probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you‚Äôll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way‚Äďand a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods¬†will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

Bill Bryson is the bomb.¬†I read this book when I was feeling a little down and stressed out, and it was¬†exactly what I needed. It’s hilarious, full of weird and wonderful¬†facts, and it did indeed make me long for the great outdoors (or at least, it made me want to read this book while sitting in a comfy chair overlooking some misty mountains with a cup of tea in hand).¬†In short, it’s a typical Bill Bryson book in the best of ways.

My favourite thing about Bill Bryson is his ability to see the humour in every situation.¬†I think he’s absolutely hilarious (although I am also the kind of person who laughs at dad jokes and thinks that Mr Bean is a comedic genius). I read a good portion of this book while sitting¬†outside in the Botanical Gardens, and I could not stop cackling madly to myself.¬†Needless to say, I got a few strange looks. His descriptions of the gratingly obnoxious¬†Mary Ellen in particular almost had me crying with laughter.

I also really love that Bill Bryson has such a sense of adventure. Yes, he is a curmudgeonly old man, but he also has some serious guts. I mean, hiking over half of the AT at middle age with no real hiking experience for months at a time with a junk-food-obsessed travelling companion prone to tossing irreplaceable supplies is no small feat.

I also really don’t know how it’s possible to know so much about everything. Seriously, I wouldn’t want to have to face Bill Bryson in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Throughout the book, he¬†painlessly inserts lessons of history, geology, entomology, and more. We learn about the changes acid rain has brought to the wild, and he recounts the stories of the southern pine beetle, the smoky madtom and wooly adelgids, and about Daniel Boone, Henry David Thoreau and Stonewall Jackson. Bryson delivers an extended geology lesson on the tectonic formation of the 470 million year-old Appalachian Mountains that palatably educates. As I said before, he is the king of fun facts.

Yes, I have some criticisms of this book, but I don’t really feel like dwelling on them. I read this book¬†precisely because I didn’t want to have to think too much,¬†and it did not disappoint. It made me laugh, it made me cry (with laughter), and it made me feel so much better about everything. Highly recommended.

Have you read¬†A Walk in the¬†Woods?¬†Or any of Bill Bryson’s other books? What do you think of him?¬†

~Anna

Liebster Blog Award

Hi lovely readers! So I’ve just been nominated for my first award, which is very exciting.¬†A huge thank you to Alyssa over at¬†The Ultimate Book Geek¬†for the nomination (she has a wonderful blog, which I definitely recommend checking out).

The Rules: 

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions they’ve written for you.
  3. Nominate 11 other people (preferably those with under 200 followers)
  4. Give your nominees 11 different questions to answer.

The Questions: 

1. Why did you start your blog? 

I started this blog towards the end of last year as a way of fighting tsundokism (that is, the act of buying books and not reading them, instead letting them pile up unread on bookshelves). I also think that writing reviews helps me to remember and think critically about the books I read.

2. If you had a chance to spend a day with any writer, alive or dead, who would you choose? 

If you had asked me which author, alive or dead, I would like to have dinner with, I probably would have said Virginia Woolf or maybe Stephen Hawking, but if I were stuck with them for the whole day, I’d probably go with Bill Bryson. I just think he’d be really great company and full of fun facts about everything.

3. Book subscription boxes: yay or nay? (Have you ever subscribed to one? Do you want to?)

To be honest, I don’t know too much about book subscription boxes. I’ve never subscribed to one before, but I think it sounds like fun.

4. What’s your favourite genre?¬†

I don’t really have a favourite genre¬†to be honest – my tastes are very eclectic and I like to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Sorry, I know that’s not a very good answer!

5. Do you like to see film adaptations of your favourite books? 

Yes, I do!¬†Although I think that the book is always better than the movie…

6. Have you read a book over a dozen times? If so, which book? 

It’s a bit of a clich√©, but I’ve read the Harry Potter books more times than I can count. Those books basically defined my childhood.

7. Name a book you DNF’ed recently.

For some reason I couldn’t get through ‘The Blazing World’ by Siri Hustvedt. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exceptionally well-written and the idea is fascinating, but I just really wasn’t in the mood for it. At some point I would like to go back and finish it.

8. What was the last book that totally blew your mind? 

I recently read ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi, which was one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful memoirs I have ever read (you can find my review here).

9. What’s the last book you recommended to someone?¬†

I honestly have no idea. I work in a bookstore and so I spend a lot of time recommending books to different people and I am not very good at keeping track of all my recommendations. Sorry, I know that this is a terrible response!

10. Do you have a favourite bookmark? 

Confession: I dog-ear my pages instead of using bookmarks. I know, it’s terrible! I just always lose my bookmarks and I’m really bad at breaking habits.

11. Have you ever thought about starting a book club? 

I’ve thought about it and I think it would be great fun. Maybe some day!

My Nominations: 

Big Reading Life | Musings From Abroad Blog | Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs | Consumed By Ink | The Book Whisperer | Cleopatra Loves Books | MN Bernard Books | Reading Every Night | The Owl on the Bookshelf | Literary Weaponry | Deborahjs

My Questions: 

1. Do you read one book at a time or multiple?
2. What was your favourite childhood book?
3. Which author do you think is totally overrated and why?
4. What was the last book you read that made you laugh a lot?
5. What was the last book that made you cry?
6. Are you a fast or slow reader?
7. Name a book you DNF’ed recently.
8. What is your go-to genre for long-haul flights?
9. What is the most recent classic you read and what did you think of it?
10. What is next on your TBR?
11. Do you have a favourite bookshop? Why is it your favourite?

Once again, thank you to Alyssa for the nomination! I had a lot of fun answering these questions and I hope you will too.

~Anna