Book Reviews · Travel

Book Review: Notes from a Big Country

Notes from a Big Country sees Bill Bryson take on his homeland of America after living in England for 20 years. After such a long time away Bryson feels like a stranger in his own country.

book cover of Notes from A Big Country by Bill Bryson

What Notes From a Big Country is about:

Notes From a Big Country was adapted from weekly columns for the Mail on Sunday into one coherent novel. The chapters are short and to the point. It was perfect for reading around college, but led to a lot of “oh just one more chapter” ¬†and of course one chapter often led to five. However, as far as the book goes that’s a virtue seeing as I was more interested in it than some of my classes.

It’s a series of mini-entires about the difference between American and British culture.

It’s always interesting to learn about culture differences between the US and other English speaking countires, and I think Byrson is the only one who can make it enteraining reading it on paper, rather than me going out and just talking to Americans.

What I thought:

Bryson is experiencing culture shock to some degree after living in the UK and so are we as most readers wont have been living in both the US and UK at somepoint. At least to me, it was shocking to learn some of the real anecdotes from suburban America. I’ve been to America a few times but it’s usually tourist America.

My favourite story was about a woman driving across country who believed there was a likely possibility of being kidnapped. In order to save herself if worse comes to worst, she writes a note about being kidnapped instructing whoever finds it to call the police. She drops the note, a good citizen picks it up and does as instructed. The woman keeps on driving oblivious to the chaos and panic that has ensued.

Bryson isn’t intentionally degrading or belittling Americans. In fact he seems rather quite proud to be American. Most of his readers knows not to take everything he says at face value. His topics range from satirical computer construction manuals, the prolific choice and variety of essentially all products; especially food products, the lack of sarcasm in American culture, and how North America is not built for pedestrians. He knows how to make his readers laugh, even if you’re reading in public.

I’ve never read anything like this before, and I’m going to assume you haven’t either so I would highly recommend Notes for a Big Country.

Generally I prefer novels that are one big story, I rarely like collections of short stories, but it’s always good to branch out and read new things. So far, Bill Byrson is my wild card author, and it always pays off because I like pretty much everything of his I read.

If you enjoy this and Bill Bryson in general, you might also like A Walk in the Woods, and A Short History of Nearly Everything.

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