Book Reviews

Book Review: The Lost Continent

The Lost Continent is full of tales from small-town America, the heart of America, that don’t get much attention, especially from travel writers! However, Bill Bryson takes it upon himself to share stories from America’s little towns. This The Lost Continent book review will detail more. 

What The Lost Continent Is About

Book Cover of The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson

While an American native (Des Moines, Iowa, to be exact), Bryon moved to England and established a life for himself there. He returns to undertake the cross-country road trip many can only dream of.

It begins in his home town where he sets off to drive across America’s small towns. He is immediately critical of his hometown, as many are. Still, his attitude reminds me of the stereotypical “can’t stand this deadbeat town” pop-punk attitude – of course, Bryson is undoubtedly far from the Warped Tour-going going youths in “Defend Pop Punk” vests, but I hope you get what I mean.

What I Thought Of The Lost Continent

This book has mixed reviews; some sing its praises while others critique Bryson for being too negative and hypocritical. I preferred his other works, such as A Walk in the Woods and Notes From a Big Country.

Always satirical, this book maintains his sense of humour. He does push it at times, and his jokes get old.

Although the book is about small American towns, he often seems to skim through towns and passes judgment on them without even stepping out of his car. Bryson isn’t a typical travel writer, and readers should not expect actual guides from him, but I think we deserve more history and description. I think many places he critiques needed more time to be explored. 

Moments such as when he visited the Grand Canyon, and his awe was almost tangible, were undoubtedly highlights. His description of Mount Rushmore provided a brief history of it and his feelings. I got a few chuckles out of it, but nothing made me laugh aloud. He has reiterated his disdain at the loss of American small towns and individuality to shopping centers and fast-food restaurants in both this and Notes From a Big Country time and time again. He disapproved of big cities like New York or the small ones. He penned people as hicks and rednecks and certainly enjoyed poking fun of people overweight when he doesn’t seem to be Mr. Fitness himself.

The Bottom Line

I expected more from Bryson with this and feel bad for being hard on him. He is an author I usually enjoy reading, so while I would recommend him as an author to look at, this book is not the one to start with. I didn’t absolutely hate it or feel compelled to give up before finishing it, but I wasn’t hooked or tremendously impressed either. It is a readable novel, but I wouldn’t call it his best.

If you like this, you’d also like A Short History of Nearly Everything, and A Walk in the Woods.

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