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I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away Paperback – June 6, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (June 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076790382X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767903820
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (359 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the world of contemporary travel writing, Bill Bryson, the bestselling author of A Walk in the Woods, often emerges as a major contender for King of Crankiness. Granted, he complains well and humorously, but between every line of his travel books you can almost hear the tinny echo: "I wanna go home, I miss my wife."

Happily, I'm a Stranger Here Myself unleashes a new Bryson, more contemplative and less likely to toss daggers. After two decades in England, he's relocated to Hanover, New Hampshire. In this collection (drawn from dispatches for London's Night & Day magazine), he's writing from home, in close proximity to wife and family. We find a happy marriage between humor and reflection as he assesses life both in New England and in the contemporary United States. With the telescopic perspective of one who's stepped out of the American mainstream and come back after 20 years, Bryson aptly holds the mirror up to U.S. culture, capturing its absurdities--such as hotlines for dental floss, the cult of the lawsuit, and strange American injuries such as those sustained from pillows and beds. "In the time it takes you to read this," he writes, "four of my fellow citizens will somehow manage to be wounded by their bedding."

The book also reflects the sweet side of small-town USA, with columns about post-office parties, dining at diners, and Thanksgiving--when the only goal is to "get your stomach into the approximate shape of a beach ball" and be grateful. And grateful we are that the previously peripatetic Bryson has returned to the U.S., turning his eye to this land--while living at home and near his wife. Under her benevolent influence, he entertains through thoughtful insights, not sarcastic stabs. --Melissa Rossi --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Ex-expatriate Bryson, who chronicled one effort at American reentry in his bestselling A Walk in the Woods, collects another: the whimsical columns on America he wrote weekly, while living in New Hampshire in the mid-to-late 1990s, for a British Sunday newspaper. Although he happily describes himself as dazzled by American ease, friendliness and abundance, Bryson has no trouble finding comic targets, among them fast food, computer efficiency and, ironically, American friendliness and putative convenience. As he edges into Dave Barry-style hyperbole, Bryson sometimes strains for yuks, but he's deft when he compares the two cultures, as in their different treatment of Christmas, pointing out how the British "pack all their festive excesses" into that single holiday. Bryson also nudges into domestic territory with regular references to his own British wife, the resolutely sensible Mrs. B. In a few columns, Bryson adopts a sentimental tone, writing about his family and his new hometown of Hanover. In others, he's more sober, criticizing anti-immigration activists, environmental depredation and drug laws (though he draws out the humor in these as well). Not all the columns hit their mark, and they are best read in small groupings, but this collection should sell well enough, although not likely to the heights of A Walk in the Woods. Agent, Jed Mattes. Author tour; BDD audio.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa. For twenty years he lived in England, where he worked for the Times and the Independent, and wrote for most major British and American publications. His books include travel memoirs (Neither Here Nor There; The Lost Continent; Notes from a Small Island) and books on language (The Mother Tongue; Made in America). His account of his attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods, was a huge New York Times bestseller. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and his four children.

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Customer Reviews

There were many times I was laughing out loud when I read this book.
unbounded
He seems to be trying too hard to be funny and ends up sounding like a complainer.
M. Subramanian
Bryson makes insightful and witty observations about American culture.
Godly Gadfly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 110 people found the following review helpful By A. Leung on July 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
So what's this then? A collection of columns written by Bill Bryson for the British Night & Day magazine, assembled into a book? I was sceptical when I first picked it due to the unfamiliarity here; I thought he was a travel writer. But then I started reading through the first few pages and am delighted to report that they were so entertaining and accessible that I ended up finishing the book very satified.
This book is about America, about consumerism, hypocracy, politics, culture and everything else in between, such as motels and boring interstate highways and the condition of AT&T service these days. Why should all this be so interesting? Because Bill Bryson's voice shines throughout, dissecting normally more complex subjects into bite-sized articles which are eminently readable to the extent that it is at times impossible to stop. Of course, his trademark humour is present too. If you read this in public, there is the risk of embarrassment by your involuntary snorts of laughter.
However, 'I'm a Stranger here Myself' isn't perfect. Much of the book is predictable, and 85% of the time, Bill appears to be complaining. Someone as talented as Bill Bryson should know not to engage in such indulgence because the end result is that the reader occassionally feels frustrated over the ostensible monotony. You also can't help but feel that an assemblage of brief columns is not enough to make a book.
Although this book is not standard Bill Bryson fare, it still manages to excel. It really is exceptionally enlightening, to read what he has to say subsequent to spending 20 years in England.
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71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Yufen Liu "Taiwan" on April 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
About two years ago when my husband and I made up our minds to study abroad in the U.S., one of my friends, who have lived in Boston for many years recommended Bill Bryson's I am a Stranger Here Myself to me. She told me this book reflects American life and will help me learn American ways of living. I kept her words in mind, but didn't read this book until it was chosen as our assigned material in a reading class in the U.S. After reading through this book, I realized why my friend suggested me read it. This book is really a great comfort to foreigners, because what Bill Bryson told the readers mostly resonates with what we've encountered in our daily lives in the U.S.

As foreigners, we usually assume that lack of proficiency in the language is the cause of ineffective communication and it puts us in a very awkward situation. However, in the chapter, "What's Cooking," we know that though a native speaker, Bryson is also bewildered by the complicated terminology the server uses to introduce the special dishes in a fancy restaurant. And in "How to Rent a Car," Bryson has a difficult time figuring out the complexly tiered options in the contract just as I did when I rented a car in the U.S. for the first time. Sometime it makes foreigners feel secure and relieved when realizing that a native speaker is in the same boat.

I am so glad that I got the chance to read this book. Not only did I understand more about American customs and culture, but I also benefited greatly from the author's funny expression and vivid description in English. For foreigners, making ourselves acquainted with American ways of thinking and speaking is crucial to dealing with daily events in a foreign country.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara VINE VOICE on January 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book, which consists of columns Bryson wrote for an English paper after moving to the US, is a mixed success, in my eyes. Bryson is one of my favorite authors, and some pieces were classic, classic Bryson---so funny you really do laugh out loud for a good long while! I liked best the pieces on pop culture---diners, motels, TV, dieting, etc. However, a few pieces were about subjects you can read about in almost any newspaper editorial any day of the week---government waste and stupidity, how hard tax returns are to prepare, and the overactive legal system, to name some. I found those pieces were not really done as well---they could have been written by any skilled writer and did not have the distinctive Bryson voice. Maybe this is because they were not written for an American audience originally, and maybe those topics are not as overdone in England. Overall I still did like this book a lot, although I think I would have liked better something that was less a collection of thoughts and more a real tale of coming back to America, from a more personal viewpoint.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Oh, what the heck? I liked 'A Walk in the Woods,' so let's see if this is any good."
That was my line of thinking as I checked out this book from my local library. On the way home, I opened the cover (akin to opening a bag of my favorite chips) and sampled a bite. And another. Soon, I was eight chapters into the thing, wiping tears from my eyes to the amusement of my wife and children. Then, the ultimate test: I read a page out loud to my wife. Now I'm not intimating that she has any laughter inhibitions--she'll laugh up a storm within the first minutes of a good comedy flick--but to subject her to oral readings is to watch her mood take a serious downswing. Must be the expectation levels I project. ("Come on, honey, don't you get it? Are you listening?")
Test results: A+
Next thing I knew, I was fighting my wife for moments to gobble down another chapter or two. No kidding. Bill Bryson, in his inimitable manner, adds punch and humor to subjects normally as tastless as...well, as week-old chips. He pinpoints the lunacies in our daily routine, the frustrations of red-tape, and the nostalgia of yesteryear. He makes me wonder why we Americans behave in such ways, then leaves me shaking my head at the idea of living anywhere else.
We're all strangers, in one way or another, in this diverse land of ours. And that's just it...it's our crazy kaleidoscope of ideas and customs that make us the colorful nation we are. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Thanks, Bill, for helping me let off some steam so that I can fall in love with this place all over again.
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