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The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain Hardcover – January 19, 2016

3.9 out of 5 stars 921 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of January 2016: The Road to Little Dribbling comes twenty years after Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, in which he first described his love affair with his adopted Great Britain. That first book was laugh-out-loud funny, and so is this one. It opens with Bryson describing (hilariously) the perils of growing older, eventually revealing the author’s successful passing of the Life in Britain Knowledge Test (thus, making him a British citizen). The rest of the book follows that pattern: Bryson describes getting older, and he describes Great Britain via a trip he took across the 700 mile long island. While he tried to avoid places he visited in Notes from a Small Island—he does revisit Dover—those who read the first book will enjoy a welcome sense of the familiar—even if Bryson appears to have grown a little more cynical and angry with age. But give the guy a break: the world is changing, even his beloved “cozy and embraceable” island. And as he writes in the book, “I recently realized with dismay that I am even too old for early onset dementia. Any dementia I get will be right on time.” --Chris Schluep


Praise for The Road to Little Dribbling:

"Although he's now entering what he fondly calls his 'dotage,' the 64-year-old Bryson seems merely to have sharpened both his charms and his crotchets. As the title of The Road to Little Dribbling suggests, he remains devoted to Britain's eccentric place names as well as its eccentric pastimes." 
—Alida Becker, The New York Times Book Review

"[Y]ou could hardly ask for a better guide to Great Britain than Bill Bryson.  Bryson’s new book is in most ways a worthy successor and sequel to his classic Notes From A Small Island. Like its predecessor, The Road to Little Dribbling is a travel memoir, combining adventures and observations from his travels around the island nation with recounting of his life there, off and mostly on, over the last four decades.  Bryson is such a good writer that even if you don’t especially go in for travel books, he makes reading this book worthwhile."
—Nancy Klingener, Miami Herald

"...Bryson’s capacity for wonder at the beauty of his adopted homeland seems to have only grown with time.... Britain is still his home four decades later, a period in which he went from lowly scribe at small-town British papers to best-selling travel writer. But he retains an outsider’s appreciation for a country that first struck him as 'wholly strange ... and yet somehow marvelous.”
—Griff Witte, Washington Post

“Such a pleasure to once again travel the lanes and walking paths of Britain in the company of Bill Bryson! He’s a little older now, and not necessarily wiser, but he’s as delightful and irascible a guide as anyone could ever wish to have, as he rediscovers this somewhat careworn land and finds it as endearing (mostly) as ever. It’s a rare book that will make me laugh out loud. This one did, over and over.”
—Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake and The Devil in the White City

"There’s a whole lot of “went to a charming little village named Bloke-on-Weed, had a look around, a cupof tea, and moved on” in Bryson’s most recent toddle around Britain. Writing 20 years after his bestselling Notes from a Small Island, Bryson concocts another trip through his homeland of 40 years bydetermining the longest distance one could travel in Britain in a straight line... This being Bryson, one chuckles every couple of pages, of course, saying, 'yup, that sounds about right,' to his curmudgeonly commentary on everything from excess traffic and litter to rude sales clerks. One also feels the thrum of wanderlust as Bryson encounters another gem of a town or pip of a pub. And therein lies the charm of armchair traveling with Bryson. He clearly adores his adopted country. There are no better views, finer hikes, more glorious castles, or statelier grounds than the ones he finds, and Bryson takes readers on a lark of a walk across this small island with megamagnetism."
—Booklist, starred review

"Fans should expect to chuckle, snort, snigger, grunt, laugh out loud and shake with recognition…a clotted cream and homemade jam scone of a treat."
—Sunday Times

"At its best as the history of a love affair, the very special relationship between Bryson and Britain. We remain lucky to have him."
—Matthew Engel, Financial Times

"Is it the funniest travel book I’ve read all year? Of course it is."
—Daily Telegraph
"We have a tradition in this country of literary teddy bears—John Betjeman and Alan Bennett among them—whose cutting critiques of the absurdities and hypocrisies of the British people are carried out with such wit and good humour that they become national treasures. Bill Bryson is American but is now firmly established in the British teddy bear pantheon... The fact that this wonderful writer can unerringly catalogue all our faults and is still happy to put up with us should make every British reader’s chest swell with pride."
—Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express
"The truly great thing about Bryson is that he really cares and is insanely curious... Reading his work is like going on holiday with the members of Monty Python."
—Chris Taylor, Mashable
"There were moments when I snorted out loud with laughter while reading this book in public... He can be as gloriously silly as ever."
—The London Times
"The observation, the wit, the geniality of Bryson’s inimitable words illuminate ever chapter."
—Terry Wogan, Irish Times
"Everybody loves Bill Bryson, don’t they? He’s clever, witty, entertaining, a great companion... his research is on show here, producing insight, wisdom and startling nuggets of information... Bill Bryson and his new book are the dog’s bollocks."
—Independent on Sunday
"Stuffed with eye-opening facts and statistics..... Bryson's charm and wit continue to float off the page....Recognising oneself is part of the pleasure of reading Bryson's mostly affable rants about Britain and Britishness." 
—Daily Mail

"His millions of readers will probably enjoy this just as much as its predecessor."

"We go to him less for insights—though there are plenty of these—and more for the pleasure of his company. And he can be very funny indeed. Almost every page has a line worth quoting."
—Glasgow Herald

"At last, Bill Bryson has got back to what he does best—penning travel books that educate, inform and will have you laughing out loud... I was chuckling away by page four and soaking up his historic facts to impress my mates with. Sure to be a bestseller."

"Bryson has no equal. He combines the charm and humour of Michael Palin with the cantankerousness of Victor Meldrew and the result is a benign intolerance that makes for a gloriously funny read."
—Daily Express

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (January 19, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385539282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385539289
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (921 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Klein on November 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Bill Bryson's work, own all his books, and have attended several of his lectures and book signings. His Notes from a Small Island is such a favorite with me that I reread it every year or two, as I ADORE his endearing depictions of his awkward early days in the UK. For these reasons, I was eagerly awaiting The Road to Little Dribbling. Sadly, it has little of the charm and whimsy of Notes from a Small Island. Bryson's treatment of the material seems perfunctory and even half-hearted. Sometimes I wondered if he did his research before visiting a place. When writing about Torquay, for example, he never mentions that it is Agatha Christie's birthplace or that one can visit her summer home, Greenway, a National Trust property on the Dart nearby. I am grateful to Bryson for all that he has done for Britain (and for UK-US relations), and I will continue to buy his books, but I was disappointed by Little Dribbling. As Maxim de Winter remarks to his bride in Rebecca: "It's gone forever, that funny, young, lost look that I loved."
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Bill Bryson may have written one too many books and this is it. The engaging candour which flowed from the missteps of a modest everyman has deteriorated to the self-satisfaction and self-consciousness of a hugely popular writer now struggling to fill the page as he meanders through Britain. Still very readable the freshness has gone and it is a pedestrian piece filled with familiar Bryson mannerisms. I got the feeling that this was written to meet a contractual obligation. For the first time in his many books I found myself disliking the author's persona.
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Travel literature is the genre that made Bill Bryson famous. From his debut, The Lost Continent (1989), to Down Under (2000), the cerebral yet comedic author from Des Moines, Iowa helped resuscitate the travel narrative and take it mainstream. However, after the millennial publication of his romp around Australia, Bryson diversified, penning books about science (A Short History of Nearly Everything), his youth (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid), the Bard of Avon (Shakespeare), and everything from the spice trade (At Home) to baseball (One Summer).

My first Bryson read was A Walk in the Woods, giddily passed around my workplace, and hurriedly followed by the prequel to The Road to Little Dribbling: Notes from a Small Island – the book that made Bill a celebrity in Britain and supposedly outsold more than any other travelogue. Subsequently, I was hooked and devoured most of Bryson’s other efforts. Some of those efforts (e.g. Shakespeare) are outstanding, but it was the travel narratives that left the deepest impression.

Bill Bryson introduced me to travel literature, meaning that prior to A Walk in the Woods, I didn’t know the category existed. In an interview, Bryson intimated he liked Paul Theroux (whose Kingdom by the Sea may have inspired Notes from a Small Island) and Redmond O’Hanlon, so I read their books and the authors they liked and discovered a rich genre populated by talented and erudite writers. Bill Bryson also introduced me to a unique style: fluid yet humourous, informative yet entertaining, charmingly complimentary yet devastatingly critical. Once a fan who eagerly anticipated Bill’s newest release, I eventually discovered other wordsmiths and gave his last two efforts a miss.
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Twenty years ago (yes, really!), Bill Bryson wrote the brilliant "Notes from a Small Island" about his travels around Great Britain. This is a sequel, of sorts, with Bryson again travelling around Britain and making observations. He explains in Chapter 1 that his plan was to travel between the two points that were the furtherest apart when separated by a straight line: Bognor Regis in the South and Cape Wrath in northernmost Scotland. Rather than follow the line religiously, he determined to use it as a rough guidance whilst visiting as many new places as he possibly could.

This is rubbish. In fact, Bryson veers all over the south of Britain, going as far west as Cornwall and Wales and as far east as Norfolk and East Anglia, and showing remarkably little interest in venturing north. Two thirds of the way through the book and he's only made it to Birmingham. Scotland gets a mere 12 pages of the total 381 (Wales gets 15). So really, he should have been honest about the fact that when he says Britain, what he really means is England. There is a map at the front of the book showing all sorts of places in Britain: it bears zero resemblance to the places that he actually visits.

The other thing that emerges - and I suspect the real reason for the lower English focus - is that rather than being one long piece of travel, this is a group of day trips and overnight trips, which are broken up by family events and trips to the US and various other commitments. If this was to be the approach, I wish Bryson had taken a bit more care in the planning. So often he turns up somewhere, realises it's Sunday and the museums are closed, and then gives up and leaves again.
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