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The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain Paperback – October 25, 2016
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“Riveting. . . . Bryson is a master. . . . Almost as satisfying as being there yourself.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Bryson is a jovial companion and his typically funny self.” —Chicago Tribune
“A cheeky romp through Britain’s heart . . . affectionately celebrates, and devilishly skewers.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Such a pleasure to once again travel the lanes and walking paths of Britain in the company of Bill Bryson! . . . It’s a rare book that will make me laugh out loud. This one did, over and over.” —Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City
“Genuinely hilarious. . . . At Bryson’s age, he can (and does) feel entitled not only to be done with such ugliness, but also to express his displeasure in ways most of us only dream of daring to do. And when he sees beauty and wonder in the world, he is rhapsodic—even evangelical.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Bryson’s capacity for wonder at the beauty of his adopted homeland seems to have only grown with time.” —The Washington Post
“Charming. . . . Traveling with Bryson is fun because he never sugarcoats the hassles, the overpriced crummy food that runs abundant in touristy places—and the absolute delight of finding unexpected sights or happenstance meetings. . . . Here’s hoping Bryson remains cranky and curious for many years to come.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Bryson is an entertaining travel companion. . . . He writes lyrically on the monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury. He is great on the joy of walking through the English countryside.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A gloriously funny read. . . . Bryson has no equal.” —Daily Express
“A funny and pleasant travelogue. Bryson can capture a place memorably with just a sharp phrase or two. . . . Wry and winning.” —NPR
“A prolonged and hilarious love letter describing Mr. Bryson’s 40-year relationship with his adoptive country. . . . A joyous tribute to British patience, stoicism, sense of fairness. . . . Generous, funny, modest and admirable . . . packed with great writing.” —The Washington Times
“Fascinating. . . . A worthy successor and sequel to his classic Notes From A Small Island. . . . You could hardly ask for a better guide to Great Britain than Bill Bryson.” —The Miami Herald
“The history of a love affair, the very special relationship between Bryson and Britain. We remain lucky to have him.” —Financial Times
“Is it the funniest travel book I’ve read all year? Of course it is.” —Michael Kerr, The Daily Telegraph (London)
“Everybody loves Bill Bryson. . . . He’s clever, witty, entertaining, a great companion . . . his research is on show here, producing insight, wisdom and startling nuggets of information.” —The Independent on Sunday
About the Author
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On the other hand, the angry old man stuff gets tiring. His liberal use of the word "idiot" evidences a real inner anger he ought to get under control. A poor government worker just doing their job by enforcing a rule isn't just wrong in Bill's eyes; he is an idiot...some lower being to be scorned for doing his job. It is an attitude the author has, and it is both tiring and troubling.
I finally figured it out, though. I love travel because of the people on the way that I meet. Bill loves travel despite the people on the way that he meets.
Also, often politics enters many of Bill's books but never to this extent. The section on immigration Bill, sadly, embraced a straw man argument to stake out a position no one disagrees with.
Being a logical person myself, seeing this descent into the illogical abyss left me wishing I had read a different book.
Still, it's got 2 stars because there was a lot of interesting information. I've made 6 trips to the UK and I was often taking a new tidbit of info Bill exposed then looking up more information.
My wife is determined to see the Ridley Mounds described in the books. I wonder what future generation will completely misinterpret the structure. This begs the question of how much guessing do we do looking at the many ancient structures. Was it really a super religious site, or someone's fanciful whim, or something in between.
I just found it hard to enjoy the fun information combined with the straw man arguments pushing a liberal perspective yet at the same time bashing the actions of liberal government.
Top international reviews
He starts off, almost on the first page, by stating what appears to be a pre-emptive get-out clause for his carping and negative attitude throughout the book: I Am Getting Old. At just five years younger than Bill, I was at first surprised by this claim - it would never have occurred to me to use my ‘advancing’ years as a justification for being smart-alecky and sarcastic to underpaid and overworked members of the service industry, who are of course not permitted to answer back - then I became irritated by his frequent variations on this ‘oldy’ theme. However, as the book went on, it did start to read more and more like the tedious and repetitive ramblings of someone in their early anecdotage. Stories told in other books were rehashed in slightly different words (once again we are told that the British have the ability to derive happiness from trivial things, especially a cup of tea and a biscuit, and that old people love eating from Tupperware containers on trains), and a very limited armoury of axes were thoroughly and repeatedly ground:
This town/village used to have a butcher’s, a bookshop and a post office in its high street, but they’re gone now, so f*** it
I would have had this bus/tube compartment/ferry all to myself if it wasn’t for those pesky and idiotic fellow-passengers, so f*** them
This view was lovely/agreeable, largely because I had it all to myself. Or it was spoiled because other people were selfish and inconsiderate enough to be there at the same time as I was, so f*** them
All local authorities, councils and governments are unbelievably stupid, irresponsible and destructive, so – well, you get the idea…
And what on earth is his problem with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography? Was his publishing company planning a rival product and had asked him to rubbish the competition to increase their sales?
I won’t even bother getting into his attitude to Scotland and the Scots in this book, but sadly, it seems that while Bryson has finally achieved his lifelong ambition of becoming an Official British Citizen, it is as the worst kind of stereotype: the comfortably well-off but nevertheless permanently discontented Englishman who likes nothing better than a good moan, snipe, or full-on rant about anything that mildly inconveniences or annoys him. Or is north of the border.
Sorry Bill, I won’t be buying you a pint in your local any time soon.
I haven't done yet, but I know I will.
Years ago, Bill Bryson captured my reader's heart with 'Notes from a Small Island.' This sequel did not disappoint. Yes, he is a little more curmudgeonly now, but he's older so I wouldn't expect him to sound naively optimistic.
He makes astute observations across so many aspects of British life, often hitting the nail on the head regarding the likes of HS2, Butlins, Blackpool, BT and litter. And he does it so well. His writing is easy to read, entertaining, amusing, interesting and shows him to be interested in the world around him.
Bryson fans will not be disappointed.
Bryson's love of the English countryside, his is amazing observation of character and grasp of intriguing (and sometimes useless) facts makes this book a joy to read. He really has nailed what it is to be quintessentially English and shows us what a glorious landscape it is to walk.
The book should be sponsored to come with a free pair of walking-boots.
This is much, much more enjoyable, travelling round Britain with an acerbic, amusing companion who shares so many of my opinions. I love his idea of being allowed 12 things to hate irrationally, and his idea for additional taxes and I couldn't disagree with any of them. Throughout the book I found myself nodding sagely at his observations of typical British quirks, from tea and cake to discussing the weather.
My main complaint of this book is that the map at the start doesn't feature all the places in the book and I found myself spending a lot of time checking exactly where they are and then reading more about them and whether I should go there. All in all an entertaining and amusing read which demonstrates his fondness for his adopted country and its eccentric inhabitants. We British truly are a race apart.
What Bill lacks in positive thinking he makes up with his tight research and prose. I wish I could write as well. He is now British (Hurrah!) by passing that biggest test of b*****ks the Citizenship Test or whatever they call it (most British people couldn't pass that nonsense so well done sir) but still views Britain slightly from an outsider's point of view, despite living here for 40 years. He hates litter and rates villages on their amenities (butcher baker candlestick maker) and that's all you need to know really. Apart from slating Johnny 2 Jags Prescott and becoming more acquainted with Katie Price.
Overall, a moany book with some funny bits in and a lot of honesty. Like staying in a leaky caravan in Rhyl with your petulant father. Enjoy.
"[T]he man behind the bar made a grave face. 'It's going to be at least an hour. We're a bit stretched tonight.'
'But there's nobody here,' I said with a hint of sputter.
The barman nodded grimly toward the kitchen. 'Chef's on his own out there,' he said as if he were crawling on his belly through enemy fire."
Along the way, he also muses on the essence of the UK (as seen through an American's eyes), which he describes as fair play, reasonableness, eccentricity, packed with history and staggeringly beautiful (at least as regards its countryside). As for the British character, he thinks we are the "the only people in the world who become genuinely enlivened when presented with a hot beverage and a small plain biscuit" [p472]. Nice.
Bryson's love of Britain (he now has British citizenship) is undiminished and is eloquently summed up in the final section of the book. On the way there we are treated to a series of sharply made and frequently hilarious observations about both places visited and how his thoughts about them relate to the state of the nation as a whole. Whether dealing with austerity ravaged high streets, encounters with churlish, ill-mannered or occasionally thuggish individuals or an over-priced sandwich in a run-down cafe, Bryson is the gentlest of curmudgeons. He always tempers his barely contained fury at falling standards or pretentious modishness with heartfelt celebrations of the British landscape, character and achievements. It is perhaps the older reader who has decades of memory of living in Britain who will most sympathise with his findings, his language startlingly (but enjoyably) crude at times.
For me the major theme emerging from the book is: although in the 20 years since he wrote Notes from a Small Island Britain has experienced much change, often very negative, it is still a great place to live. We should do our utmost to look after it.
Bryson surpasses all other travel writers with his wit, language and curiosity. Everything has a story, everything is interesting and everything demands a better look. His non-travel books are wonderful also, and having recently binged on At Home and The Life & Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid, I was delighted to see a new travel book.
As ever, B.B.'s meandering trip takes in the sights and smells (and beers) of places not generally found in travel guides, and along with his internal monologues we're invited inside to join him. Come on in. It's a lovely, warm, comforting place.
I look forward - as we always should - to the next book.
Of course there were many special moments in the book when his unbounded enthusiasm for his adopted country shines through along with his typically acerbic observations of the pettiness of life. But something of the magic of his earlier work was missing. Not sure why, but I felt there was more cynicism and nastiness typified by his railing against a worker at a McDonalds asking if he wanted fries with an order. Bryson comes across as something of a bully - which I don't recall at all from his earlier work.
There was also a blatant lie in the start of the book where he introduced the Bryson Line (the longest possible straight line between two points on the British mainland) and how this book would describe a journey broadly along this line from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath. What followed though was primarily a journey along the South coast and then around the South East. Why introduce this idea (which was a good one) and then ignore it?
Overall it was a good, quick read with plenty of amusing invective and interesting anecdotes. But it lacked charm. A shame.