IMPORTANT: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IN PUBLIC!
I’ve made that mistake with a Bill Bryson book before. Hint: shaking and crying with laughter on a packed train ain’t a way to win friends. And holding it in doesn’t help: it will burst out in an extremely unattractive snort. I read this in bed on a sick day from work, and I fest about a thousand times better afterwards. I was free to belly laugh/snort/giggle til I cried and no-one would be any the wiser.
Notes From a Small Island is an account of Bryson’s farewell tour of the UK – he had lived here with his English wife for years, and had children, and they were due to move to the US for a while. Armed with only a train timetable and a rucksack, he takes in the highlights of England, Scotland and Wales in just seven weeks.
So far, so travel guide: but Bryson is so much more than that. Not everything he says is complimentary; there are parts of the UK that he clearly detests. yet his tone is so genial, self-deprecating and downright hilarious that you are left feeling really proud to be British. I was left with an urge to visit corners of my own country that I’d barely heard of, let alone been to.
Famously, Bryson is particularly effusive in his praise for Durham and its cathedral. As a result of his comments in the book, he is now the Chancellor of the University of Durham. He also adores the British countryside, and is the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
To give you an idea of how enjoyable this book is, it’s the only non-fiction book that has made the top 100! If you haven’t read it, read it now. Come borrow my copy, if you like. If you have read it, then move on to Notes From a Big Country or A Walk in The Woods, both equally as hilarious.
Now I’ve moved on to Dracula. So far, easy on the belly laughs, hard on the FEAR.