Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island

"Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it."After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson - bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people need...

Details Notes from a Small Island

TitleNotes from a Small Island
Release DateMay 28th, 1997
PublisherWilliam Morrow Paperbacks
GenreTravel, Nonfiction, Humor, Autobiography, Memoir, European Literature, British Literature, Biography, Audiobook, Comedy, Writing, Essays, Travelogue

Reviews Notes from a Small Island

  • Alissa
    Bill Bryson likes hedgerows, yelling at people, the English language, complaining, pretending to be a hiker, the fifth Duke of Portland, W.J.C. Scott-Bentinck, and himself. He tries too hard to be clever, and although you're being introduced to some interesting mental pictures ("a mid-face snack dispenser" for instance), and it's positively obvious how much he loves the English language and the art of writing, the lengths to which he goes can be ...
  • Diane
    This book combines several of my favorite things: travelogues, England, and the charm of Bill Bryson.It is the book version of comfort food.So you can understand why I instinctively reached for this audiobook on the the first day of my new job. I wanted something comforting. And humorous. And British.I was instantly gratified. Bryson begins his book about touring England by describing how intensely Brits will argue about distance and driving rout...
  • Algernon (Darth Anyan)
    Newsflash: I have a new entry into my Top Ten Authors (past and present) that I would like to invite to a night out at the pub for a session of heavy drinking and tall tales. Bill Bryson, with his sly humour and irreverent atitude towards tourism, is a strong contender for the top position right after my first experience of travelling in his company through the twisted back lanes of historical hamlets of his cherished island. Being both a persona...
  • Adrian
    I first read this book back in the late 90s, 20 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. This is my first re-read, and it was enjoyable, as good as the first read ? Hmm, probably not (which was a little disappointing), but still fun. I shall write more thoughts anon but shall leave you with Bill’s thought “ Hae ya nae hook ma dooky ? “Ok, so in the last couple of days I have been thinking about why this was a tad disappointing, and I think it was ...
  • Cecily
    After 20 years in England, Bill Bryson decided to tour Britain in 1995 by public transport over ~6 weeks and write a book about it.HUMOURThere are snippets of great humour and insight (“a young man with more on his mind than in it”; “carpet with the sort of pattern you get when you rub your eyes too hard”; in Liverpool, “They were having a festival of litter... citizens had taken time off from their busy schedules to add crisp packets, ...
  • Lisa Vegan
    It took me forever to read this because I was constantly picking it up and putting it down, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because it’s one of those books where it works to read it in this way, and I read so many other books during the times I took breaks from reading this book.Sometimes I just don’t like Bill Bryson as a man. There’s a smattering of things he writes that are cruel, crass, and otherwise makes him unappealing to me,...
  • Marti
    Ambling know-it-all wanders around the UK, complaining about architecture, getting drunk, finding delight in little, and generally having a hard time deciding where to eat (always Indian or Chinese in the end). It paints a pretty depressing picture of the UK, when I think his intention was the opposite. Plus, I really liked his book about traveling through continental Europe, so I don’t know what happened here. Also thought the scene where he t...
  • Darwin8u
    "One thing I have learned over the years is that your impressions of a place are necessarily, and often unshakably, colored by the route you take into it."- Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island It is really hard not to like Bill Bryson's travel books. Actually, it is hard not to like his dictionaries, travelogues, or explorations of: the Universe, the home, Shakespeare, etc. He is, essentially, our Falstaff. He stumbles from bus to train, from ...
  • Paul E. Morph
    I wasn't sure how much I'd get out of reading a book about my home country written by an American... but it turned out to be a joy. I hadn't realised, until I read the book, that Bryson had lived in the UK for many years. It gives him a rather unusual perspective on the place and makes for interesting reading.It also helps that I enjoyed his sense of humour. It's a little morbid at times; he makes a joke about the Zeebrugge ferry disaster at one ...
  • Petal X Planet
    Quite an entertaining book. Bryson is at his best when presented with oddities and eccentricities he can describe to, what he seems to presume anyway, a foreign audience who will be all agog at such just how different the British are. Its quite amusing to have our foibles pointed out by an American anyway, so this British person at least, enjoyed the book.
  • ·Karen·
    Mr Bryson has an entertaining line of patter, a nice, wry humour and he works very very hard to endear himself with the reader. Look, I'm a regular guy from Iowa who sometimes gets really narked at owners of undisciplined dogs and thinks hedgerows are A Good Thing and cars aren't. But that doesn't quite compensate for the fact that this is basically a catalogue of towns, hotel rooms and meals in restaurants - an amusing catalogue, but a catalogue...
  • Ben Babcock
    Since I moved to England this fall, I haven’t done too much travelling around the country. I’ve been to London a couple of times, neither of which I did much that could be described as a touristy; the same applies to my trips to Cambridge. I went up to Scotland during the half-term and had a good time there, but I’m looking forward to visiting a few other places around the UK. Until I do, travel writing like Notes from a Small Island will h...
  • Stacy
    I only got about a third of the way through this book. I was giving Bill Bryson one more chance to impress me, but he didn't quite do it. I would recommend this book for anyone who has lived in England, as many of the references in the book would escape someone who has not spent much time there. However, I was just never pulled in by his narrative. I felt like Bryson writes with a perennial smirk on his face, laughing at his own cleverness as he ...
  • Martin
    Britain viewed through an American's eyes.Although both the British and American speak English, their words and cultures are hilariously different.A quick look at the local magazines at a boarding houseI'd intended to turn in early, but on the way to my room I noticed a door marked RESIDENTS' LOUNGE and put my head in. It was a large parlour, with easy chairs and a settee, all with starched antimacassars; a bookcase with a modest selection of jig...
  • Mikey B.
    To start with I am a Bill Bryson fan. I laugh loudly at his humour which can be scathing. I love his travelogues. In this journey he travels through England, Wales and Scotland (but the last two probably make for only one-quarter of the book).Even though, aside from a few days in London some years back, I have not ventured in the British Isles I thoroughly enjoyed and felt a part of this trip with Bill Bryson. It was like I was sitting or walking...
  • Bradley
    I want to say this is the ultimate travelogue of a fascinating and exotic foreign country, but in point of fact, it's ENGLAND, and while it is fascinating and exotic even to people who are familiar with the English language, it is still ENGLAND.I don't know about anyone else, but I liked the disconnect. I especially liked all bits that made fun of the oddball naming conventions not limited to food or towns. But for other countries somewhat famili...
  • Trish
    Hm. I've been to England only once in my life (so far). Last year. I went to London only but I do like a number of things about Great Britain (Brexit not being one of them - surprise!). So of course I had to read our favourite grumpypants' take on it. Especially since it was yet another funny buddy-read with Jeff.The interesting thing I wasn't aware of is that Bryson isn't a Brit living in exile the US, but an American who married a British woman...
  • Anne
    I studied for a summer in Bath, adore Wimbledon, and I am a huge fan of Shakespeare and most of literary canon which can be defined as British Lit, so I think I've always had a special place in my heart for the UK, particularly England. Also, this was introduction to Bryson and I was enchanted with his witty and slightly snarky prose that teach and amuse simultaneously! A favorite moment: hiking in a rainstorm and reaching the summit to find a ca...
  • Trudie
    Ah, so Bill and I had a break-up around the middle part of this book. He was getting on my very last nerve with his sudden unfriendly outbursts to dogwalkers and jolly families enjoying cream buns. It was also rather tiresome, this carping about architectural eyesores. I get it, I do, but after a while one rather does think that the author would like Britain to return to the halcyon days, circa the late 1800s when no one had yet had the effronter...
  • James
    ‘Notes from a Small Island’ and ‘Neither Here nor There’ are Bill Bryson’s early travelogues concerning his journeys through Britain and other European countries respectively.Both of these books are the strongest and the funniest of Bryson’s earliest work and undoubtedly established his reputation (at that time) as a travel writer and commentator of repute, producing engaging and very entertaining travelogues. Now very much the Anglo-...
  • Zoe's Human
    Maybe it's because I've worked for 25 years in customer service, but listening to some middle-class dude complain about trivialities is not my idea of entertainment, it's work.In the main, the book was okay. There were some hilarious bits, however, much of the humor was in the form of grousing, which is not to my taste. I was thinking it was going to be a 3-star book as some bits dragged, but then . . . at page 274, so close to the end, I hit thi...
  • Dish
    It was hardly surprising to discover that the first book I finished in 2008 was one of my comfort re-reads. For these are the books I treasure, in the absolute certainty that whenever I feel bored, depressed, tired, lonely, miserable, or just over-whelmed by daily life I can pull them out and indulge in the healing power of the written word. And Bill Bryson's “Notes from a Small Island” must be recorded as the ultimate comfort re-read for an ...
  • Connie G
    Bill Bryson, originally from Iowa, had lived in England for the last twenty years. When he and his wife decided to move their family back to the States, he took a last trip around Britain. Except for a few days, he took only public transportation and hiked for seven weeks. Bryson traveled to Dover, London, the southern coast, then headed north through England, Wales, and Scotland, then back to his home in North Yorkshire.I especially enjoyed the ...
  • Kris
    This book is 30% random information about Britain, 10% witty humor, and 60% Bryson constantly complaining about what he thinks is wrong. At first the reading was amusing, and there are good passages that contain great cultural observations from an outsider's perspective, but Bryson is a biased, self-absorbed liberal, and his narrow-minded perspective often gets in the way of what could have potentially been a greater book. True, clever little obs...
  • Riku Sayuj
    Bryson, true to spirit, makes you laugh at everything about the place and fall in love with the place at the same time. No wonder for years the Brits have considered this the most representative travel book about themselves. Full review to follow.
  • Katie Lumsden
    I enjoyed this - a fun look at Britain and British life, a little out-dated now but thoroughly funny and insightful throughout.
  • Travelin
    Predictably, practically useless as a metric for tourism in England. Bill is in such familiar territory that he unfurls his self-centred self in full, spending whole pages describing the organizational skills of his favorite hotel and insulting anonymous people who crossed him 20 years ago. Still exceptionally written, funny and accidentally informative at times.Two examples of of great insightful humour:1) He spends a paragraph describing how th...
  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    Delightful stodgy British accent on audio version
  • Lizzie
    So, about a month ago, I moved to England from the U.S., to London. (Recently enough that it still feels a little bit preposterous to say.) One of the things we had to do, in packing our suitcases, was select which books we'd carry with us for the next several weeks and which would travel the long way inside a shipping container. If my count is correct, we brought 16 books with us, and this was one of my picks.I like Bill Bryson and I figured thi...