Book Review: Notes From a Small Island.

Bill Bryson Notes From a Small Island

It is time for another book review! I am slowly rehabilitating from my inability to read books, caused by insane amounts of novels I had to read during my English Literature degree, so I can finally start to fill up this category with more content.

The latest book I finished, in fact, half an hour ago, is Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson. Originally published in 1995, it is having a revival now that its sequel The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island was published  in October last year.

Bill Bryson Notes From a Small Island

Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson.

For those who have never heard of the book or Bill Bryson, he is an American author who became famous through books on language, history, science, and travel. For years, he lived in the UK and was also the Chancellor of Durham University, where I did my postgraduate degree last year. This fact, and the reputation of Notes to be the book that best represents Britain were more than reason enough for me to read it.

In Notes, Bryson takes the reader on a wander around the beautiful and sometimes peculiar island that we call the UK, as he is about to move back to his home country, the USA, and wants to see the country he became to love so much one last time before he departs.

Now, if you’ve ever been to Britain for more than just a short weekend trip or even lived there for a while, I highly recommend this book as it will genuinely make you laugh out loud. What I do not recommend, though, is reading it on the London tube or maybe the Transpennine Express, as laughing in public in the UK may be easily frowned upon. I mean, what would the (seat) neighbors say?

Bill Bryson Notes From a Small Island

I just love the cover design!

Bryson has a wonderfully charming way to observe the British and their country and to describe every little quirk and custom with humor. On his journey throughout the country, he describes the natural beauty of the landscapes and charming little villages along the coast, while his spirits aren’t easily dampened by the oh-so-notorious rainy weather. (But let me tell you, apart from Scotland and the area around Manchester and Liverpool, it really isn’t that bad at all.)

Starting at London, Bryson makes his way up north to Scotland, while commenting on the history, landscapes, and people of the country in a way that makes you feel a genuine warmth for Britain. Even though he also describes how poor or sadly run-down some cities and towns are, he always mentions beautiful tucked-away corners and never fails to emphasize the polite ways of the British people, always queueing, apologizing for being elbowed in the side by someone else, and saying ‘musn’t grumble’ whenever faced with something unpleasant. (Of course, this is a very short summary of mine and not intended to generalize!)

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book thoroughly, as I was reminded of my year in Durham and could relate to a lot of the details Bryson points out.

Why, it’s wonderful – a perfect little city – and I kept thinking: ‘Why did no-one tell me about this?’ – Bill Bryson on Durham.

On another note, not only did I read this out of pure nostalgia, but also as a kind of preparation, as I will be moving back to this wonderful island in less than two weeks! It’s absolutely crazy and I am not fully realizing what I am about to do, but the tickets are booked and I will be leaving next week Saturday. So stay tuned to find out more about my island adventures soon!

Bill Bryson The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island

The sequel, still on my to-be-read list.

One thought on “Book Review: Notes From a Small Island.

  1. There is a desire that seems to be building to travel outside of the U.S. Not sure when but your review of the book makes me want to read it and your review of the author makes me want to see what he sees. Thanks for sharing and good luck with the move (you know everything working in perfect timing).

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