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Notes From A Small Island [Paperback]

Bill Bryson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (305 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 1996

After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a few years, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him.

But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and Gardeners' Question Time.

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Notes From A Small Island + Notes From A Big Country + Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Aug 1996)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0552996009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552996006
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (305 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years ,but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK.

Photography © Julian J

Product Description

Amazon Review

Bill Bryson is an unabashed Anglophile who, through a mistake of history, happened to be born and bred in Iowa. Righting that error, he spent 20 years in England before deciding to repatriate: "I had recently read that 3.7 million Americans according to a Gallup poll, believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me." That comic tone enlivens this account of Bryson's farewell walking tour of the countryside of "the green and kindly island that had for two decades been my home."


"Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts" (The Times)

"Laugh-out-loud funny" (The Good Book Guide)

"Splendid... What's enjoyable is that there's as much of Bryson in here as there is of Britain" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Bryson is funny because he is not afraid to give completely of himself" (Daily Express)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
There are certain idiosyncratic notions that you quietly come to accept when you live for a long time in Britain. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rib-tickling! 25 Aug 2004
My friend bought this book for me to read whilst i travelled solo to the USA.As i had a 7 hour wait in NY airport, i got stuck in to this. I'm sure every Newark Airport worker and visitor at that time thought i was a stark raving English loony! This is a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek book which simultaneously made me cringe with embarrassment (yep, we Brits actually DO the things he says) whilst puffing my chest out in pride at being British! Bryson takes the reader on a tour around Britain venturing from one end of the land to the other and I really felt like i was there with him, through the strife and rain (of course). His narrative is informative (i learnt a heck of a lot about my own country...from an American! Of all people!) and comical. He introduces the reader to typical (and not-so-typical) British folk and ponders over such things as the unanswerable question of 'where have all the red telephone booths gone?'. I never realised that i had such a beautiful, diverse land for exploration on my own doorstep. A hilarious, rib-tickling book which literally did have me snorting aloud with laughter (and consequently ducking my head in embarrassment!).Great for reading whilst on your travels.It MAY make you want to come back home...
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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
From the moment I picked this book up in WH Smith at Heathrow airport I knew that whatever else happened on my business trip to Istanbul, the journey was already worthwhile.
Bill Bryson has an insightful view of Britain and the British that can only come from living 'among us' for a considerable period.
His understanding of the British people is uncanny and more akin to that of a Brit who has lived in the US for a long time, rather than an American that has lived in Britain.
I spent much of my time while reading the book laughing out loud in public places (which I know is not the done thing for an Englishman - sorry !)
This book asks some of the same qustions I asked when I returned to my native Britain from a period living in the USA.
I finished the book in 2 days and immediately sought out the only English language copy of Bryson's other classic 'Notes from a Big Country' in Istanbul.
But that's another story...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars reminders of home 6 April 1999
By A Customer
I read this book during an extended period (12 months) working in Arizona. Having travelled extensively in my homeland, I found many of the comments Mr Bryson makes to be so true of my own experience. I laughed, smiled and maybe even wept as I was reminded of all the good (and occasionally not so good) things about Britain. Whilst Mr Bryson presumably wrote this book for his fellow Americans, much of the humour seems to be of a more English type, perhaps reflecting the darker more bleak humour of northern England where Mr Bryson lived for so long. The only thing that prevented me giving this book a 5 was that it made me homesick for the green hills and "dark satanic mills" of my beloved Lancashire (although reading "The Lost Continent" on returning to England did not provoke similar feelings for the USA).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LB's thoughts 26 Sep 2003
I have read and re-read Notes From A small Island more times than I can count! It is brilliantly written and Mr Brysons observations are hillarious. My favourite being the problems with a Kent Landlady and a counterpane!! I have read several of his books but this one does it for me every time. He is top of my 'People I would Like To have Round For Dinner' list!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book which makes you proud of Britain. 27 July 1999
By A Customer
Bill Bryson is grumpy and harsh, yet somehow he made my heart fill up with pride for our own little country. He had a hard time and sometimes he deserved it, he made some parts of Britain seem awful, yet he identified what it is about the nation that make being British very special. After a short holiday in my own country (which was reasonably miserable) I found it difficult to understand what it was that attracted so many foreign tourists. This guy explained it for me, and perhaps even made appreciated our own precious little island a bit more. And talk about laughing out loud. Read this book in the privacy of your home-unless you like rolling about on the ground hysterically in public. And have plenty of paper tissues on hand as it brings tears to the eyes (yes,it is really that funny). Never has there been a book with such hilarity and dry wit.Marvellous!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I'd never read any of Bill Brysons books before last week, and have now finished three! I found it easy to empathise with Bill - the places he stayed, the sights he saw, the people he met all sounded frighteningly familiar. Especially when he was visiting places I too have lived in or passed through I just had to keep on reading...did he go to the same awful B&B as I unfortunately stayed in? What did he make of the town I called home for three years? Compulsive reading. Having rapidly read Big Country and Walk in the Woods after this, I can't wait for to start on Down Under. Having also travelled extensively in Oz, I wonder if Bill loved the country as much as I do. I suppose that is the big appeal of these books for me - does somebody else view the world in the same way as I do!
I highly reccommend this book to anyone who has travelled in the UK, is thinking of doing so, or just wants a laugh!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Resonates so much with my own experiences when first coming to this isle. A very enjoyable read!
Published 9 days ago by beedle
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Funny as, as well as being disturbingly perceptive. Hard not to like....
Published 10 days ago by Gordon Shearer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Laugh out loud funny
Published 14 days ago by Duncan Calder
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all Brits and anyone remotely interested in this most...
It's taken me 21 years to get around to readingthis book after my parents raved about it back in the nineties. I wished I'd read it sooner. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Katongo
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and interesting
I loved this book, Bill Bryson has got the English totally Sussed, very funny and interesting.
Published 17 days ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy a paperback and pass it round
American Bill clearly loves we Brits, without being blind to our faults. This darkly comic tour of Britain by public transport has been read and re-read by family and friends. Read more
Published 23 days ago by London Lass
5.0 out of 5 stars I have yet to be disappointed by any of this author's
What a first class writer. I have yet to be disappointed by any of this author's work
Published 23 days ago by Kev
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing read
Really enjoyed reading this. He's a great writer, very funny
Published 25 days ago by Eve
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes good light reading
This is an easy to read and amusing book from Bill Bryson
Published 28 days ago by Mandy
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. I have read this book before and wanted ...
Excellent. I have read this book before and wanted it for my Kindle. My kind of humour and it is particularly good as I know a lot of the places Bill Bryson visited. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Shirley167
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