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Notes from a Small Island [Hardcover]

Bill Bryson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Sep 1999
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the USA. Before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, he took one last trip around the UK, and in this book, he turns an affectionate but laconic eye on his adopted country.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; New edition edition (2 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385600739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385600736
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 621,009 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." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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
66 of 67 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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27 of 27 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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for Bill!.... 2 April 1999
By A Customer
Mark Brennan ( from Bristol, England Thank God for Bill.... There are very few writers of whom you think, I'd like to have a beer with that guy.. Bill Bryson is one such however. His ability to poke fun at us all, Brits, Americans, Europeans, and any number of other nationalities, is remarkable... and yet he does it with a kind of wicked charm that makes it nigh on impossible to take offence. Bryson caused me great embarassment when I read this book on a south-bound train from Leeds, as I kept emitting snorts of laughter which resulted in my fellow passengers moving to other carriages..
I love this book, and I love its American successor, Notes from a Big Country too. In this one, his whimsical tour through Britain and his reflections on what makes us the people and place that we are is truly hilarious.
Bryson has respect for those things which are most important in any country, but little respect for the traditional tourist trail and sentimental tripe. He can surely claim honorary Brit status, should he and the family (Mrs Bryson and the children, including "little Jimmy", the child that never was) ever plan to return to the UK.
A Walk in the Woods is also well worth a read, for those who got to know Bryson's old school friend Stephen Katz in the chronicle of their adolescent meander through Europe, Neither Here or There. He is a hardier man than he looks!
But of them all, Notes from a Small Island remains my favourite, because it reminds me why despite all my moans, I still love this country. Those who say Americans have no sense of irony have obviously never read Bill Bryson's book; he has it in buckets.
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7 of 7 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 Travel Guide? 22 July 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just why 'Notes from a Small Island' is classed as a travel book is beyond me. Reading this book will not tell you the top ten tourist attractions in Aberdeen or the best accommodation in Oxfordshire. This book is a deftly written, toe-curlingly humorous, semi-anthropological analysis of Britain and the British through the eyes of a genuine Anglophile.
From the moment he steps off the ferry and spends the night in a shelter on Dover promenade, Bill Bryson's fascination with all things British becomes a lifetime's work.
Often self-deprecating, openly admiring, occasionally critical. His journey encompasses the inexplicable - e.g. couples sitting outside a beach hut in a gale happily trying to read the Daily Mirror; the mundane - e.g. our collective fondness for small, hard, whitish biscuits; and the glorious - e.g. the staggering vistas of the Yorkshire Dales.
Like a good stand-up impressionist, Bryson again and again finds our defining tics, twitches and mannerisms which make his readers chuckle and wince in recognition. "Oh yes" you'll remark, "we do that don't we."
A lovely book that you'll return to often.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful
I have to read this once a year. Having grown up in England (I've lived the USA for over fifty years) This book brings back so many wonderful memories. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Richard Porteous
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Just before returning to America Bill Bryson decided to travel around Britain one last time using only public transport. Read more
Published 12 days ago by JanH
1.0 out of 5 stars So dissapointed!
I was so excited about reading this book, so incredibly happy when I finally got it... But very very very dissapointed... Waste of money, waste of time...
Published 13 days ago by Suzi
4.0 out of 5 stars Bryson classic
This should be, if it's not already, required reading in schools and those that either haven't read it or don't possess it are left the poorer for their lack. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Claxon
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a guide book
This is not a travel guide but very humorous stories about one man's travels throughout Britain. There are some very good descriptions of places but more than anything else this... Read more
Published 24 days ago by K. Grant
2.0 out of 5 stars I had to force myself to continue reading
I thought this was suppose to be a good read, but I really had to force myself to continue reading. There were some funny bits but most of the book was very hard to follow and... Read more
Published 29 days ago by redeyeblues
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Excellent from start to finish had me agreeing, reminiscing and totally disagreeing with the author at every turn of the page. Read more
Published 29 days ago by hazel
1.0 out of 5 stars Mental Health warning
Having so enjoyed Bill Bryson’s 'One Summer – 1927', I was much looking forward to the 'Notes from and Small Island/ Notes from a Big Country' after I spotted this compilation in a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Is It Worth It?
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This is so funny you have to really be careful if you're on the bus! Laugh out loud moments throughout - it's a really warm, funny and interesting read about Bill's time in Britain... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Heather
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing Ourselves Through Foreign Eyes
I did enjoy this.
I know it was written some years ago but this did not detract from my enjoyment. Read more
Published 1 month ago by I
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