Mark Brennan (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.