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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2001
The first book by Bill Bryson I read was "A walk in the woods", and I could not imagine any book to be funnier and wittier. Then, one day, I saw "The lost continent", bought it, read it - and had to change my opinion. In this book, Iowa-born writer Bryson, who has moved to Great Britain some years ago, becomes homesick, borrows his mother's rusty car and makes a journey across small-town America. It was great fun reading and enjoying all those acerbic commentaries about everyday life in the U.S. On his journey, Bryson has to deal with lots of displeasant accidents - unfriendly waitresses, weird (and warty) gas station attendants, bad hotel rooms, ugly shopping malls everywhere, mentally retarded radio dj's (who are fond of playing "Hotel California" by the Eagles every ten minutes) and so on. His travel leads him to Cape Cod, the Grand Canyon and the Great Lakes, and there are lots of funny depictions of life in those places as well as worried remarks about fast-food culture throughout the U.S. You really can feel Bryson's affection for his home country, and that's why this book is so entertaining.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2004
This book started a complete new genre of travel writing.
It appeared on the bookshelves unannounced some time ago.
It slowly began to gain momentum for Bryson purely on the strength of the quality writing and it's apparent new style.
It became a massive seller, as have many of his subsequent books.

Before Bryson travel books were DULL and polarised.
Byson took the shine off the glossy travel books and created a new type of writing - maybe REALITY travel writing?!

For those of you who went on cheap holidays, and visited poor `attractions` as a kid, this re-lives it all.

It's about America, but there are so many similarities in the UK. When something is c**p he tells it like it is; when it's quality, he also gives praise.

Brysons offerings since have been variable - now he knows he has an audience to please.

Many writers have tried to follow him; some more successful than others. Don't forget Bryson was there first.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I like Bill Bryson. For me, he has the greatest wit of any travel writer.
The Lost Continent is a very entertaining book anyway, but Kerry Shale brings the characters Bill meets to life. Take the Mississippi policeman Bill meets at some traffic lights. 'Yawwwwwwwwnnnn vaycayshun...? How'd'y'laaaaak Misuppy?' the cop asks. Bill has to ask him three times to repeat himself because he simply doesn't understand the outsize drawl the man has. Finally, he thanks the cop profusely for his patience and drives off, pondering the wisdom of giving such dangerously stupid people a gun and squad car...
Alongside these straightforward amusing vignettes, he does still make a lot of interesting observations about small-town America. He even lets on some of his secrets for saving money. When visiting Historic Williamsburg, don't drive up the main driveway cos that'll only cost money. Just drive round the back and you can get in for free...
Packed full of humour, observations and tips, this is ideal for listening to in the car, especially with Kerry Shale's inimitable voice. You'll find yourself imitating some of his best lines to yourself, and wondering how on earth they sound so much funnier when he says them!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 1999
I've just finished The Lost Continent and am still recovering from the experience. Bill Bryson's devastating wit and keen perceptions are right on target. I had tears rolling down my face, collapsing in helpless laughter when reading about tacky souvenir shops in Savannah and Gatlinburg and pig-out marathons in Pennyslvania Dutch restaurants and boring nonsense on historical markers. He never misses an opportunity to zing Americans for their lack of taste but he also lovingly describes scenic back roads and the few small towns that are still thriving, or are at least interesting (especially if they resist the lure of fast food chains and WalMarts). Anyone who went on endless car trips as a kid will definitely love this book. I must read more by Mr. Bryson!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I beleive this is BB's first travelogue, and I have only just got round to reading it, after finding it buried in the depths of my collection of "books I must read", which keeps getting bigger rather than smaller.

Was it worth the wait? Yes. Bryson, having spent a number of years in the UK returns to the US, and starts a journey to find "Amalgam", the non-existant American "Dream Town". On his way to find his mythical Utopia Bryson comments in his wry manner on a number of things; the American plate, radio, motels, baseball etc etc. The short chapters and his wry style make it very readable for anyone with an interest of the US, or indeed travel in general. My favourite scene is his visit to the Grand Canyon engulfed in fog, and his meeting with a couple of honeymooners..... a laugh out loud moment - one of many littered throughout the book.

Why not 5 stars? I just felt at times, some of the comments were a little repetitive, but is that an indication of the state of that nation? Did he find Amalgam? Read it and find out? You will not be disappointed and will find the journey with Bill amusing and informative, a style which he really develops on in all his later travel books.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 1999
Bryson takes us on a journey through small town America, strictly on the by-roads, in search of that American Nirvana that he calls "Amalgum". Poignant comments and humourous reflections upon the new society on the way, together with many bizarre and macabre historical references make this an excellent holiday read.
For those who have ever travelled outside of the cities in the U.S., and witnessed the social mix which is as varied as the weather across this vast land, this will sate your appetite for a definitive view of American culture. Bryson sees what is now, and with subtle yet hilarious use of personal reflection and historical counterpoint manages to capture the essence of his America.
Excellent cadence, depth and colour. There is a little of him in all of us, and he knows well how to reach it. A beatifully sublime book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2011
Being a keen reader of Bill Bryson's books 'The Lost Continent' was one of his books I have probably picked up least often which is such a shame!

In the book Bryson takes a 13,978 mile roadtrip around the North, East, South and West of The United States in his Mother's car.

What I like about the book is that Bryson doesn't just visit and discuss the big cities he is actively looking for his fictional town of Amalgam a town which would be exactly like what he saw in the Films and TV shows of his childhood.

This being one of his earlier books where Bryson was still finding his style does prevent me scoring the book five stars.

That being said being filled with interesting anecdotes and his unique sense of humour I would highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
NOTE THIS IS A REVIEW FOR THE ABRIDGED AUDIO version of The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson read By Kerry Shale.

I love all of Bill Bryson's Books and bough this one on cassette back in the day.
So, when presented with a really cheap price for this two CD disc set of the book I decided to invest in another copy.

The first thing I noticed was that this edition is just 2 CDs long.
Would there be absolute drastic cuts from the novel?
I'd had thought 4 CDs would be just right for the abridged version.

I have enjoyed the narrator Kerry Shale's other narrations of numerous audio books- just type in Kerry Shale on Amazon and stand back as the list goes on and on.

Shale is excellent hence his popularity as a narrator so we have a win win situation.
A great book read by a great Narrator but the length?
I need not have worried for Shale reads this book at a heck of a pace.
I was reminded of a Gattling Gun by the sheer speed and number of words he gets out in a minute.
Don't get me wrong you hear and understand every word Kerry says and it makes sense but he does not waste a moment in the telling.

For a review about the books contents then other reviewers have written, at length about this.

All you need to know is that the book is entertaining, humorous and read so darn well by Kerry Shale- a really good buy for this cheap as chips price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 November 2008
When Billy Bryson wrote this book Nancy Reagan was still twitching the net curtains at the White House. 4 presidents later counting the president elect to date and could it be that this book is still relevant and contemporary? I haven't been to the states myself but seeing the recent election and the excitement engendered by some middle american farmers for a woman shooting a moose the answer must be 'Yes indeedy doo, you betcha'

Billy B moves from one crudbucket town to another with hilarious opinions, spending nights in seedy motels in beds that sometimes appear to have been vacated by a horse, eating fast foods in diners with views of parking lots once the scenes of important battles. Visiting wax works and souvenir shops selling pictures of farmers on escalators and baseball caps with turds stuck on the brim, sometimes coming across fabulous scenery even, his comments are often scathing but also warm hearted.

Aside from farmers with tanned arms and necks sporting missing fingers and limbs, his poor old dad is the main butt of his humour. BB claims that his dad was even more penny pinching than himself with his butane gas cooker and obsession with only going to free places.

I am sure that the USA is an amazing place and I look forward to visiting to see for myself but for now am very appreciative to live in the UK with it's long established culture and excellent public service broadcasting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I read this on holiday recently and couldn't put it down; ideal entertainment as it's easy to read, funny, but equally does make you think on a deeper level now and again. Bryson's comments and observations can be deceptively sharp at times. This book is around 20 years'old now, and yet back then he was talking about the US motor trade going under, and the incredible but true notion of the the Americans simply not knowing about their economy sliding into recession (the last big one.) It really does prove that what goes round, comes around.

Effortlessly readable, this is probably the best Bill Bryson I've read to date. Recommended.
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