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Notes From A Big Country: Journey Into the American Dream Mass Market Paperback – 16 Sep 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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  • Notes From A Big Country: Journey Into the American Dream
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  • The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (Bryson)
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  • Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe (Bryson)
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (16 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552997862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552997867
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Here's a fact for you. According to the latest "Abstract of the UnitedStates", every year more than 400,00 Americans suffer injuries involving beds,mattresses or pillows...That is more people than live in greater Coventry. That is almost 2,000 bed, mattress orpillow injuries a day. In the time it takes you to read this article, four Americans will somehow manage tobe wounded by their bedding.

Fans of Bill Bryson will know by now that this isthe kind of completely useless information that gets him excited. In fact, you are unlikely to read anyone else who derivesquite so much pleasure from meaningless statistics. If those statistics are about the USA (Bryson's homeland) or his adoptedEngland--or even better, comparing one to the other--then he is in heaven. And it is not only the uselessness of theinformation that interests him, but also the fact that Americans spend millions of dollars and hours each yearcollecting such data together.

Though not a match for his earlier success of Notesfrom a Small Island, Notes from a Big Country takes a good second place. It collects together more than 18 monthsworth of Mail on Sunday columns which Bryson wrote between October 1996 and May 1998 after he and his English wife andchildren returned to the US and settled in New England. The only thing that outshines his amazement--and sometimes,outright dismay--at the way American society has changed while he's been away, is his English-born family's instantembracing of transatlantic culture.

A word of warning: reading Bill Bryson is not aspectator sport...you are invited-- in fact, compelled--to marvel at how the nation that "has the largest economy, the mostcomfortably off people, the best research facilities, many of the finest universities and think-tanks, and more NobelPrize winners than the rest of the world put together" could be the same nation where "13 per cent of women cannot say whether they wear their tights under their knickers or over them. That's something like 12 million women walkingaround in a state of chronic foundation garment uncertainty." This is Bryson at his best, and though not every column inchhits the heady heights of underwear distribution, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep you satisfied.

Detractors of Bryson's work complain all his booksare the same, yet dedicated followers cite that very uniformity of style and subject as the reason they return, book after book. Anyone disappointed by A Walk in the Woods (Bryson's account of hiking the Appalachian Trail and not his best book) will have their faith restored by Notes from a Big Country--here Bryson returns to his favourite subject and the simple, journalistic prose that makes his wacky facts and observations instantly accessible.

Bryson does not pretend to deliver an intellectual treatise on the state of mankind; instead he offers one man's take on how humanity lurches from one day to another--ironically through the kinds of details he mocks others for collecting--Lucie Naylor

Review

"One of his best books" (Scott Bradfield Independent)

"Delightful bite-size essays that exude affection while debunking the ridiculous with wonderful succinctness... This is not a book to be read in a single sitting. It is one to be savoured" (Martin Fletcher The Times)

"Bill Bryson's answer to Alistair Cooke's Letter From America...not only hilarious but also insightful and informative" (Jeremy Atiyah Independent on Sunday)

"Bryson is great when explaining the idiosyncracies of America to middle England and making it funny... He is both serious and contemtuously funny" (Guardian)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book before moving to California in 1999. It was a fantastic way to prepare for the culture shock that ensued. I had a great time in the States, largely because I could recognise the absurdity that Bryson talks about.
His unique perspective (American living in Britain, moving back to the US) puts a delightful spin on all the things we Brits make fun of the Americans for. His wonderfully witty writing style is laugh out loud funny - especially beacuse it's all true.
So much American culture is already part of life here in the UK, I would say anyone will identify with this send up of all things from across the pond.
Great travel writing, very humorous and hugely entertaining!
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Much as I find myself trying to convince myself otherwise, I'm rather a fan of Bill Bryson books, his style of writing, his choice of places to visit. Notes from a Big Country is a little different to his other books as it's not really a book with a story at all - it's a collection of articles Bryson has written for a national newspaper.
Bill Bryson was born in Iowa, USA, moved to England in the late 70s and then returned "home" with his new family in tow. On his return, he wrote a weekly column for the Mail on Sunday's Night and Day magazine, about, well, pretty much whatever he wanted, and has now put them into a book.
Generally Bryson writes about things he missed from Britain, or things he cannot understand how he managed without - a same selection of topics include TV advert breaks, visiting a movie theater (cinema to you and me), weather and friendliness. Everything is written in the quite unique style of Bill Bryson which means that at times you feel rather sorry for him, and at times even more sorry for his wife!
I chose to read the book continuously which in hindsight I regret - far better to read a bunch of his articles, leave the book for a few weeks, read a few more and so on.
Definitely a recommended read - Bryson at his irrelevant best!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book on holiday and finished it on the way home on the airplane. I wonder what the guy in the seat next to me must have thought because I just couldn't help myself laughing out loud every few minutes. Once I even had tears running down my cheek, I was laughing so hard. This is definitely one of the funniest books I have ever read. It captures the US mentality and way of life so well and with such enormous humour. If you haven't read it, you've deprived yourself of a treat! Well done, Mr Bryson!!!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bryson brilliantly combines comic asides with the most serious of subjects. If you like Bryson's dry wit, you'll love this book. At first I didn't like the format (exactly four pages per chapter) but after a while I liked the thought that if I had ten minutes to spare, I could read a chapter. And new chapter, new topic. Brevity at its best.

My only regret is that I missed the columns when they appeared in The Mail on Sunday's Night and Day Magazine. Hope the editor intends to commission more soon.
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By A Customer on 9 Sept. 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Like the rest of the correspondants have said, this is a fantastic book that will have you laughing out loud. Without a doubt this is my favourite Bill Bryson book so far and is great to dip in and out of as each chapter is only 3/4 pages long and easily read in 5 mins. I can't pickup this book without knocking out 4 chapters and have re-read it on numerous occasions. I still, in moments of quiet reflection, wonder whether they ever found that small plane in the woods ?? Everybody I've leant this book to, has loved it and bought copies themselves or have gone on to buy his other books... I wish I was on commission ! Just buy it, you'll love it !
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bill Bryson is not only a witty travel writer, a deep connoisseur of the peculiarities of American English and one of the greatest homour writers of our age; he is also an acute and dispassionate observer of the defects and the petty follies of our fellow humans. In "Notes from a Big Country" he shows once more this ability of his in its full glory: after living in Britain for almost 20 years, he decided to go back to his native country with his whole family. So, whereas his wife and children are fascinated and charmed by their new life in the USA, he sets to criticize his fellow Americans with unquenchable humour and deep understanding of their inner worlds.
Some of the columns collected in this book will be regarded as outstanding specimens of Bryson's best prose: the columns on Xmas decorations, on plane travels, on computerand on the maddening tax system in the USA are small masterpieces that one can't read without feeling the urge to laugh out loudly, regardless of where one is.
My favoutite column is the one concerning seaside vacations; it chanced that I read it on a crowded noisy beach of the Adriatic Sea, amid busloads of German tourists and Italian holidaymakers. Needless to say, in Bill Bryson's witty pages I found something familiar...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bill Bryson has a somewhat unique point of view for writing a book on American life, born in America but living a long time in England before returning to America with his English wife and children. The result was a regular series of newspaper articles (unsure what newspaper) which are collected together here.
The articles are observant, witty, and wonderfully funny. Bryson is so normal and easy to relate to that the articles are infectiously funny, his strange obsessions and neuroses are not only hilarious but also quite sweet and infinitely endearing. His unique take on American life is what really drives the book since there's no continuous narrative of any kind due to the episodic structure.
I can't really describe the book in any particular detail except to say that this is something very funny that more than once an article is guaranteed to cripple you with laughter. You should really give this a try, you won't regret it.
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