Review 1308: Notes from a Small Island

Cover for Notes from a Small IslandBill Bryson had been living in England for about 20 years when he and his family decided to move back to the States. Before he left, he decided to take a seven-week trip around England, mostly using public transportation. Notes from a Small Island, published in 1995, details this trip. He interrupts the journey occasionally to tell stories about how he came to England on vacation and stayed.

Bryson is always an entertaining tour guide, because he is voraciously curious about everything and has lots of obscure stories to tell about the places he visits. His sense of humor is sometimes juvenile but often amusing.

In this book, he takes a winding route through the country that includes more obscure or unusual destinations than the common tourist stops. During the trip, he comments on the things he likes and dislikes, particularly his disdain for the number of historical buildings that have been torn down and replaced by ugly modern ones.

I found this a particularly interesting route, because Bryson visits as many places of little distinction as he does others, sometimes spontaneously hopping a train or bus to an out-of-the-way destination. So, we hear about thriving communities as well as those that have not fared as well. This, by the way, is also a hallmark of his later book about traveling in England, The Road to Little Dribbling, in which he revisits some of the same towns and reports on how they have done in the intervening time. In many ways, the books together are sort a of sociological and historical study rather than travel books, but always entertaining.

Related Posts

The Road to Little Dribbling

At Home: A Short History of Private Life

A Walk in the Woods

3 thoughts on “Review 1308: Notes from a Small Island

  1. Silvia January 24, 2019 / 11:09 am

    I have A Walk in the Woods, but never got to reading it. That may change now I’ve read your review. I like what you tell about how this is written. It surely makes me want to travel.

    • whatmeread January 24, 2019 / 1:22 pm

      I liked that one okay. Its humor has more to do with the situation of two out-of-shape friends hiking, but he does tell a lot about the Appalachians. I like his more travel-oriented books best.

      • Silvia January 24, 2019 / 2:26 pm

        Good to know. I may go for a more travel oriented one, and turn this one for credit, (I like travel books best, and have no time for secondary books)

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