Several months ago, maybe even a year, I saw Bill Bryson’s African Diary on the shelf at the bookstore. I had wanted to read it for some time simply because Bill Bryson wrote it. I love his work and this was one of the outstanding books of his I had yet to read. Well, when I saw it on the shelf, I passed on purchasing it – the book was too skinny at only fifty pages for the price. I wanted something more for my dollar and decided to go another route. But, when I was given a gift card for Christmas, I jumped on the chance to purchase a book from one of my favorite authors.
Bill Bryson’s African Diary is about his 2002 week-long trip to Kenya on behalf of charity CARE International to write about their work there and the country. He travels throughout the southern half of Kenya, all south of the equator, visiting refugee camps, slums and success stories in which CARE has a hand trying to help others.
Upon turning the first page, I was reminded of Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari in Bill Bryson’s African Diary. In Dark Star Safari, Theroux writes about how he spent time working in Africa for charities and that donating to them is a waste, since the African people learn to constantly rely on handouts instead of getting up on their own two feet and taking care of business. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible and Bill Bryson’s African Diary helped me realize that once again. It also helped remind me how little I like Paul Theroux and his arrogance, always considering Bryson to be a much more relateable author with a better sense of humanity.
I’m glad I purchased Bill Bryson’s African Diary and would highly recommend it to anyone, particularly those who enjoy excellent travel writing, Africa, or community service work. The story is touching, funny, and inspiring all at the same time. It is Bill Bryson at his finest, and shortest for that matter too. It may only be fifty pages long, enough to occupy and hour or two, but well worth the purchase considering a lot of time and money were donated to publish the book – all proceeds being donated directly to CARE International.
My only regret in reading Bill Bryson’s African Diary is that I didn’t do it sooner. I wish I had not passed up the opportunity to purchase it in the store so long ago, waiting instead to do so with the Christmas gift certificate. But, it is a lesson learned and story I’m now happy to own and a donation I’m proud to have made. Feel free to follow suit, I know you won’t regret it.