I have read too many serious travel books lately – heck, too many serious books in general if you want to throw in the likes of East of Eden and Les Miserables – and needed a break with something fun. Cue one of the world’s best authors in Bill Bryson. Notes From a Small Island had sat on my bookshelf for some time, all the while waiting to be read prior to my trip to England, so I decided to pick it up. After all, I’m hoping to make it across the pond this coming summer to see a friend who lives in the London area.
Although, it’d help if airfare and fuel prices would cooperate.
I knew author Bill Bryson lived in England for many years and so I assumed Notes From a Small Island was just miscellaneous jottings about his life there, kind of like his hilarious childhood memoir: Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I did not anticipate this book to be about a specific trip through England and Great Britain. But that’s what it is, his story of traveling from the south of England to the northern reaches of Scotland, and from the east side of the island to the west and then back again.
As is the case with all Bill Bryson travel stories, Notes From a Small Island is next to impossible to put down. Bryson’s keen eye and wit are so sharp that the story never becomes dull; it is always entertaining, right down to the last word, and a fine example of his amusing and relatable personality.
Notes From a Small Island, complete with a glossary of the Queen’s English translated to standard Americanized English, tops out at just over three hundered pages. And that is my one disappointment in the story: it’s not longer. Of course, truthfully, that’s my disappointment with any Bill Bryson story. I wish they all could be longer even though, in actuality, they’re the perfect length. Bryson could write a travel story the length of East of Eden or Les Miserables and not truly satisfy me, since I always want more.
I believe Bill Bryson shall long be remembered as one of the best authors from our time. And books like Notes From a Small Island are the perfect examples as to why. It’s not just entertaining and – dare I say it – laugh-out-loudable, but also informative as he relates a lot of interesting history of the places he visits. I highly recommend it as relaxing way to escape those all-too-serious books and enjoy a few laughs, whether or not you’re going to visit Great Britain.