Review: Notes from a Small Island

Notes From a Small Island
Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I’m a fan of Bill Bryson.  It all started with A Walk in the Woods.  Yes, the book that was recently made into the 2015 movie A Walk in the Woods.  I really loved A Walk in the Woods when I listened to it on a long road trip.  Since, then I have read several of Bryson’s Books. I tried A Short History of Nearly Everything, but I was unable to finish it.  I found it very long winded and not very funny at all, but that was a long time-ago and I want to go back and try that one again.  Most recently, I read Shakespeare: The World as Stage.  I liked it.  I was not a stuffy history on all the Bards work.  It was very readable.

I’ve read a lot more of his works but let’s get back to Notes from a Small Island.  I checked this book out because I read the New York Times book review Bill Bryson’s ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ and I was very excited to read Bryson’s newest work.  But there was a problem.  This book is actually the second in a series.  I had not read the first.  You guessed it, Notes from a Small Island was the first in the series.  Written in 1995, the book follows Bryson around the UK as he tries to see some of his favorite places again and some places he has never seen.  The New York Times review of Notes from a Small Island was not as glowing as his newer work. Michiko Kakutani, gives his review that is not as I said glowing, but okay.  I wasn’t extremely excited to read an okay, book, but I thought well Mr. Kakutani doesn’t know Bryson, like I do.  I’ve read a lot of his work and I find him funny.

As he travels through the country largely using public transportation and walking he regales the reader with his dry pithy humor.  His particular humor does make me laugh, but it was often employed by making fun of famous (or at least known) personalities from the UK.  Example, “the landlord was as fat as…..  or the dense twit was worse than …..”  I just didn’t get these references.  This book seemed to be targeted at Brits.  At least to really understand these references.  That being said there is a lot of humor that you can understand, even if you don’t know anyone from the UK.

This YouTube video review of the book gives you a good idea of what I mean of the UK humor.  This obviously is done by a UKer:

Long blog post short, I gave this book 3 stars.  Just average.  However, if I had understood more of the jokes, this would have been an easy 4 star book.