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Notes from a Small Island

From the best selling author of A Walk in the Woods, comes this hilarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain. Check out more Bill Bryson.

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Publisher's Summary

After nearly 2 decades in Britain, Bill Bryson, the acclaimed author of such best sellers as The Mother Tongue, Made in America, and A Walk in the Woods, decided it was time to move back to the United States for a while. This was partly to let his wife and kids experience life in Bryson's homeland - and partly because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another. It was thus clear to him that his people needed him.

But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock on modern-day Britain, and to analyze what he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, zebra crossings, and place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey, and Shellow Bowells.

With characteristic wit and irreverence, Bill Bryson presents the ludicrous and the endearing in equal measure. The result is a hilarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain.

©1998 Bill Bryson; (P)1998 Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, Bantam Doubleday Dell, A Division of Random House Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (323 )
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4.4 (43 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Dave Lafayette, CO, USA 03-28-05
    Dave Lafayette, CO, USA 03-28-05
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    "Crackin' yarn, lad!"

    My path and Mr. Bryson's were reversed - I grew up in Yorkshire and have spent the last twenty years living in the US. This may not be the best guide book to the UK, but as a love letter to a wonderfully imperfect but perfectly wonderful place, I thought he nailed it. I got "the look" from my wife several times because I was laughing too loudly. I enjoyed this more than "A Walk In The Woods" and "I'm a Stranger Here Myself".

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simon Saratoga, CA, USA 05-01-03
    Simon Saratoga, CA, USA 05-01-03 Member Since 2001
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    "a funny trail"

    I enjoyed this episode in Bill Bryson's life. It was obvious that his adopted country was a place he loved dearly, and who could blame him after living the the "Dales" for so long; it's a wonderful place. But home always calls you, even after 20 years. His style of humor is always funny. I dont always agree with his opinions, but his writing is always amusing. I particularly enjoyed his chosen method of transportation and his appropriate lack of planning. It had me chuckling for hours.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bev Alton, IL, USA 09-20-07
    Bev Alton, IL, USA 09-20-07 Member Since 2003
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    "Idiocyncrasies of Anglophiles"

    Bryson writes so well that you regret the need to put his books down. His descriptions of the UK are right on, and his love of the place and of his family touch the reader in an unprepared for way. If you are traveling to the UK read this book, if you have ever traveled to the UK read this book, if you never intend to go anyway near the UK, read this book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Nightingale Florida 01-10-05
    B. Nightingale Florida 01-10-05 Member Since 2004
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    "Laughed Out Loud"

    I loved this book and listened to it twice! Bill Bryson's humor is rather dry, but so great. What fun.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 03-17-07
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 03-17-07 Member Since 2002
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    "typically satisfyiing bryson"

    While not my favorite of Bryson's books, still worth the listen. In the early part of the book, Bryson;s narration was a bit weak. Almost halfway in, it picked up in spirit, and carried us on.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darren South Jordan, UT, USA 06-15-03
    Darren South Jordan, UT, USA 06-15-03 Member Since 2001
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    "Fantastic"

    Bill Bryson could be a boon to Academia -- if the snobs would let him in. All his books are intelligently written with humor and a real knack to make you learn.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marilee Florida USA 01-03-03
    Marilee Florida USA 01-03-03 Member Since 2002
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    "A slow walk"

    I listened to this book while on a transatlantic flight to the UK. It had been years since I'd visited, and wanted to get into a good frame of mind for this journey. I've enjoyed Bryson's books, especially A Walk in the Woods and a Sunburned Country, so expected the piquant humor and eclectic observations of those books. Unfortunately, Bryson seemed unable to really enjoy this farewell journey around his Small Island. A mood of disappointment and detachment seemed to prevail. Of course there are moments of humor, moments of discovery to hear. But alas, the overwhelming mood is ennui. Bryson was ready to leave, to say goodbye, to his adopted small island and it shows.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
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    Ellen F Craddock 07-14-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Sorry - not a good narration"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I found the book difficult to like as a British reader having just moved to the US. The humour was a little too negative and down on the British but then got to the end and he indicated he loves the UK. For me that kind of humour is from someone who enjoys being miserable about everything. I like to hear people's opinions but even the things he did like about the UK he just mentioned as if you should be impressed that he found anything to like. He has not inspired me to want to read any more of his books.The things he does do well are to demonstrate that he has lived and breathed the UK and that his criticism and comments come from someone who has taken the time to get to know the country - that is why I give credit where due and rate him a 3.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Just be a bit more positive about the stuff he does enjoy about the UK!


    How could the performance have been better?

    I'm afraid Bill Bryson's voice drove me almost to delete the recording - he has a very dull and dreary voice with a particularly annoying intonation at the end of every sentence which probably lessened my enjoyment of the book as opposed to if I had read it.


    Could you see Notes from a Small Island being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Probably. Somebody with a permanent frown on their face, like Jack Dee. But that wouldn't work because he is already British and he is actually funnier than Bill Bryson


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Baltimore, MD, USA 01-27-04
    Michael Baltimore, MD, USA 01-27-04 Member Since 2002
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    "yawn"

    I agree with the previous reviewer "hatchling". And I would add that the real issue here is not that Bryson's mood was that of disappointment, but that he failed to relate that mood in an entertaining or philosophic way - and I think that the ability to do this is the most important feature of his other works. He is just going through the motions in this piece. I absolutely loved A Walk In The Woods and I will now try Sundburned Country based on hatchling's recomendation.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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