In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America.
From the Deep South to the Wild West, from Elvis' birthplace through to Custer's Last Stand, Bryson visits places he re-named Dullard, Coma, and Doldrum (so the residents don't sue or come after him with baseball bats). But his hopes of finding the American dream end in a nightmare of greed, ignorance, and pollution. This is a wickedly witty and savagely funny assessment of a country lost to itself, and to him.
©1989 Bill Bryson; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
As a longtime devotee of Bill Bryson, I was hugely disappointed in this book. Mr. Bryson somehow left his sense of humor on the dock at Liverpool and returned to America expecting to be disappointed, disillused and dismayed. He was not disappointed. His journey throughout the heartland, south and west of the United States is related in condescending, humorless, and unforgiving fashion that leaves the reader wondering why he did not catch the next plane back to the UK. Predictably nothing he finds approaches the quality, charm, beauty or intelligence of the UK or Europe for that matter. It is an unhappy journey amongst people he finds it impossible to respect and through a land barren of charm or beauty. Worst of all, Mr. Bryson does not narrate this but it is done by Mr. Roberts who seems to turn even the slightest bit of humor into a long, cold look down his long English nose. I couldn't wait to finish this audiobok and would not recommend it to anyone not looking to bash the US at every turn.
This is one of Bryson's earliest books, published in the late 80's. As such, it lacks much of the humor that balances his snarkiness, leaving a book that seems to have been written by a curmudgeon. Americans have a lot of issues, but I found the book mean spirited. I also couldn't figure why he chose to travel during the cold, rainy season when some of the prettiest parts of the west weren't accessible. Maybe he wanted a better comparison with life in England.
So life like with a lots of humor
Down under by Bill Bryson (as well)
He is a great reader by any standard.
My girlfriend suggested I listen to this and I had my doubts, but I figured I had little to lose as I am always looking for a good book to listen to. I listened to this while doing a 1000km drive through my home province and a lot of what was being said really sank in and made me laugh. It's a dated book but very good.
Bill Bryson's ability to sum up a character in a few well-chosen words, combined with his insight into the American psyche, make this a highly enjoyable and easy-to-listen-to book. I loved it - from beginning to end.
If the author made an attempt to conceal his obvious dislike for small town America.
The author clearly thinks that he is better than all these poor unfortunate souls who simply are not smart enough to leave their small towns. He left his small town and went to London...I guess that alone qualifies him to judge others. What a small unfortunate man.
Excellent work by the narrator. I will look for other books read by this talented man.
I have listened to every one of Bryson's audio books here on Audible.com.
I really like Bryson. He makes even the most mundane topics engrossing.
And it's not that he completely hates America. A Short Walk where he talks about hiking the Appalacian Trail is wonderful and very positive.
But in this early book his nastiness on American is not just palpable, it's suffocating.
In addition, instead of Bryson's warm, folksy reading that I have come to enjoy, William Roberts's reading makes even warm thoughts on America come out snide and snarky.
I pushed myself to listen to the whole thing so I would feel entitled to write a review.
But if I could, I would have rewound the tape to erase it from my brain.
Have the older, kinder Bill Bryson go back in time and take this journey. While some of his commentary was both hilarious and heartwarming, like many other reviewers, I was startled at how mean-spirited this book could be in comparison to Bryson's later works. He is comparatively positive about Iowa and the Midwest, as he waxes nostalgic about his childhood in Des Moines (and as an Iowan myself, I both confirm his assessment of our state and breathe a sigh of relief that his memories were good ones!) His commentary on other regions, particularly the South and Appalachia, was gratingly negative. Perhaps he was still in the process of finding his comedic voice, but I often found myself sympathizing with the unassuming and often kind people he was lampooning. The reader choice did not help matters any.
Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.
This is Bryson at his most...curmudgeonly...and William Roberts was perhaps not the best narrator for this task. My first encounter with this book was of the dead trees variety; I noticed the negative tone then, but Roberts seemed to draw it out in the worst way, making the narrator seem even more smug, arrogant and rude, when Bryson's voice tends to be more self-deprecating and light-hearted. The advantage of this version is that it is unabridged; perhaps I was better off with my old beaten-up paperback, read in my head with Bryson's less irritating voice.
If you are a Bryson fan, perhaps try to find a version that he reads himself.
On the whole, I would still recommend the book, but not as an introduction to Bill Bryson if you haven't read any of his stuff before. He's less of a jerk in his later books, so if you've read Neither Here nor There, A Walk in the Woods, or Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, you'll approach The Lost Continent in a more forgiving mood. This is his first major book, and he's still honing his voice.
It's also worth listening to simply because you can see the connections between his travels and topics that he covers in his later works, for instance, his near-visit to the Biltmore Mansion vis-a-vis his lengthy treatment of the Vanderbilt family in At Home: A History of Private Life. Don't expect that level of research in this book--this is primarily a travelogue--but it is interesting to get a glimpse of the context behind some of his more recent nonfiction books.
no, I would recommend the abridged version as it's read by the author Bill Bryson.
all of bill bryson books...as long as they're narrated by him.
"The road trip you're dying to take"
I won't be the first person to tell you that Bryson is smart, funny, and has absorbed British sarcasm by osmosis so seamlessly that it almost trumps us when narrated in the velvety American accent of the actor on this audiobook. Small town America is pulled apart, examined forensically by each of its cast of stock characters and institutions, and then put back together with a new-found affection by both you and the author. This book is like dismantling an old Chevy, finding that it still works, restoring it and then driving it around proudly. You'll feel both the European distaste for anything nouveau that Bryson has adopted, and the universal pull towards Americana. Brilliant.
"Worth the subscription on its own .."
What a gem! Tasked with a new routine that involved more bus journeys, I popped this on my 'pod to accompany me to work. Bad idea. I find very few things make me laugh out loud in public but this is most definitely an exception. On more than one occasion I found myself biting into my fingers to suppress a snort of laughter when all else was calm. He writes like blokes in the pub talk; with honesty and vivid descriptions of events where you can actually see them without being there. There's the occasional expletive thrown in but used in such a way as to reveal his true feelings in certain situations. The narrator Roberts is perfect, I'm sure Bill approves.
Have listened to this book and found it brilliant,very well written by Bryson and great narration by William Roberts. Fantastic wit, some informative insights into rural American small town life, and great when he throws in the odd 4 letter word. I will be downloading all Byrson books in the near future but only the ones with Roberts narrating, he does a wonderful job.
They make a great team. If you are like me and have looked at these books and were not sure if you would like them, just listen to one.
This is without doubt the best audiobook i have listened to thus far.
The only real character in the book, the man himself, Bill Bryson!
This is the first time i have listened to a William Roberts performance, the man is an absolute genius. I found myself still sitting in my car long after i had parked up, still listening to him. I couldn't tear myself away!
Apart from laugh most of the way through it, the book also brought feelings of nostalgia and that heart warming feeling you get from remembering the good times when you were a child.
I would highly recommend this audiobook to anyone i know, and everyone i don't! It is expertly read and a joy to listen to from start to finish. Another gem from Bill Bryson.
"Mr Bryson does it again.....excellent."
Once again another great listen from a Mr Bryson book. His trip around nearly all the US states has it all, pride, shame, fear about his homeland but above all it's really funny. You certainly cannot accuse Mr Bryson of being completely (and typically) gung-ho about his country and compatriots and he does tell it how it is. I certainly would recommend having a map of the country handy too so you can try and follow his progress.
As for the Roberts vs Bryson debate that other reviewers mention, I think they are both great narrators. So there!
"A great trip around 80s USA"
I very much enjoyed listening to The Lost Continent, but don't consider it the best of the audible versions of Bill Bryson's books. I preferred reading the print version, but it was still interesting, and full of facts and funny characters.
In other Bryson books I've enjoyed listening to William Roberts, but not so much in this one, he seems to over act a little which is unusual and rather annoying.
I couldn't listen to this in one sitting, but on the plus side it kept me going quite a while!
"Not up to the hype!"
Having done several road trips around America, I don't feel this book did it justice. There are of course tedious things along the way and some odd balls, but most people are friendly and interesting in their own way. I did laugh out loud several times (I listened to about 90 minutes) at things like the bizarre lack of information on US road maps and road signs (accurate), but Bill Bryson's relentless disrespect for decent people as he poked fun at them offended me. It soon became clear that this 'humour' would constitute most of the book, so I will be getting a refund on this one.
If your idea of humour is laughing at people because they are overweight, have a learning disability or have simple lives, this might be for you. If you have more respect for your fellow humans, move along in your search!
"Bill Bryson says what we'd like to say but don't!"
witty, incisive, educational(!)
The USA - such a diverse country
Spot-on. His voice matches Mr Bryson's acerbic wit perfectly.
You won't believe the things Bill Bryson sees!
I have had this book on tape which has worn out due to the number of times I have played it so it was a joy to discover this on download. It still makes me laugh - don't listen whilst driving unless you don't mind the odds looks from other motorists.
"funny in most parts"
Bryson has an easy&enjoyable style that makes it easy to get into his books
Im assuming it is just due to the time the book was written but there are several passages that just seemed sexist or condesending.that aside it was a good book
"A great read"
Funny, informative, interesting
Bill tells the story of his travels so well. There is humor and facts, which makes for a really good listen.
I listened to Down Under by Bryson also narrated by Robert's and he narrates well, very enjoyable to listen to.
The book was very well written and kept me listening for longer than I had time for.
Bill Bryson writes the most enjoyable and interesting factual books and travel journals. Well worth a listen.
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