The Lost Continent

Travels In Small Town America
Narrated by: William Roberts
Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
4 out of 5 stars (650 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Hardly anyone ever leaves Des Moines, Iowa. But Bill Bryson did, and after 10 years in England he decided to go home, to a foreign country.

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.

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    4 out of 5 stars

There are better Bill Bryson audiobooks

Is there anything you would change about this book?

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.

What other book might you compare The Lost Continent to and why?

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.

What didn’t you like about William Roberts’s performance?

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.

Was The Lost Continent worth the listening time?

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.

20 people found this helpful

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Not one of my favorites

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.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Bill Bryson does America like no-one else!

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.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Every bit as good

As all the others he's released. Insightful and funny.

6 people found this helpful

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One of Bryson's better books.

The author and narrator were great. Much credit to both who made this book very enjoyable on a roadtrip myself.

2 people found this helpful

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Laugh out loud. Wonderfully presented.

Bryson is always a fun read. This was the best-performed audiobook I've ever listened to.

2 people found this helpful

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Bill Bryson bitches his way from coast to coast!

I barely finished this. I love Bill Bryson, and maybe his own narration would have saved this for me, but the incessant whining and kvetching about the state of the union read so emphatically was trying. Maybe this was novel and clever during the Regan Administration (when this was written), but it's tiresome now. Not nearly as informative as his other works, either. Too bad I saved it as the last of his books to listen to. He's better on foreign soil, in his own voice.

5 people found this helpful

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I had no idea who he was.

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.

5 people found this helpful

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Written by Bryson's evil twin

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.

21 people found this helpful

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Count's stop laughing superbly read .

What made the experience of listening to The Lost Continent the most enjoyable?

So life like with a lots of humor

What other book might you compare The Lost Continent to and why?

Down under by Bill Bryson (as well)

What about William Roberts’s performance did you like?

He is a great reader by any standard.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

6 people found this helpful

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  • Miss
  • 04-13-13

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.

20 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Narny
  • 09-20-12

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!

10 people found this helpful

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  • Salter
  • 09-25-17

Really enjoyable road trip...

If you could sum up The Lost Continent in three words, what would they be?

I've long harboured the idea of a road trip across America, so I'm very jealous of Bill Bryson!
His account of this trip around his home country is very enjoyable. Must say that this stage that the narration from William Roberts makes this adventure even better. He perfectly captures Brysons personality, and that shines within this book.
Starting in his home state of Iowa, Bryson first heads East, visiting the deep south and up the eastern seaboard. After a very brief stop at home, he's off west, visiting the Grand Canyon, Vegas and many more places that he's wanted to see but never got around to. All the time, he's looking for the idyllic place that he's led to believe exists somewhere in the US.
Even if you're not interested in the road trip itself, the insight into Bryson is just great, and well worth having a listen and many laughs to.

9 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • andy
  • 11-30-09

Bill Bryson

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.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony
  • 07-12-13

Fantastic!

Where does The Lost Continent rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is without doubt the best audiobook i have listened to thus far.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The only real character in the book, the man himself, Bill Bryson!

Have you listened to any of William Roberts’s other performances? How does this one compare?

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!

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 10-01-09

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.

12 people found this helpful

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  • J
  • 08-20-17

I think I've listened to enough Bill Bryson

I was excited about this as I'd enjoyed other books by Bill Bryson until I realised these books are very similar so I gave up before the end but it only cost me £1.99p so I wasn't too disappointed

3 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 02-19-17

Déjà Vu?

Whilst amusing for the first 4 or 5 times, unfortunately Bryson's inimitable style of reviewing the places he visits become simply repetitive and dull, and by the time I'd reached Wisconsin I could take no more. The humour isn't terrible but just the same as so many of his other books. Couldn't finish this one. Narration is actually ok - fits Bryson's style just fine and not as annoying as some other reviewers considered.

9 people found this helpful

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  • M Alipah
  • 03-10-17

Classic Bryson, great narrator

Funny anecdotes from a roadtrip through rural USA. A great reading of a hillarious book

4 people found this helpful

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  • Len85
  • 02-15-17

Bit too cynical

I love Roberts's narration as always. Some of this was funny and Bill is always interesting; but he is so cynical in this book, verging at times to unpleasantness rather than ascerbic wit. I would give this a pass. Choose A Walk in the Woods instead.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-21-19

Worst Bryson Book

I don’t know what happened to Mr Bryson before he wrote this book but he should avoid doing it again! I love Bill Bryson, I have all of his books and re read them many times. He is normally funny, insightful and just a great writer. But this time, he is just so arrogant, supercilious and mean. His sense of self importance and intellectual and moral superiority is very unlike him. He continually demeans and ridicules the people he meets on his travels. He is continually writing in all of his books about manners and human decency and the lack of it. Unfortunately Mr Bryson needs to practice what he preaches. Avoid this book. Any of his other books are a better choice.

1 person found this helpful

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  • G. Harvey
  • 08-21-17

Half glass empty.

I love bill Bryson. but I found his writing in this book somewhat depressing. he was always complaining about something. the cost of everything, the quality of the food and the service. it just went on and on. in the end, I wasn't sad that the book ended. actially it was a bit of a relief and a disappointment at the same time. looking forward to my next bb book. I will steer away from this earlier stuff tho.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jay Hyett
  • 04-03-19

Great read / listen... a bit dated but still great

Really enjoyed this and in prep for an upcoming road trip in the US I’m even more excited. Some parts are a little dated but you’re going to get that in a travel book written 30 odd years ago. The story is quite humorous and enjoyable along the way.

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  • Lance Swift
  • 11-09-18

a nice wander through a foreign land.

I love the narrators voice. as a way of killing time, Bill Bryson's books are the best

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  • Richard White
  • 09-05-18

Great, funny, and informative book, narration leaves something to be desired though

I have read this book several times and therefore looked forward to the audio version. However, while the book is still as funny and informative about Bryson’s travels in search of the perfect U.S. town, the narration was less than engaging for me.
It may be because I’m a Brit, or perhaps because originally I had thought Bill Bryson was going to read his own book (I didn’t read the description well enough so mea culpa).
Still a great book to listen to, and the narrator didn’t detract too much for me. I am now going to search for Bryson reading Bryson if such a thing exists.

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  • oceanjasper
  • 10-19-16

Highly entertaining

This is the story of Bill Bryson's journey around America to try to reconnect with the home of his youth, and his general disillusionment with the America he finds. He visits historically significant places turned into incredibly commercialised and tacky tourist attractions, endures the mind-boggling insularity and repetitiveness of small town radio stations on his long days of driving, and remembers humorous experiences from his childhood.

William Roberts' narration is conversational and expressive, which really suits the material. We share the author's bewilderment at the multitudes of fat holidaymakers he encounters everywhere he goes, his fond ridicule of his father's clueless behaviour that made every childhood holiday a disappointment, and his hopeful search for parts of the perfect small town he calls Amalgam.

Bryson has a PG Wodehouse-like ability to use unexpected words very precisely to hilarious effect. I loved his made up place names like Fartville, Idaho or Spotweld, Indiana. I laughed out loud many times.

The Lost Continent is very funny but also a bit melancholy in its realisation that many of the charms of mid-century America are gone forever. In audio format it's a great listen.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jackson Dean
  • 06-19-16

very funny

this was most enjoyable , a very funny look at the usa. i must do a usa roadtrip one day!

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  • Sara
  • 06-18-15

Fascinating insight to small town America

Entertaining however its at least 25 years old now. I would love another Bryson road trip to compare the changes (or not?!)