Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

Packing some books for my evening flight to New York on Monday reminds me of some of the most enjoyable books I’ve zipped through on flights, often having bought them at the airport on the way. Bill Bryson crops up a lot in this category.

The one I enjoyed the most on a flight back from the US a few years back is A walk in the woods about his trek on the Appalachian Trail. Having done my PhD on poverty in the US I knew about the Appalachians in terms of high rates of rural poverty and the struggle of some of the local people to get jobs and live above the poverty line. But I had no idea how magnificent the mountains themselves were until I read this book. It is so well written and brings the natural beauty of the place vividly right off the page. It instantly made me want to go and do the trail myself (still on my travel to do list).

I’ve also read and enjoyed his other travel writing. Notes from a small island is a hilarious cultural snapshot of Britain framed by a trip around it before returning to the US in the mid 90s, but filled with anecdotes from the twenty years he lived here from the mid 70s. I particularly liked his bad start to the country when encountering the B&Bs of Dover.

Neither here nor there follows him around Europe as a student backpacker. The lost continent is a delightful tale of traveling around small town America and Notes from a big country sees him examining the American psyche after his return from the UK. I also loved reading Down Under on my flight to Australia (see my previous blog).

I’d love to hear if anyone else has enjoyed Bill Bryson as much as I have, and if so what their favourite book is.