©1989 Bill Bryson; (P)2003 BBC Audiobooks Ltd.
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.
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.
Loving the audio books, that is all
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.
Comedy and history (or a combination of both) are my listening choices. Oh, and Bill Bryson.
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!
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.
I love listening to Audible books while doing my workouts in the gym. Have got through more books than I thought possible this way.
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.
This is a funny book, and it makes you laugh. Job done, it gets four stars. But, there is nothing extra in the book. There are no real insights into the American small town. Most of the book is about Bill himself. Everything is focused on him and his memories. Still, made me laugh....
"Count's stop laughing superbly read ."
So life like with a lots of humor
Down under by Bill Bryson (as well)
He is a great reader by any standard.
"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.
"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.
"Every bit as good"
As all the others he's released. Insightful and funny.
"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.
"Not what I have come to expect from Bryson!"
Slow paced and not with the cleverness I'm use to from Bryson.
He should have written the book much later in his career!
"Snide, mean-spirited, and humorless."
Not having listened to it in the first place. I have deeply enjoyed several other Bryson books, but this one was a horrible surprise.
His persistent and humorless attacks on everything American and Americans themselves were a surprising and unwelcome discovery in listening to this book. Even his almost non-existent acknowledments of American virtures were negated by constant caricatures of obese, ignorant, and bigoted Americans. Americans can and all too many times do exhibit such negative traits. Bryson seems to paint every American that he encounters with this brush.
Even assumming that there was any irony in Bryson's observations, the narrator for this book seems to be incapable of conveying it, in no small part because of the smouldering vitriol in Bryson's prose.
Bill Bryson left America to reside in the U.K. years ago. He returned to this country (for reasons that I cannot fathom from listening to this book) with a palpable disdain for America. I have listened to at least a half dozen of his other books. He has written often and well on so many non-American topics and locales, but his antipathy towards his native land was a palpable obstruction to any enjoyment of this book.
"Love Bryson, but this one feels dated"
I've read and loved many Bryson books - 1927, In a Sunburnt Country - but this one reads like the petulant college freshman returning after a semester abroad with an affected accent, ready to tell his fellow Americans everything that's wrong with their country and why Europe is so much better. It's strange, this one's actually much funnier than I thought Bryson could be, but the tone is just off. He goes off on random tangents about everything and only about half of his gripes are interesting. The rest of the gripes are just... gripey. I enjoy snark, but most of this is just grumbley.
Yes, of course. He's a wonderful writer in general, and even this one isn't *that* bad.
I like his voice, but he over-acts. I prefer the narrator to read, not act. This guy is definitely acting and adding specific character choices to every line read, whereas I'd prefer he just read it mostly flat and let me add my own.
No specific scenes, more a general tone complaint.
Bryson is great, but as a fan, I'd check out other titles first.
"Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?"
The whole premise of the book is weak. Driving around the middle of the country, avoiding freeways and stopping at tourist stops and eating at local diners appears to have not created any interesting insights by the author. It certainly did not make an interesting read for me. The authors focus on food quality and waitresses seemed like he should be writing reviews for DDD (diners, drive-ins and dives) on the Food Network. I have served my time living in Iowa and have lived in small towns in the 'fly-over' states, and I have visited many of the locations mentioned by the author. But I did not find his observations particularly novel or interesting. I am not offering any redneck/patriotic defensive about this part of the country but the author seemed to only reinforce out-dated stereotypes and the whole book seemed out of date (circa late 1980's early 1990's?). If you live on the coasts/large cities and have never ventured out to explore small town/middle-America - then you may find this book new and entertaining. Otherwise if you are a refugee from middle America - skip it - you already know this stuff.
The narration was very good. But even a great narrator can only do so much with a weak story.
His observations about Iowa City were dead-on. Some of his facts about locations were interesting - but too infrequent.
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