The longest continuous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail stretches along the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine, through some of the most arresting and celebrated landscapes in America.
At the age of forty-four, in the company of his friend Stephen Katz (last seen in the bestselling Neither Here nor There), Bill Bryson set off to hike through the vast tangled woods which have been frightening sensible people for three hundred years. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and - perhaps most alarming of all - people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.
Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors.
'It was as if I had privately discovered life on another planet, or a parallel universe where life was at once recognizably similar but entirely different. I can't tell you how exciting it was. Insofar as I had accumulated my expectations of Australia at all in the intervening years, I had thought of it as a kind of alternative southern California, a place of constant sunshine and the cheerful vapidity of a beach lifestyle, but with a slightly British bent - a sort of Baywatch with cricket...' Of course, what greeted Bill Bryson was something rather different. Australia is a country that exists on a vast scale. It is the world's sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a country. It is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents and still it teems with life - a large proportion of it quite deadly.
In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in a very nasty way than anywhere else. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistable currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the bking outback.
Ignoring such dangers - yet curiously obsessed by them - Bill Bryson journeyed to Australia and promptly fell in love with the country. And who can blame him? The people are cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted and unfailingly obliging; their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water; the food is excellent; the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines. Life doesn't get much better than this.
'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to' And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn't hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. Travelling around thirty-eight of the lower states - united only in their mind-numbingly dreary uniformity - he discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land.
The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature - hilariously, stomach-achingly funny, yet tinged with heartache - and the book that first staked Bill Bryson's claim as the most beloved writer of his generation.
Bill Bryson's first travel book, The Lost Continent, was unanimously acclaimed as one of the funniest books in years. In Neither here Nor there he brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hamemrfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Fluent in, oh, at least one language, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before.
Whether braving the homicidal motorists of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant, window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn or disputing his hotel bill in Copenhagen, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations. He even goes to Liechtenstein.
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a few years, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him.
But before leaving his muchloved 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 of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and Gardeners' Question Time.
Bill Bryson goes to Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to working with local communities to eradicate poverty around the world. Kenya, generally regarded as the cradle of mankind, is a land of contrasts, with famous game reserves, stunning landscapes, and a vibrant cultural tradition. It also provides plenty to worry a traveller like Bill Bryson, fixated as he is on the dangers posed by snakes, insects and large predators. But on a more sober note, it is a country that shares many serious human and environmental problems with the rest of Africa: refugees, AIDS, drought, and grinding poverty.
Travelling around the country, Bryson casts his inimitable eye on a continent new to him, and the resultant diary, though short in length, contains the trademark Bryson stamp of wry observation and curious insight. All the author's royalties from Bill Bryson's African Diary, as well as all profits, will go to CARE International.
Illustrated with 8pp of colour.
Some say that the first hint that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came when his mother sent him to school in lime-green Capri pants. Others think it all started with his discovery, at the age of six, of a woollen jersey of rare fineness. Across the moth-holed chest was a golden thunderbolt. It may have looked like an old college football sweater, but young Bryson knew better. It was obviously the Sacred Jersey of Zap, and proved that he had been placed with this innocuous family in the middle of America to fly, become invisible, shoot guns out of people's hands from a distance, and wear his underpants over his jeans in the manner of Superman.
/> Bill Bryson's first travel book opened with the immortal line, 'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.' In his deeply funny new memoir, he travels back in time to explore the ordinary kid he once was, and the curious world of 1950s America. It was a happy time, when almost everything was good for you, including DDT, cigarettes and nuclear fallout. This is a book about growing up in a specific time and place. But in Bryson's hands, it becomes everyone's story, one that will speak volumes - especially to anyone who has ever been young.
Just before the start of the 2002 Wales v Scotland match in Cardiff, the stadium announcer asked people to stand and acknowledge Bill McLaren's great contribution to the sport. The whole ground rose, leaving McLaren choking back the tears. Then came a voice in his ear: 'Cue, Bill...' Coping with his emotions on that day was obviously not straightforward, even for a commentator of Bill McLaren's experience, used to being caught up in some of the most dramatic moments rugby has ever seen. But Bill also talks frankly about the greatest tragedy of his life: the death of his younger daughter from cancer at 46, the three years of agony and the trauma of her final day. Bill wanted to stay at her bedside but she insisted he go and carry out a commentating duty in Edinburgh on the Saturday afternoon. He did so, rushed back to the hospital, but she had died that afternoon while he was on air.
McLaren, himself, had almost died of TB in his youth and he tells of the days and nights when he hid under the sheets in bed at the Scottish hospital where he was kept for 19 months, 'crying myself to sleep each night as they took away my friends who had died that day. I was certain I would be next'. He has excellent memories of his war years and delves deep to recall some harrowing times as a forward observation spotter when he came within inches of being killed by a German sniper. Later, he also remembers leading his men one day into a small northern Italian twn where they discovered 1500 corpses piled up in the square. 'That was the day I became a man, rather quickly,' he says. He was 21.
As well reliving the highlights of his illustrious career as a commentator, Bill talks of the game today and his regrets that rugby went professional. He is a fierce critic of what this has led to and fears for the future health and safety of rugby players because he regards the modern game as dangerously physical. His story amounts to a history of the game itself and reaffirms McLaren's status as something of a global treasure.
Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller: but even when he stays safely in his own study at home, he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to find out everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us.
Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. It's not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the Earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?
On his travels through time and space, he encounters a splendid collection of astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists, like the painfully shy Henry Cavendish who worked out many conundrums like how much the Earth weighed, but never bothered to tell anybody about many of his findings. In the company of such extraordinary people, Bill Bryson takes us with him on the ultimate eye-opening journey, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
William Mason is arguably America's greatest ever jewel thief. During a thirty-year career he charmed his way into the inner circles of high society and stole over $35 million worth of fabulous jewels from people such as Armand Hammer, Phyllis Diller (twice), Bob Hope, Margaux Hemingway, Truman Capote, Johnny Weissmuller and even the Mafia.
Along the way he seduced a high-profile Midwest socialite into leaving her prominent industrialist husband, nearly died after being shot in a robbery, tricked both Christie's and Sotheby's into fencing stolen goods for him, was a fugitive for five years and the object of a nationwide manhunt, and yet spent a total of less than three years in prison despite the best efforts of law-enforcement agencies from several states as well as the federal government.
Shadowy, elusive and intensely private, Mason has been the subject of many magazine and newspaper features, but no journalist has ever come close to uncovering the true story. Now, in his own words and with no holds barred, Nine Lives: Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief reveals it all, and the real story is more incredible than any of the reporters, detectives or FBI agents who pursued Mason ever imagined.
Bill Bryson turns away form the highways and byways of middle America, so hilariously depicted in his bestselling The Lost Continent, for a fast, exhilarating ride along the Route 66 of American language and popular culture.
In Made in America, Bryson de-mythologizes his native land - explaining how a dusty desert hamlet with neither woods nor holly became Hollywood, how the Wild West wasn't won, why Americans say 'lootenant' and 'Toosday', how Americans were eating junk food long before the word itself was cooked up - as well as exposing the true origins of the G-string, the original $64,000 question and Dr Kellogg of cornflakes fame.
Buy this book at once and have a nice day!
From perfectly formed potatoes to adulterous US presidents, and from domestic upsets to millennial fever, Bill Bryson just cannot resist airing his opinions and standing up for his (mostly) law-abiding fellow American citizens. But of course after twenty years in England, he is now back on the other side of the pond, and is obviously having a little trouble finding his true American self again.
After vigorous exercise on the Appalachian Trail comes this edited collection of Bryson's most splenetic comic pieces culled from his humorous regular column in the Mail on Sunday.
This celebration of the English countryside does not only focus on the rolling green landscapes and magnificent monuments that set England apart from the rest of the world. Many of the contributors bring their own special touch, presenting a refreshingly eclectic variety of personal icons, from pub signs to seaside piers, from cattle grids to canal boats, and from village cricket to nimbies.
First published as a lavish colour coffeetable book, this new expanded paperback edition has double the original number of contributions from many celebrities including Bill Bryson, Michael Palin, Eric Clapton, Bryan Ferry, Sebastian Faulks, Kate Adie, Kevin Spacey, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, Richard Mabey , Simon Jenkins, John Sergeant, Benjamin Zephaniah, Joan Bakewell, Antony Beevor, Libby Purves, Jonathan Dimbleby, and many more: and a new preface by HRH Prince Charles.
What does history really consists of? Centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - sleeping, eating, having sex, endeavouring to get comfortable.
And where did all these normal activities take place?
This was the thought that inspired Bill Bryson to start a journey around the rooms of his own house, an 1851 Norfolk rectory, to consider how the ordinary things in life came to be. And what he discovered are surprising connections to anything from the Crystal Palace to the Eiffel Tower, from scurvy to body-snatching,from bedbugs to the Industrial Revolution, and just about everything else that has ever happened, resulting in one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live.
A selection of spellings and usages, covering capitalization, plurals, abbreviations and foreign names and phrases. This book also helps the readers with the difference between British and American usages, and includes information such as the names of all the Oxford colleges, or the new name for the Department of Trade and Industry.
Britain's writer of narrative non-fiction, the author travels back in time to a forgotten summer when America came of age, took centre stage, and, in five eventful months, changed the world for ever. This book spins a story of adventure, optimism and energy.
What does history really consist of? Centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - sleeping, eating, having sex, endeavouring to get comfortable. And where did all these normal activities take place? At home.
This was the thought that inspired Bill Bryson to start a journey around the rooms of his own house, an 1851 Norfolk rectory, to consider how the ordinary things in life came to be.
And what he discovered are surprising connections to anything from the Crystal Palace to the Eiffel Tower, from scurvy to body-snatching, from bedbugs to the Industrial Revolution, and just about everything else that has ever happened, resulting in one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live, enhanced in this new edition by hundreds of stunning photographs and illustrations.
November 2009. An emaciated young lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, is led to a freezing isolation cell in a Moscow prison, handcuffed to a bed rail, and beaten to death by eight police officers. His crime? To testify against the Russian Interior Ministry officials who were involved in a conspiracy to steal $230 million of taxes paid to the state by one of the world's most successful hedge funds. Magnitsky's brutal killing has remained uninvestigated and unpunished to this day. His farcical posthumous show-trial brought Putin's regime to a new low in the eyes of the international community.
Red Notice is a searing exposé of the wholesale whitewash by Russian authorities of Magnitsky's imprisonment and murder, slicing deep into the shadowy heart of the Kremlin to uncover its sordid truths. Bill Browder - the hedge fund manager who employed Magnitsky - takes us on his explosive journey from the heady world of finance in New York and London in the 1990s, through his battles with ruthless oligarchs in the turbulent landscape of post-Soviet Union Moscow, to his expulsion from Russia on Putin's orders.
Browder's graphic portrait of the Russian government as a criminal enterprise wielding all the power of a sovereign state illuminates his personal transformation from financier to human rights activist, campaigning for justice for his late lawyer and friend. With fraud, bribery, corruption and torture exposed at every turn, Red Notice is a shocking but true political roller-coaster that plays out in the highest echelons of Western power.
Some trips are chosen, others choose you. When tragedy strikes Bill Carter's life he finds himself drawn to a war zone. In the modern heart of darkness, the besieged city of Sarajevo, we meet a man rebuilding the ruins of his former self in the most unlikely of places.
Carter joins a maverick aid organization, 'The Serious Road Trip', and dodges snipers to deliver food and supplies to those the UN can't reach. He makes friends with the artistic community of Sarajevo and fights alongside them for survival in a place where food and water are scarce, where you meet death every day, but crucially where life, love and laughter ring out all the same. Carter takes his journey one surreal step further and enlists the help of major rock band U2.The ensuing events go no small way to influencing the course of the war and Western awareness of it.
WINNER: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER READER AWARD FOR BEST TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 WINNER: BOOKS ARE MY BAG READER AWARD FOR BEST AUTOBIOGRAPHY OR BIOGRAPHY 2016Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation's heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.Now, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed.Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, by way of places that many people never get to at all, Bryson sets out to rediscover the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly unique country that he thought he knew but doesn't altogether recognize any more. Yet, despite Britain's occasional failings and more or less eternal bewilderments, Bill Bryson is still pleased to call our rainy island home. And not just because of the cream teas, a noble history, and an extra day off at Christmas.Once again, with his matchless homing instinct for the funniest and quirkiest, his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives us an acute and perceptive insight into all that is best and worst about Britain today.