In a Sunburned Country

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Press:Random House Audio Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (June 6, 2000)
Publication Date:2000-06-06
ISBN:9780553502596
Author Name:Bryson, Bill
Language:English

Content

Read by the authorNine CDs, 10 hoursJust in time for the 2000 Olympics-the bestselling quthor of A Walk in the Woods takes listeners on a truly outrageous tour Down Under.Compared to his Australian excursions, Bill Bryson had it easy on the Appalachian Trail.  Nonetheless, Bryson has on several occasions embarked on seemingly endless flights bound for a land where Little Debbies are scarce but insects are abundant (up to 220,000 species of them), not to mention crocodiles.Taking listeners on a rollicking ride far beyond packaged-tour routes, IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY introduces a place where interesting things happen all the time.  Leaving no Vegemite unsavored, listeners will accompany Bryson as he dodges jellyfish while learning to surf at Bondi Beach, discovers a fish that can climb trees, dehydrates in deserts where temperatures leap to 140 degrees F, and tells the true story of the rejected Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House.

From Publishers Weekly

With the Olympics approaching, books on Australia abound. 
Still, Bryson's lively take is a welcome recess from packaged, staid guides.
The author of A Walk in the Woods draws readers in campfire-style, relating wacky anecdotes and random facts gathered on multiple trips down under, all the while lightening the statistics with infusions of whimsical humor.
Arranged loosely by region, the book bounces between Canberra and Melbourne, the Outback and the Gold Coast, showing Bryson alone and with partners in tow.
His unrelenting insistence that Australia is the most dangerous place on earth ("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 irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback") spins off dozens of tales involving jellyfish, spiders and the world's 10 most poisonous snakes.
Pitfalls aside, Bryson revels in the beauty of this country, home to ravishing beaches and countless unique species ("80% of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, lives nowhere else").
He glorifies the country, alternating between awe, reverence and fear, and he expresses these sentiments with frankness and candor, via truly funny prose and a conversational pace that is at once unhurried and captivating.
Peppered with seemingly irrelevant (albeit amusing) yarns, this work is a delight to read, whether or not a trip to the continent is planned.
First serial to Outside magazine; BOMC selection.
(June) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Bryson toughs it out in Australia. 
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A new book by the world's funniest--and perhaps most eccentric--travel writer is always cause for rejoicing. 
Unlike many of his peers, who focus on typical destinations or touristy experiences, Bryson seeks out the odd, the little known, the one-of-a-kind, and the just plain weird.
In his latest offering, which chronicles his exploration of Australia, he introduces us to a town that went without electricity until the early 1990s, a former high-ranking politician who hawks his own autobiography to passersby, an assortment of coffee shops and restaurants (Bryson is particularly fond of meal breaks), a type of giant worm, and the world's most poisonous creature, the box jellyfish.
Bryson's use of language is unparalleled (he's also written two excellent books about the English language), and it is sheer delight to sink into his prose, especially his hysterical, enlightening, and sometimes moving descriptions of people and places we've never even imagined.
His books are, quite simply, among the best and most rewarding travel literature ever written--head, shoulders, and torso above most of the competition--and this new title is a guaranteed winner.
David PittCopyright © American Library Association.
All rights reserved

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Just in time for Sydney's upcoming Olympic games, this travel narrative from veteran wanderer Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.) provides an appreciative, informative, and hilarious portrait of the land Down Under.And so once more to the wandering road, declares Bryson--which is music to the ears of his many deserving fans. 
This time it is Australia, a country tailor-made to surrender just the kind of amusing facts Bryson loves.
It was here, after all, that the Prime Minister dove into the surf of Victoria one day and simply disappeared--the prime minister, mind you.
There are more things here to kill you than anywhere else in the world: all of the ten most poisonous snakes, sharks and crocodiles in abundance, the paralytic tick, and venomous seashells that will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you.
A place harsh and hostile to life, staggeringly empty yet packed with stuff.
Interesting stuff, ancient stuff, stuff not readily explained.
And Bryson finds it everywhere: in the Aborigines (who evidently invented and mastered oceangoing craft 30,000 years before anyone else, then promptly forgot all about the sea), in the Outback (where men are men and sheep are nervous), in stories from the days of early European exploration (of such horrific proportions they can be appreciated only as farce), and in the numerous rural pubs (where Bryson learns the true meaning of a hangover).
Bryson is still open to wonder at the end of his pilgrimage: the grand and noble Uluru (once known as Ayer's Rock) reaches right down into his primordial memory and gives it a stir.
I'm just observing that if I were looking for an ancient starship this is where I would start digging.
That's all I'm saying.
Bryson is a real traveler, the kind of guy who can be entertained by (and be entertaining about) a featureless landscape scattered with rocks the color of bad teeth.
Fortunately for him and for us, there's a lot more to Australia than that.First serial to Outside Magazine; Book-of-the-Month Club selection -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP.
All rights reserved.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"In the late afternoon, I stopped at a roadhouse for gas and coffee. 
I studied my book of maps .
.
.
Then, having nothing better to do, I leafed through the index and amused myself, in a very low-key way, by looking for ridiculous names, of which Australia has a respectable plenitude.
I am thus able to report that the following are all real places: Wee Waa, Poowons, Borrumbuttock, Suggan Buggan, Boomahnoomoonah, Waaia, Mullumbimby Ewylamartup, Jiggalong, and the supremely satisfying Tittybong."From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Read by the authorNine CDs, 10 hours Just in time for the 2000 Olympics-the bestselling quthor of "A Walk in the Woods takes listeners on a truly outrageous tour Down Under. 
Compared to his Australian excursions, Bill Bryson had it easy on the Appalachian Trail.
Nonetheless, Bryson has on several occasions embarked on seemingly endless flights bound for a land where Little Debbies are scarce but insects are abundant (up to 220,000 species of them), not to mention crocodiles.
Taking listeners on a rollicking ride far beyond packaged-tour routes, IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY introduces a place where interesting things happen all the time.
Leaving no Vegemite unsavored, listeners will accompany Bryson as he dodges jellyfish while learning to surf at Bondi Beach, discovers a fish that can climb trees, dehydrates in deserts where temperatures leap to 140 degrees F, and tells the true story of the rejected Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House.

From the Back Cover

Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door memorable travel literature threatens to break out. 
His previous excursion up, down and over the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime bestseller A Walk in the Woods.
Now he has traveled around the world and all the way "Down Under" to Australia, a shockingly under-discovered country with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on this planet.
In a Sunburned Country is a deliciously funny, fact-filled and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder and unflagging curiosity.Australia is a country that exists on a vast scale.
It is the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a country.
Despite being the most desiccated, infertile and climactically aggressive of all inhabited continents, it teems with life.
In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else: sharks, crocodiles, the ten most deadly poisonous snakes on the planet, fluffy yet toxic caterpillars, seashells that actually attack you, and the unbelievable box jellyfish.Wherever Bryson goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted and unfailingly obliging -- the beaming products of a land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine.
Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.

About the Author

Bill Bryson's many books include The New York Times bestseller A Walk in the Woods and, most recently, I'm a Stranger Here Myself.  He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire with his wife and their four children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1iflying into australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is. 
I am forever doing this with the Australian prime minister—committing the name to memory, forgetting it (generally more or less instantly), then feeling terribly guilty.
My thinking is that there ought to be one person outside Australia who knows.But then Australia is such a difficult country to keep track of.
On my first visit, some years ago, I passed the time on the long flight reading a history of Australian politics in the twentieth century, wherein I encountered the startling fact that in 1967 the prime minister, Harold Holt, was strolling along a beach in Victoria when he plunged into the surf and vanished.
No trace of the poor man was ever seen again.
This seemed doubly astounding to me—first that Australia could just lose a prime minister (I mean, come on) and second that news of this had never reached me.The fact is, of course, we pay shamefully scant attention to our dear cousins Down Under—not entirely without reason, of course.
Australia is after all mostly empty and a long way away.
Its population, just over 18 million, is small by world standards—China grows by a larger amount each year—and its place in the world economy is consequently peripheral; as an economic entity, it ranks about level with Illinois.
Its sports are of little interest to us and the last television series it made that we watched with avidity was Skippy.
From time to time it sends us useful things—opals, merino wool, Errol Flynn, the boomerang—but nothing we can’t actually do without.
Above all, Australia doesn’t misbehave.
It is stable and peaceful and good.
It doesn’t have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner.But even allowing for all this, our neglect of Australian affairs is curious.
Just before I set off on this trip I went to my local library in New Hampshire and looked Australia up in the New York Times Index to see how much it had engaged our attention in recent years.
I began with the 1997 volume for no other reason than that it was open on the table.
In that year across the full range of possible interests—politics, sports, travel, the coming Olympics in Sydney, food and wine, the arts, obituaries, and so on—the Times ran 20 articles that were predominantly on or about Australian affairs.
In the same period, for purposes of comparison, the Times ran 120 articles on Peru, 150 or so on Albania and a similar number on Cambodia, more than 300 on each of the Koreas, and well over 500 on Israel.
As a place that caught our interest Australia ranked about level with Belarus and Burundi.
Among the general subjects that outstripped it were balloons and balloonists, the Church of Scientology, dogs (though not dog sledding), Barneys, Inc., and Pamela Harriman, the former ambassador and socialite who died in February 1997, a misfortune that evidently required recording 22 times in the Times.
Put in the crudest terms, Australia was slightly more important to us in 1997 than bananas, but not nearly as important as ice cream.As it turns out, 1997 was actually quite a good year for Australian news.
In 1996 the country was the subject of just nine news reports and in 1998 a mere six.
Australians can’t bear it that we pay so little attention to them, and I don’t blame them.
This is a country where interesting things happen, and all the time.Consider just one of those stories that did make it into the Times in 1997, though buried away in the odd-sock drawer of Section C.
In January of that year, according to a report written in America by a Times reporter, scientists were seriously investigating the possibility that a mysterious seismic disturbance in the remote Australian outback almost four years earlier had been a nuclear explosion set off by members of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo.It happens that at 11:03 p.m.
local time on May 28, 1993, seismograph needles all over the Pacific region twitched and scribbled in response to a very large-scale disturbance near a place called Banjawarn Station in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia.
Some long-distance truckers and prospectors, virtually the only people out in that lonely expanse, reported seeing a sudden flash in the sky and hearing or feeling the boom of a mighty but far-off explosion.
One reported that a can of beer had danced off the table in his tent.The problem was that there was no obvious explanation.
The seismograph traces didn’t fit the profile for an earthquake or mining explosion, and anyway the blast was 170 times more power- ful than the most powerful mining explosion ever recorded in Western Australia.
The shock was consistent with a large meteorite strike, but the impact would have blown a crater hundreds of feet in circumference, and no such crater could be found.
The upshot is that scientists puzzled over the incident for a day or two, then filed it away as an unexplained curiosity—the sort of thing that presumably happens from time to time.Then in 1995 Aum Shinrikyo gained sudden notoriety when it released extravagant quantities of the nerve gas sarin into the Tokyo subway system, killing twelve people.
In the investigations that followed, it emerged that Aum’s substantial holdings included a 500,000-acre desert property in Western Australia very near the site of the mystery event.
There, authorities found a laboratory of unusual sophistication and focus, and evidence that cult members had been mining uranium.
It separately emerged that Aum had recruited into its ranks two nuclear engineers from the former Soviet Union.
The group’s avowed aim was the destruction of the world, and it appears that the event in the desert may have been a dry run for blowing up Tokyo.You take my point, of course.
This is a country that loses a prime minister and that is so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world’s first nongovernmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed.* Clearly this is a place worth getting to know.* Interestingly, no Australian newspapers seem to have picked up on this story and the New York Times never returned to it, so what happened in the desert remains a mystery.
Aum Shinrikyo sold its desert property in August 1994, fifteen months after the mysterious blast but seven months before it gained notoriety with its sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system.
If any investigating authority took the obvious step of measuring the area around Banjawarn Station for increased levels of radiation, it has not been reported.and so, because we know so little about it, perhaps a few facts would be in order:Australia 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 was the first continent conquered from the sea, and the last.
It is the only nation that began as a prison.It is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name).
It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else.
Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian.
Five of its creatures—the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world.
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.
Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too wont to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy but exceedingly venomous.
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 irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback.
It’s a tough place.And it is old.
For 60 million years since the formation of the Great Dividing Range, the low but deeply fetching mountains that run down its eastern flank, Australia has been all but silent geologically.
In consequence, things, once created, have tended just to lie there.
So many of the oldest objects ever found on earth— the most ancient rocks and fossils, the earliest animal tracks and riverbeds, the first faint signs of life itself—have come from Australia.At some undetermined point in the great immensity of its past—perhaps 45,000 years ago, perhaps 60,000, but certainly before there were modern humans in the Americas or Europe—it was quietly invaded by a deeply inscrutable people, the Aborigines, who have no clearly evident racial or linguistic kinship to their neighbors in the region, and whose presence in Australia can only be explained by positing that they invented and mastered ocean- going craft at least 30,000 years in advance of anyone else, in order to undertake an exodus, then forgot or abandoned nearly all that they had learned and scarcely ever bothered with the open sea again.It is an accomplishment so singular and extraordinary, so uncomfortable with scrutiny, that most histories breeze over it in a paragraph or two, then move on to the second, more explicable invasion—the one that begins with the arrival of Captain James Cook and his doughty little ship HMS Endeavour in Botany Bay in 1770.
Never mind that Captain Cook didn’t discover Australia and that he wasn’t even yet a captain at the time of his visit.
For most people, including most Australians, this is where the story begins.The world those first Englishmen found was famously inverted—its seasons back to front, its constellations upside down—and unlike anything any of them had seen before even in the near latitudes of the Pacific.
Its creatures seemed to have evolved as if they had misread the manual.
The most characteristic of them didn’t run or lope or canter, but bounced across the landscape, like dropped balls.
The continent teemed with unlikely life.
It contained a fish that could climb trees; a fox that flew (it was actually a very large bat); crustaceans so large that a grown man could climb inside their shells.In short, there was no place in the world like it.
There still isn’t.
Eighty percent of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else.
More than this, it exists in an abundance that seems incompatible with the harshness of the environment.
Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile, and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents.
(Only Antarctica is more hostile to life.) This is a place so inert that even the soil is, technically speaking, a fossil.
And yet it teems with life in numbers uncounted.
For insects alone, scientists haven’t the faintest idea whether the total number of species is 100,000 or more than twice that.
As many as a third of those species remain entirely unknown to science.
For spiders, the proportion rises to 80 percent.I mention insects in particular because I have a story about a little bug called Nothomyrmecia macrops that I think illustrates perfectly, if a bit obliquely, what an exceptional country this is.
It’s a slightly involved tale but a good one, so bear with me, please.In 1931 on the Cape Arid peninsula in Western Australia, some amateur naturalists were poking about in the scrubby wastes when they found an insect none had seen before.
It looked vaguely like an ant, but was an unusual pale yellow and had strange, staring, distinctly unsettling eyes.
Some specimens were collected and these found their way to the desk of an expert at the National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne, who identified the insect at once as Nothomyrmecia.
The discovery caused great excitement because, as far as anyone knew, nothing like it had existed on earth for a hundred million years.
Nothomyrmecia was a proto-ant, a living relic from a time when ants were evolving from wasps.
In entomological terms, it was as extraordinary as if someone had found a herd of triceratops grazing on some distant grassy plain.An expedition was organized at once, but despite the most scrupulous searching, no one could find the Cape Arid colony.
Subsequent searches came up equally empty-handed.
Almost half a century later, when word got out that a team of American scientists was planning to search for the ant, almost certainly with the kind of high-tech gadgetry that would make the Australians look amateurish and underorganized, government scientists in Canberra decided to make one final, preemptive effort to find the ants alive.
So a party of them set off in convoy across the country.On the second day out, while driving across the South Australia desert, one of their vehicles began to smoke and sputter, and they were forced to make an unscheduled overnight stop at a lonely pause in the highway called Poochera.
During the evening one of the scientists, a man named Bob Taylor, stepped out for a breath of air and idly played his flashlight over the surrounding terrain.
You may imagine his astonishment when he discovered, crawling over the trunk of a eucalyptus beside their campsite, a thriving colony of none other than Nothomyrmecia.Now consider the probabilities.
Taylor and his colleagues were eight hundred miles from their intended search site.
In the almost 3 million square miles of emptiness that is Australia, one of the handful of people able to identify it had just found one of the rarest, most sought-after insects on earth—an insect seen alive just once, almost half a century earlier—and all because their van had broken down where it did.
Nothomyrmecia, incidentally, has still never been found at its original site.You take my point again, I’m sure.
This is a country that is at once staggeringly empty and yet packed with stuff.
Interesting stuff, ancient stuff, stuff not readily explained.
Stuff yet to be found.Trust me, this is an interesting place.From the Trade Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

In Australia, Bill Bryson has an intrinsically fascinating subject: spaces extreme in their vastness, primeval landscapes and improbable creatures. 
His travelogue, sprinkled with history and contemporary culture notes, rarely rises much above this established level of interest, though the stories he favors about encounters with deadly animals, the triumphs and blunders of early explorers, and his own exploits are often amusing.
Although Bryson occasionally sounds like a disgruntled hotel reviewer, generally his even, placid reading allows the wonders of the place-ancient, stirring Uluru; foraging echidnas; dusty outback sunsets-and his experiences with them to come vividly to life.
J.M.D.
© AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Books on CD,Humor,Biographies & Memoirs,Ethnic & National,Australian,History,Australia & Oceania,Australia & New Zealand



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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     I have friends in Australia and this book was recommended as a good overall intro to the country, which I plan to visit for an extended time in the near future.
  •     I read this book after having just finished visiting Australia for 12 days. I heard about the book from one of our tour guides and only wish that I had know about it in advance. It is a mixture of history text, travelogue, and the author's personal adventures. All of these are held together by his dry humor which abounds throughout. During the course of his travels he manages to find a variety of out of the way and interesting things which he describes in such a way as to make me wish that I had seen them with him. Obviously, he visited a multitude of locations for which I lacked the time but where our paths "crossed" I can only say that his descriptions and impressions mirrored mine so I can safely assume that the locations which we did not duplicate are equally accurately presented. Whether you have visited Australia, are planning to in the near future, or never expect to make it 'Down Under" this book is an easy read that is, truly, difficult to put down. I've posted a few pictures of my experience. The first is Ayer's Rock (Uhura) in the outback. The second is an Australian sunset. The third is a salt water croc on a river near Durbin.
  •     Helpful guide
  •     Great book. Love the author. Wonderful stories about Australia. I was a bit disappointed in how quickly the book wrapped up. I wanted more.
  •     I can't read this book in public because I laugh like a crazy person when I read it.
  •     Don't bother
  •     After reading ‘A Walk in the Woods’ I was excited to pick up this book but ‘In a Sunburned Country’, isn’t as funny and as a result was a bit disappointing.
  •     Bill Bryson is best known for writing very humorous travel books, and "In a Sunburned Country" is indeed a funny account of his travels in Australia. Those who love Bill Bryson's books for their humor won't be disappointed.But unlike most people, I like Bill Bryson best when he's NOT trying to be funny, and my appreciation of this book is mostly due to the great amount of very interesting information presented.Bill Bryson amazes you with loads of information about the geology, the animal life, the plants and insects, the history, the statistics, the folklore, etc., etc. The many dangers: poisonous snakes, poisonous insects, poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles, sharks, and rip currents - they're all out to get you. The inhospitable deserts, the beautiful beaches, the huge distances; Bill Bryson gives you a feeling of what it's all like.The book goes into detail about many aspects of Australian life that are fairly unknown, including the discovery (and re-discovery) of Australia, the settlement by British prisoners, the early expeditions to explore the interior, the gold rushes, the outlaws, and the devastation caused by rabbits and other imported animals and plants. Bill Bryson talks about the many unusual animal species found only in Australia, including giant earthworms that grow up to 1 meter (and can be stretched to 4 meters) and the platypus, a cross between a reptile and a mammal. He talks about Australians and the Australian society, and the situation regarding the native people, the aboriginals.Bill Bryson doesn't cover all of Australia from the geographical point of view, and the parts he does cover are somewhat random. But that doesn't matter because he captures the spirit of the whole country based on the parts he does visit and the general information he includes.A very positive aspect is that Bill Bryson makes it clear that he loves Australia. The feeling is infectious, and it makes you want to pack your bags and head "down under" for a long leisurely trip so you can do your own exploring.If I were to mention two things I was less happy about, it would be the occasional excessive attempts to be funny and the lack of contact with Australians. One of the best parts of the book is about his traveling together with an Australian couple for 3-4 days, but other than this passage Bill Bryson is mostly playing the typical tourist, with little or no contact with Australians. And despite a fairly long discussion about the aboriginal situation he does not ever get into contact with any aboriginals. Why not?A final note regarding the unabridged audio version of the book, read by Bill Bryson himself: Most authors are poor readers, but Mr. Bryson does a very good job here, almost on a par with a professional reader. Recommended.Rennie PetersenPS. "In a Sunburned Country" has also been published under the title "Down Under". It is exactly the same book.
  •     Very pleased!
  •     Bill Bryson does quiet a lovely job describing Australia and many of its wonders. He tells a lively story with his travel log, covers a fair amount of Australia's history in...
  •     Another fun read from Bryson. I am ready to book a ticket to Australia as soon as my wife allows.
  •     Thank you, thank you, thank you, Bill. As a proud Australian, it has been a never-ending source of irritation that Australia is forever portrayed as a land of beer-swilling "yobbos" who say "cobber" and "fair dinkum" rather a lot. For instance, 'The Simpsons' - usually such a witty, clever and insightful show - completely missed the point in their Australian episode. Finally, someone has managed to capture a bit of the character of this great country. He releases it from the shackles of the Paul Hogan stereotype.This is a terrific read. Bryson has, mercifully, gone well and truly off the beaten track to explore many different parts of Australia - the cities, the outback, the tropics, and everything else in between. But as ever with a Bill Bryson book, more than the destination itself, the pleasure is in getting there. Laugh-out-loud moments abound, though perhaps more in the restrained way of "A Walk in the Woods", as opposed to the guffaw-fest that is "Neither Here Nor There".You don't have to be at all familiar with Australia to appreciate and enjoy this book. I am, sadly, one of those Australians to which Bryson refers that has never seen Ayers Rock / Uluru myself. In fact, I have never been to the majority of places Bryson visits. It was a revelation for me, too.Bryson once again recounts numerous historical and trivial anecdotes which, together with his unique view of the world, elevate this book well above the mere travel genre. This is insightful, this is informative, this is FUNNY.Perversely, my only criticism is perhaps that he likes Australia a little too much. God knows, I'm so pleased that he does. However, he is, I believe, at his best when distressed. Dull and drab places, and stupid, mindless people bring out the devil in Bill Bryson, and have always proven to be useful comic fair. There are elements of that here - his body boarding experience, his views on Canberra, and his trials and tribulations with hotel receptionists in Darwin - but at the end of the day, opportunities to vent his sarcastic wit are somewhat limited.Being an enthusiastic and devoted fan of the great Stephen Katz, I would also have loved to have seen him deal with the hardships of outback Australia. He would have absolutely LOATHED it.Read this book. It is a treat.
  •     One word: delightful.My wife and I recently returned from visiting our son Down Under. As a writer myself, I kept meticulous notes of my observations on our trip to...
 

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