Bryson in Britain: the guy that makes getting coffee exciting

"Notes from a Small Island" by Bill Bryson.

Bill Bryson. He turns the mundane into the interesting; brushing his teeth, catching a train, eating out, become hugely comical. He loves the english language, it's obvious by his style of writing and his wonderful choice of words. When I pick up one of his books I always know that I won't be bothered by awful things such as words that do nothing except clutter up the page, and terrible grammar that makes you stop, put the book down, and bash your head against a cushion.

In this piece of non fiction, he takes you on a 6 week tour through Britain, visiting old cinemas, Chinese restaurants, crusty hotels, and multiple coffee shops. This book is travel entertainment at its peak. It isn't difficult to read, and it's more about Bryson than Britain. His travels and thoughts fill up page after page, but it isn't boring, I promise.

Travel articles on popular websites tend to be very practical - they include the best cafes to visit, market opening hours, and where to find the cheapest socks. These articles have a broad, generalised approach, similar to a travel guide. They are useful if you are going to travel to the place, whereas Bryson's book is personal and intimate, it has a distinct flavour that only he can create. His book is an account of what he did in cities, not necessarily what you would do if you went there. He includes a variety of uproarious situations described in detail and personal events that are highly relatable to most people.  It's like a compilation of the very things that people leave out of travel books: all the dirty secrets.

It's not a Sunday afternoon read, I read it chapter by chapter over the week. And had a little picnic with it too - by myself. That sounds incredibly tragic, but if you were me, would you want an annoying companion, who makes a habit of interrupting you with mundane comments every 2 minutes? So you have to put your book down and answer politely, pick your book back up, and by the time you've found your place again, you hear "That cloud looks like a cat, don't you agree?"

Didn't think so. It would also be a great read if you were on holiday yourself (Hawaii anyone?).

He is refreshingly honest, a great quality to have, but it didn't have me jumping out of my seat to travel. More often than not, he would whinge about a place rather than compliment it, but in the last chapter of the book he admits "I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.... [I] knew without doubt that I would be back."

I've never been to Britain myself, but from what I've heard he sums it up well. There are brilliant parts on the ethics of British people. I wonder what it would be like to be British and read it? Uncannily accurate? Hilarious? Astonishing? Cheeky? Offensive? But true?

I'm keen to read some more of his books, so any recommendations? Have you read Bill Bryson?

Madison xx

I like controversies. It's fun to express different opinions, and bounce ideas off each other - so feel free to comment your thoughts below. But please don't be offended if someone else's opinion is different than yours. Thank you.


  1. Lovely pictures! I just bought myself a set of milk bottles yesterday , they are so cute!
    Sophie Jenner
    Check out my latest blog post here! X

  2. i've never read anything by bill bryson but this books sounds brilliant!
    natasha // eyebrows, inc.


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