Remember when I tried to sell you all on Nick Hornby?
Well, consider this my official sales pitch for Bill Bryson, travel* writer to the stars. Hilarious, astute, and terribly, wonderfully relatable, Bill Bryson is an exceptional travel companion, a discerning guide on adventures both far and near, and a cautionary tale (in all the best ways).
*He’s also written on a diverse list of non-fiction topics like science. I couldn’t figure out a clever way to work that in, though.
I’ve only read a few of his books, but only because I’m saving and savoring them with as much restraint as I am capable of. I can’t bear the thought that, eventually, he will die—probably before I do—leaving a finite bibliography behind him, and that at some point in the future, I will finish reading every last word he ever penned.
Earlier this week, I began reading A Walk in the Woods, one of his most beloved travelogues, in preparation for the soon-to-be-released movie version starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Emma Thompson. The book is so funny, and charming, and warmly written that I catch myself daydreaming about what my own
eventual hypothetical hike along the Appalachian Trail will would be like.
The point is: Read Bill Bryson as much and as often as you can. He’s like a lollipop for the soul. And if you don’t believe me, I dare you not to laugh at any of the excerpts below:
From I’m a Stranger Here Myself:
For reasons I cannot begin to understand, when I was about eight years old my parents gave me a pair of skis for Christmas. I went outside, strapped them on, and stood in a racing crouch, but nothing happened. This is because there are no hills in Iowa.
Also from Stranger:
The other day I called my computer helpline, because I needed to be made to feel ignorant by someone much younger than me.
From The Mother Tongue:
It was the practice of aggrieved citizens at that time to scratch a curse on a lead tablet and toss it with a muttered plea for vengeance into the spring. The curses were nothing if not heartfelt. A typical one went: ‘Docimedes has lost two gloves and asks that the person who has stolen them should lose his minds and his eyes.’
From In a Sunburned Country:
It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect.
And, finally, from A Walk in the Woods:
Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.