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.
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A wittily incisive book about innocence, and its limits, but in no sense an innocent book... Like Alan Bennett, another ironist posing as a sentimentalist, Bryson can play the teddy-bear and then deliver a sudden, grizzly-style swipe... might tell us as much about the oddities of the American way as a dozen think-tanks - Independent
A funny, effortlessly readable, quietly enchanted memoir... Bryson also provides a quirky social history of America... he always manages to slam on the brakes with a good joke just when things might get sentimental - Daily Mail
Characteristic mixture of bemused wit, acerbic astonishment and sweet benevolence... Evocation of an era is near perfect: tender, hilarious and true - The Times
Outlandishly and improbably entertaining... inevitably [I] would be reduced to body-racking, tear-inducing, de-couching laughter - The New York Times
Seriously funny - The Sunday Times
Hilarious... not your typical travel writer - Sunday Telegraph
Funny, wise, learned and compulsive - GQ
Not only hilarious but also insightful and informative - Independent on Sunday
Always witty and sometimes hilarious... wonderfully funny and touching - Literary Review
Bill Bryson is much loved for his bestselling travel books, from The Lost Continent to Down Under, but Notes from a Small Island has earned a particularly special place in the nation's heart (a national poll for World Book Day in 2003 voted it the book that best represents Britain). His acclaimed A Short History of Nearly Everything won the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. He has now returned to live in the UK with his wife and family.