I’m A Stranger Here Myself

May 30, 2006

Published by Broadway Books
Written by Bill Bryson
304 pages; $14.95; black and white with color cover

Inspired by Attitudes and Longitudes, I decided to read another America-related book, this one blissfully unaware of the events of September 11th. The book, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, is a series of columns from the pen of Bill Bryson. Mr. Bryson was born in America, but moved at a young age to Britain, where he grew up and married. Increasing problems being able to function as a modern writer in the isolation of the English countryside prompted a move back to the United States. These columns are the efforts he sent back across the pond to a British magazine, as a humorous look at American life from and for the perspective of a long-time British citizen.

The book is, for the most part, a fun read. All the columns are about the same size as the columns from Attitudes and Longitudes, or about 3 pages. The book, then, is very easy to read in chunks, as he switches topics on a very frequent basis. Some of his observations are pretty darned funny, and he has a good grasp of on-paper joke delivery. As you may be able to tell, though, I’m not exactly gushing with love for this book. The mediocre columns outnumbered the inspired ones, and some of them were just downright annoying. In one instance he goes on for four pages about the difficulties of setting up a modern PC, which is about as difficult as setting up a VCR or a cable box and the connections come color coded. I fail to find either VCR programming humor or clueless user babble all that funny, so those parts soured me a bit.

This is not to say the inspired columns are not worth the read. His pieces on gardening with his wife, airline travel, and the dangers of decorating for Christmas are pretty darn good. If you’re looking for a light travel book that you can put down and pick up easily, I would recommend this to you. Don’t expect laugh-a-minute action, but you can expect to get a good chuckle or two out of his work.

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