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Down Under

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  47,542 ratings  ·  3,218 reviews
As his many British fans already know, bearded Yankee butterball Bill Bryson specialises in going to countries we think we know well, only to return with travelogues that are surprisingly cynical and yet shockingly affectionate. It's a unique style, possibly best suited to the world's weirder destinations. It's helpful here: Bryson's latest subject is that oddest of contin...more
Paperback, 428 pages
Published August 6th 2001 by Black Swan (first published 2000)
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Australia In Words
1st out of 108 books — 21 voters
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Road Signs
1st out of 47 books — 7 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Martine
I developed a taste for Bill Bryson last year when I read his Short History of Nearly Everything, an ambitious attempt to trace the history of life, the universe and everything in just 574 pages. While many of the scientific discoveries outlined in the book were a little beyond me, I thoroughly enjoyed Bryson's descriptions of the larger-than-life personalities behind the discoveries, which really brought the science described to life. So when I found out that he had also written a travelogue of...more
Collette
Sep 12, 2008 Collette rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people that yearn to see the world.
Shelves: history
Ok! First of all I'm here to tell you that non-fiction is normally not my bag. I think I got this book because I forgot to send in the "do not send" notice in a book club. That said..... I'm soooo happy that I didn't and I "made" myself read this. OMG!!! I lost track of how many times I laughed until there were tears running down my cheeks and how many smiles and chuckles it rang out of me!
This is a book about Bryson's trips (I believe he combines a few trips to "Oz" into this one book) to the...more
C.
This was funny. It was really funny. I remember reading it in a public place and snorting - like, actually snorting like a pig - from trying to contain my laughter, and then looking around surreptitiously to see if anyone had noticed. This is unusual because I very rarely laugh out loud when reading a book. It has to reach whole new levels of hilarity to make me snort. In fact, this may well be the only snort-worthy book I've ever read. This guy really knows how to find the funny in a situation....more
Caroline
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Contains spoilers



A wonderful read! From belly laughs to joy, from horror to disbelief….. in this book we have a riveting journey though this amazing and oh-so-different continent. Surely there are few authors who could begin to tackle the scope of this giant hunk of land, but Bryson is a master writer, and he tackles Australia superbly well - with enthusiasm, insight and bucket loads of his wonderful self-deprecating humour.

These were some of my favourite bits in the book:

* His trip to White Cl...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
How do I love this book? Let me count the ways...Better yet, read it for yourself and you'll discover your own reasons to love it. I honestly cannot think of one person to whom I would not recommend this book. It's fascinating, funny, and fact-filled. I'd bet even native Aussies could learn a thing or five they didn't know about their country.

Australia is an even more interesting place than I thought. Let Bill Bryson give you an entertaining and educational tour. He researched many books and qu...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
This travelogue of an American in Australia was hilarious. I had no choice; I had to give this five stars. I have this rule you see: if a book makes me think, cry, or laugh out loud, I give it top marks. I was smiling madly by the middle of the first page--at page 17 I was giggling. I haven't laughed so often or so hard since Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens. Bryson gets a lot of mileage out of Australia being a "wondrously venomous and toothy country." Here's a snippet:

"You probably won't see...more
RandomAnthony
Bill Bryson is on a short-list of go-to writers when I need a thoughtful but not too taxing book. His travel works seem to follow the Bryson formula:

1. Bryson travels around a country and gets drunk in hotel bars.
2. Bryson gets pissed off at rude and stupid people but is usually forgiving and self-depreciating.
3. Bryson assiduously researches the locales beforehand and integrates history into his itineraries and narratives.
4. Bryson writes with impeccable skill.
5. Bryson balances mundane details...more
Carol
In a Sunburned Country is what it is. Pure Bryson all the way and I loved every minute of it. It is not meant to be a scholarly course on Australia history but it is informative and fun. Considering Bryson's repeated mention of the many things that can kill you and the possibility of drinking your own urine, it's a wonder that we come away with a desire to see Australia for ourselves. But we do. Along with Bryson's familiar humor, he manages to capture the vastness of the land, the people, the d...more
Tiffany
Like most Americans, I have never really given much thought to Australia. It's an island where the seasons are backwards, there's a famous opera house, my ex husband's ex girlfriend is expating it up there, and there are loads of gorgeous men running around shirtless, drinking Fosters and saying "No worries, mate" in a delicious Crocodile Dundee sort of accent. Nothing too exciting, right?

Wrong! Australia is fascinating, and Bill Bryson has done an excellent job of telling us why. This book touc...more
Tatiana
Jul 09, 2010 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to learn more about Australia
Recommended to Tatiana by: Hannahr
I almost forgot how much fun it is to read books about foreign countries and cultures. As soon as opened In a Sunburned Country, memories of reading travelogues about U.S. rushed back to me. Oh, how amazed I was those years ago to learn that apparently many Americans put their T-shirts on to swim in the pool and wear extra underwear underneath their swimming trucks (I am originally from one of those speedo countries) or that to go to a school dance you just have to have a boy-friend who is oblig...more
Hannah
A fun re-read from one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson. Any book that Bryson pens is sure to lead to uncontrollable laughter, snorts, chortles or gaffaws, so plan your reading time accordingly. Not recommended reading material for mime class, funerals, or anywhere quiet, confined and where you will be surrounded by strangers - trust me on this. Even your own family members (*ehem* teenage daughters) might have a tendency to think you finally, irrevocably lost it and look warily at you as if...more
Mike
In a Sunburned Country is a 4 Star, mostly humorous, romp through Australia. It is perhaps a little dated now, he traveled there in 1999. Still he brings to life a place most of us do not know much about. I laughed a lot; he has a self-deprecating and subtle way of expressing himself. You will get to know the various states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia in some detail. You get an abbreviated (and frankly unfair) exposure to Queensland and the North Territory...more
Mikey B.
Bill Bryson delivers! Even though I have never been to Australia I was delighted with this book. Bryson gives the full range – history, natural history (botany, zoology. paleontology...), people insights, cities, outback towns and scenic wonders of which there are plenty of in Australia – a truly Renaissance view of the continent. Plus it’s hilarious – his encounters with other tourists, seedy hotels, pubs, waiters and hotel receptionists – but especially cricket!

The man ingests humour into dive...more
Robert Beveridge
Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country (Broadway, 2000)

I originally encountered the writing of Bill Bryson in a small article he wrote for National Geographic on the Orkney Islands a year or so ago. By the time I had finished the article, I was (and still am, to an extent) seriously considering relocating to the Orkney Islands. Well, I've now finished In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's travelogue of Australia-- and I never, ever want to go there.

Bryson gives us the world's forgotten continent (really...more
Maria M. Elmvang
Jan 14, 2012 Maria M. Elmvang rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
Recommended to Maria M. by: Ruthette
Some authors have an amazing way with words, and Bill Bryson is definitely one of them. After a single false start, he proceeded to make me utterly homesick for a country I've in large part never visited at all (three weeks total in Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney is nowhere near enough). I learned a bunch of new things about Australia and new places I want to visit. Bill Bryson's love for the country is unmistakable, and makes this not only a fascinating memoir and travel-account, but also an adori...more
Solomon
This was a bit disappointing considering it being a rendition of a travelogue -- my favorite genre -- of my most favorite continent ever. Bryson, generally extremely adept at mixing humorous personal narrative with informative and insightful commentary on the subject of his travels, just didn't seem to appreciate Australia enough. Or perhaps Bryson's white, overweight, middle-aged stature was just not up for the job. More damaging was his superficial treatment of race relations concerning Austra...more
April West
This book is so funny, so well-written, and so interesting I couldn't stop reading it, even when I had to use a caver's headlamp and stuff my pillow into my mouth to keep from waking my family with my laughter. Bryson is a master writer, and hilarious. His tour of Australia is interesting, and he does not gloss over the "problem" of the relationship between European Australians and the Aborigines. Though I was occasionally put off by seemingly random sexist comments, I still enjoyed the heck out...more
Krista
In 1986, a friend and I threw maple leaves on our backpacks and, with a few hotels booked and Eurorail passes in hand, made our way around Europe. While in Paris, we met a fellow traveller who happened to hail from Australia, and over a modest dinner in a cozy café, we asked him about his homeland and we answered his questions about what it was like to be from Canada -- this was a time when Reagan was in his second term and, with the Iran-Contra stuff coming to light, the invasion of tiny Grenad...more
Jill
Bryson himself admits that he has no other goal in writing this book than to show everyone that Australia is strangely awesome. And how strangely awesome it is. A short list of wonderful things I learned:

1. the Aborigine people have the oldest culture on Earth, probably dating to at least 40,000 years. They crossed the sea to Australia using god-knows what maritime technology at a time when Neanderthals still existed. Yet no one remembers this remarkable accomplishment. Indeed, not remembering t...more
Ruby
Being an Australian, I probably come at this book with a different perspective than most. For starters, I can tell you the name of the current Prime Minister as well as several of those preceeding her.

The book is written from two separate trips Bill Bryson made to mainland Australia. While nominally broad, it's essentially held together by a few points - Australia is large and mostly empty. It's not nearly as empty as it seems. No one outside of Australia really cares.

There are a couple of othe...more
Amy
I have a fascination with Australia, but on most days I have no desire to ever go there. It's too hot, has too many deadly animals, and most of the cities are more isolated than I'd care for. Before reading this book, I was more acquainted with the sheep farming culture of Australia than anything else (thanks to an Australian television series I fell in love with called "McLeod's Daughters" and a book favorite,The Thorn Birds). There certainly are no shortage of tall handsome men in Australia, b...more
Eric_W
If you have not yet tried Bryson, you probably should seek psychiatric help. He's funny and informative; travel-writing (if you can call it that) at its best. His Walk in the Woods is a classic, and while this book about his visit to Australia is not as uproariously funny - the country is, after all, home to the ten most poisonous animals in the world - his descriptions of Australian institutions will delight you. His description of cricket, a game that has nothing wrong with it that "the introd...more
Linda
I had never read Bill Bryson before. I'd seen copies of A Walk in the Woods and I'm a Stranger Here Myself and they just didn't seem appealing. However, I now have a contact in Australia and I've been shoveling up books to find out more about the country.

As an American I was taught two things about Australia that I remember from school: it started as a penal colony for Britain so all the original settlers were convicts; there's an incredible wasteland in the middle of it called The Outback that...more
Paola
Nelle ultime 4 settimane di giorno ho lavorato duro, la casa era un baraccamento vario per via del pittore che ritinteggiava, di sera "une petite fugue" di qualche pagina assieme a Bryson in giro per l'Australia. Ovviamente mi ha fatto venir una gran voglia di andarci, era anche il sogno di mio padre: affittare un camper e girarla un po'. Purtroppo é riamsto un sogno.
Si viaggia per km in Australia fra vermoni giganti, anche tre metri e mezzo per un diametro di 15 cm (stento ad immaginarmelo, mi...more
Tasha
For me, this read was filled with contradictions. I'm wavering between a 3 star and a 4 star read. Here are my reactions towards the book:

1) I love his travels through Australia, it makes me want to visit even more, despite his often negative comments towards the people and the landscape. However, there are times that you can see that he really loves Australia and enjoys his interactions with the people. His story was full of contradictions, wavering between apparent love and enjoyment of Austra...more
Stacy
Like most avid readers, I have a large TBR pile. Most of this pile is pertinent to what I do in some way (writing and art), and much of it is training and study material I should complete yesterday. Quite by accident I strayed across Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country (a rather morbid story I’ll not relate here), his book about his travels across Australia. It’s a book that’s had me almost completely sidetracked.

This is one of those books that’s best read when it falls into your lap as a brea...more
David
Bill Bryson is an excellent author. He brings subjects to life--even subjects that previously had little interest to me. And, this book is a great example of that. Here is a travelogue through Australia. Bryson manages to make every page into a fascinating occasion. He does this by blending the most interesting aspects of sites and people in Australia with a subtle, dry humor that bowls me over.

Bryson ties his book together with two main themes; Australia is a big, big country, full of wonderful...more
Booklovinglady
Superb! Although I love travelling myself, and have seen a lot of Australia during my several visits to this country, I'm not normally one to read about other people's experiences (and yes, I have tried reading about them a few times before, believe me).

This book was mentioned to me a while ago and it didn't disappoint; on the contrary, I loved every minute of it as it was an absollute joy to read! It is written with a lot of humor and to me the description of places and events were very 'recogn...more
Terri Jacobson
This book is a funny and delightful look at the world "Down Under." Before I read this book I knew shockingly little about Australia. From this book I learned a lot of interesting facts about Australia, its history, and what a challenging continent it can be. The long distances, the bush and the outback, the metropolitan cities with gorgeous beaches. the top ten most lethal snakes in the world--Bill Bryson describes it all with great good humor and a real eye for detail. Quite a fun book to read...more
Alex Ristea
It's a good thing I was already on a flight to Australia when I finished reading this, because I would have booked a ticket immediately.

I've read a lot of travel writing in my time (blogs, books, you name it), but I have never encountered someone as witty and charming as Bill Bryson.

This may be one of the most hilarious things I've ever read—In a Sunburned Country is foreign travels as they were meant to be written.

Even if you have no plans to visit Australia, or if you've never read a travel bo...more
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Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first t...more
More about Bill Bryson...
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“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. ...It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players-more if they are moderately restless.” 56 likes
“As the saying goes, it takes all kinds to make the world go around, though perhaps some shouldn't go quite so far around it as others.” 34 likes
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