Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British” as Want to Read:
The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  1,651 Ratings  ·  337 Reviews
“Should be handed out . . . in the immigration line at Heathrow.” —Malcolm Gladwell

"Sarah Lyall, a young reporter for the New York Times, moved to London in the mid-1990s, and soon became known for her amusing and incisive dispatches from her adopted country. Confronted by the eccentricities of these island people (the charming new husband who never turned on the lights, t
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 24th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Anglo Files, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Anglo Files

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 04, 2009 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
If you want to read an affectionately humorous account by an American immersed in English culture, try Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. Much of this book, on the other hand, consists of anecdotes involving the author’s visits to Harley Street doctors and her children’s exclusive private school or hobnobbing with English friends, most of whom seem to be Old Etonians and/or from the titled classes. Many of the literary references used to highlight the English character come from Evelyn Wau ...more
Rating Clarification: 2.5 Stars

Did contain some humorous observations, but most of of Lyall's anecdotes had too much of a New York Times elitist edge to satisfy my personal taste. Her style of humor came across as more condescending then balanced or friendly.

All-in-all, I prefer Bill Bryson's take on the Brits (Notes from a Small Island). He's an American living abroad who seems to be able to poke gentle fun of his adopted country while at the same time revealing how incredible and special he th
Rufusgermanicus Meelberg
An excellent book, I read it in the space of a day, and wished I hadn't finished so quickly. It's a great look into modern British life, the aspects of which can be bizarre. Particularly brilliant are the chapters dealing with the nobility, the government, and the rather dubious "press". One of my favorite (or should it be favourite?) quotes: "Oops," said one noble giving me a tour of his home,"This window has unfortunately fallen out onto the lawn."
Aug 09, 2014 Paul rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A sarcastic, bitchy approach to a satirical synopsis of British people which does nothing to scratch the surface and openly reinforces the American stereotypes of the British.

Her idea of dissecting British identity is not only flawed - she only looks at one small, therefore unrepresentative section of society - but one that is about as deep and well researched as an article in any number of elitist society magazines.

There is no analysis of the working classes, social stereotypes, regional dialec
"British men are so gay. They'll say they're not, but that's because they're British and so repressed. I've heard they don't even like the word 'vagina.' Maybe it was because they were paddled on the arse as boys. Did I mention they have bad teeth, too? And what's the deaaaaaal with blood sausage?"

Though the text makes it obvious that the author thinks her writing is clever, it's not. What's intended to be a wry description of life and culture in England comes across as a petulant whine interspe
Mar 25, 2011 Tom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A high-handed critique of English classism, sexism, homophobia, the House of Lords, hedgehogs, bad food... also their love of alcohol and self-denigration.

It all came off as critical and of all things, condescending... maybe even derisive? The author lacks any degree of affection for her topic. There are lots of snobby anecdotes about the author hanging out with her friends in the British aristocracy. This all would have been fine and good if there was humor... even biting humor. But not really
Jul 27, 2015 J rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Got this audiobook on CD for my drive up north on vacation. I was so excited about the topic, I started listening to it early...

I saw that the author was a writer for The New York Times and had a recommendation from Malcolm Gladwell (uber-liberal red flags) but I still started it with a tremendous amount of hope and enthusiasm. I studied abroad at Oxford in college and have a deep abiding love for the British.

In the second or third section, the author dives immediately into the sexual orientati
Elaine Ruth Boe
May 23, 2015 Elaine Ruth Boe marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: study-abroad
If I didn't have a stack of books on the UK taller than me calling my name, I would have stuck with this book longer. But since I do have a stack of books on the UK taller than me calling my name, I'm setting this one aside at page 76. Lyall's introduction seemed promising, as it gave a brief report of her time in England, but her first chapter quickly escalated into generalizations about the British condition. Apparently, all Englishmen are slightly gay, prone to cross-dressing, and inherently ...more
Dec 10, 2008 Danika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually found this book VERY funny. Not terribly unique, but if you're at all interested in British culture, you'll enjoy it. Loved the chapter on bad British teeth. Here's a crazy statistic: in 1979 TWENTY EIGHT PERCENT of all Britons had NO TEETH! Yikes! Also, she examines, British relationship with alcohol, weather and 'the stiff upper lip'. A bit slow going, but overall very enjoyable.
Dec 10, 2014 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible, absolutely horrible. Here's my Amazon review I wrote a couple of years ago.

My American Wife bought me this for Christmas, and I was quite looking forward to reading it. As other reviewers pointed out, the dust jacket implied funny, hilarious even, observations of the British in the style of Bill Bryson. It could not have been further from the truth, or more disappointing. As a Brit I've enjoyed Bryson's witty observations and commentary on life in Britain, sometimes complimentary, some
Ray Campbell
Feb 12, 2013 Ray Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
This is a critical, tongue in cheek look at contemporary British culture. Lyall is an American journalist who has lived in Britain for more than 20 years. She points to the usual stereotypes and attempts, rather unscientifically, to rationalize, justify and explain why they are true. Lyall covers bad teeth, bad weather, sexual dysfunction, the House of Lords debating the existence of UFOs, bad public healthcare, bad public schools, intense class division, economic stagnation, hedgehogs and crick ...more
Feb 12, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Lyall is a very talented writer. I chuckled out loud multiple times per chapter. Granted, she has good material, much of which did the work for her. An American living in London and married to a Brit, she keenly observes the quirks of the British character and British culture. So we learn about boarding schools that terrorize their otherwise privileged students; the hilarious House of Commons, in which, supposedly, it doesn't matter if you're drunk, as long as you show up; British journali ...more
Lured on by the mendacious cover blurbs ("razor-sharp, wickedly insightful, hilarious" - oh, really, Graydon Carter?; "an exquisite, hilarious and devastating dissection of the British" - for shame, Malcolm Gladwell, you lie like a rug!), I was actually suckered into paying full price for this bowl of insipid gruel. Come on, Ms Lyall, if the reader is promised a merciless takedown of the Brits, you have an obligation to deliver - Lord knows there's plenty of material to choose from. Modest hand- ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Note that while this book claims to be a "field guide to the British", it's mostly about the English, and, I suspect, largely about middle and upper class types from the South of England at that. I suppose that's okay - that is what most Americans think of when they think of the English, and really exhaustively cataloguing the British would require a much longer book.

I think that any American who is already interested in British culture will find this book a mix of genuinely interesting observa
Oct 14, 2011 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book after a recent UK trip because, after every visit, I inevitably end up feeling that although I can, and do, have conversations with people there, somehow it feels as if we're kind of talking past each other. I always end up feeling like "I'm doing it wrong", somehow. Even something as simple as negotiating walking on a sidewalk confounds my expectations. (I'd really appreciate it if someone could tell me what the rules are, for that!)

This book is a compilation of articles writt
Oct 04, 2013 Silvio111 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, literate, funny commentary about the Natives (British society) from an American who is married to one. Maybe it is Lyall's generation (I think she is in her 30s, which means she was born around 1980-something. This means she did not live through a lot of the stuff she is lampooning, and so she is unconstrained, yet she has observed this older generation of people, so like an anthropologist (or perhaps like an ornithologist...) she has seen a lot.

Being a person who grew up in the Beatl
Sarah is an American, but she lives in Britain. She is also married to a Briton, and has worked as a journalist in Britain for several years, so she's in a pretty position to write a book on what it is that makes the people living on that small island so unique. I was intrigued by the idea of this book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR and I was not disappointed. I think what is most fascinating to me is that you'd think Americans and Britons would be so much more alike than we are, ba ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Erik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As many have already figured out, I’m a bit of a anglophile – what with my interest in British naval fiction set during the Napoleonic Wars, Shakespearean drama (this an older interest carrying over from my late teens and early twenties), Tudor and Elizabethan court intrigue, a good swathe of nineteenth-century British fiction (yes, I like Austen), as well as twentieth-century British fantasy and (this of late) science-fiction. I’ve also been to the great city of London on no less than four occa ...more
Aug 25, 2010 Colin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I could provide a 2.5 star rating I would. There's nothing inherently wrong with this book, but Lyall touches on part of the problem when she talks about the challenges for the Engish in identifying an identify for themselves, collectively, that's somehow different from being British... not least because the combination of being the majority of Britons and parochialism means that for many English people, the two descriptors are interchangeable. She's really talking about the English, not that ...more
I'm still listening to this on audio and have mixed feelings about it. Since I am British by birth and education, but a resident and citizen of Canada for most of my adult life, I am both horrified and a little upset at Sarah Lyall's account of the Brits and their behaviour. I suppose the British part of me feels that while it is OK for me to moan about what has befallen my country of origin, I don't like when an American is so critical. On other hand, I often feel despondent when I hear of what ...more
I am in similar shoes as the author (an American married to an Englishman) and suspected there might be similar opinions/experiences that came with a cross-cultural relationship. I suspect I was hoping for something more along the lines of Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island". (which everyone should read) I found the Lyall's book rather limited. It came across as rather London-centric (which makes some sense as she does live there) and she seems rather focused on a rather narrow percentage ...more
Nov 06, 2008 Kris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
Most Americans like to think they know the British, but few actually do. When we hear of trips to ol' Blighty, inevitably, we think of plummy accents, educated conversation, stately music, tea, polite society, bad food, wonky teeth, and the Queen. Not to say there aren't elements of truth here, but it's almost as simple to encapsulate talk about trips to America (by which we imperially mean the US) into similarly neat categories like: ignorant philistines, country music, bad coffee, crass cowboy ...more
Feb 21, 2011 Ellie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While deciding whether to spend my time reading this book, I looked up a few reviews at Some people found the book funny, but one word that stuck with me was "derisive." At the time, I though "Oh, that's just a Brit taking offense at pokes at their culture." But that is exactly how I would describe this book. The author is a New Yorker who married a Brit and moved there, giving birth to two daughters. I'm curious how she can live there and apparently hate the country and its people s ...more
Ken Cruickshank
Oct 26, 2015 Ken Cruickshank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave The Anglo Files four stars because I found it to be hugely entertaining. My problem with the book is this: I think it's an unfair portrayal of the British. I have traveled quite a bit and have visited London and the English countryside at least twenty times. I have many British friends, and though I enjoy ribbing them – and vice versa – I feel the author unfairly described them in multiple chapters. I guess her years of experiences could have simply been far different than mine, but come ...more
Todd Stockslager
Basically serves as a confirmation of British stereotypes (tea drinking, class obsessed, sexually repressed, socially reserved, determinedly eccentric, emotionally distant), with examples from Lyall's experience as an expatriated American married to an English man. As such, it was mildly amusing, nothing more.

In fact, Lyall grew up in New York City, according to her book-flap bio, which means I have to translate her observations through another filter, as her "American" experience does not refle
Gina Huber
Dec 11, 2014 Gina Huber rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
I really wanted to like this book. My husband played a portion for me when he was listening to it, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I was looking for entertainment, but aside from a few laughs, I was disappointed. I found the flow very disjointed. I kept asking myself "what does this (pick a topic - government, teeth, preoccupation with boys and their lecherous headmasters)have to do with anything?" for me, it was like a train wreck. I wanted to stop, but I kept hoping it would get better. I ju ...more
Sep 04, 2014 Kellie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
NYTimes reporter Sarah Lyall married an Englishman and moved to London in the mid-nineties. Since then, she's faithfully written down her close-range observations of her adopted country. The result is this book. I first heard about it when a friend and I made a pilgrimage to Politics and Prose in D.C. and we found copies for lovely low prices. As a regular partaker of any kind of British-accented entertainment I can get my hands on, I was in. I immediately got a kick out of the cover, which show ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly entertaining read in which the author is not afraid to - politely and pleasantly - to go for the jugular.

Being a New Zealander and spent three years in London in the 1990s as well as having an English mother it is always interesting to tease out meaning of Britishness. British/English culture is so influential and ubiquitous in its own right, then filtered through American, Australian and my own culture that it is fascinating to try to separate the distinctively British parts from the r
Essays about what it's like to be an upper-middle-class American married to an upper-class Briton. The personal anecdotes are tiresome, but her reporting is interesting. Includes chapters about eccentricity, false modesty, sexism, freezing cold beach holidays, alcoholism, hooligans, and dentistry.
Jan 06, 2015 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I liked the first half of this book, partly because my sister-in-law is British and she and my brother live in England. Then I got bored. I would love to get my sister-in-law's opinion on this book, though. The author does not present the British in a very flattering light at all.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Rules, Britannia: An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom
  • Brit-Think, Ameri-Think: A Transatlantic Survival Guide
  • A Yank Back to England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns
  • Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
  • Eating for England: The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at the Table
  • Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image
  • My Love Affair with England: A Traveler's Memoir
  • No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice
  • Family Britain, 1951-1957
  • Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana
  • Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
  • The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise
  • Narrow Dog To Carcassonne
  • I Stand Corrected: How Teaching Western Manners in China Became Its Own Unforgettable Lesson
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It
  • A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet
  • In Search Of England
  • Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang

Share This Book