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Icons of England

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  619 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
This celebration of the English countryside does not only focus on the rolling green landscapes and magnificent monuments that set England apart from the rest of the world. Many of the contributors bring their own special touch, presenting a refreshingly eclectic variety of personal icons, from pub signs to seaside piers, from cattle grids to canal boats, and from village ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Black Swan (first published September 5th 2008)
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It strikes me that most people's complaint with Icons of England is that it wasn't written exclusively by Bill Bryson. Well, folks, I can understand that you might be disappointed if it was mis-advertised to you or you didn't really read the cover or synopsis and you were expecting a couple hundred pages of Bryson's humour, but that doesn't make Icons a bad book. It just means that you were not the right market. Equally, if you're looking for something fast-paced, exciting and full of action, yo ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Santhosh rated it liked it
94 pieces about the woods, the downs, the heaths, the marrows, the crags, the moors, the orchards, the cider farms, the brecklands, the grasslands, and the marshlands; evensongs, stand-alone trees, hares, protean shapes, cherries, summer fêtes; village spires, stiles, pub signs, churchyards, red postboxes, arboretums, and monuments; holloways, hedgerows, drystone walls, estuaries, broads, water meadows, cattle grids, sheepfolds, English country houses, and milestones; Nimbys, ploughmen, family b ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Louise rated it it was ok
Great for the bath.

The most interesting entries in this book are those that expand on a common but unremarkable feature of England or those that provide a slice of history, or background detail. The best of them - on pub signs, on chalk horses, on the Green Man - had me scouring the web (/Wikipedia) for more information afterwarsd. Even the entry on London sewers was interesting.

As you'd expect with an anthology, not all the entries were good. Many authors described their childhood experiences a
Sara Q
May 23, 2011 Sara Q marked it as to-read
Recommended to Sara Q by: Margaret Atwood
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
Discovered from this tweet: RT @MargaretAtwood If you like rambling & exploring, you'll love Icons of England (ed. Bill Bryson), Black Swan Press. Treasure trove of wonderful places.
Sep 30, 2012 Ints rated it liked it
Braisona grāmata, nelasīta man mājās nostāvēja veselus trīs gadus. Tas tā nebūtu noticis, ja vien Braisons būtu tās autors, nevis tikai sastādītājs. Grāmatas ideja ir pavisam jauka, daudzi desmiti, Anglijas rakstnieku, katrs uzrakstījuši īsu stāstiņu, par viņuprāt Anglijas galveno ikonu. Ko tādu, kas varētu iekrist sirdī ne tikai viņiem, bet arī citiem. Un tā pa visiem saprastu, ka būtu labi Anglijas laukus atstāt tādus kādi viņi ir.

Kādam tas ir lauku ceļš, citam purvs, putnu dziesmas vai ķieģeļ
Janet Gardner
Feb 14, 2014 Janet Gardner rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a sadly disappointing book. I picked it up because the wonderful Bill Bryson edited it, and I hoped his mark on it would be strong. I kept reading because there were a few gems among these short essays (like, maybe 4 or 5 of the 90+), and I kept hoping for another. But so many of them were just little verbal rambles that amounted to little more than "Sports fields are nice because people play sports on them!" or "Aren't clouds rather nifty?" or something equally uninteresting, and gener ...more
Sep 03, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I let this pass me by when it first came out. I think Mr Bryson had got himself involved with a number of slight though agreeable as ever projects around that time, or just lots of things, I forget, and I wasn't in a particular hurry for another.

I am glad I didn't pass up this opportunity though. This version is not the 'lavish coffee table' version but has more entries. What it lacks in what I assume is gorgeous photography in the other is (almost) made up for by exquisite little black and whit
Sep 07, 2014 Jarek rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, britain
As a collection of 90+ short essays, this book was frustratingly uneven. Not just in writing styles and awkwardly wrapped-up stories, but as far as in the definition of Rural England itself. It is a small part of England that Twickenham ("the urban village" - we're not London we swear), Kew Gardens ("two minutes from Tube"), Euston Arch, and Hampstead Heath on one end and the most remote moors on the other don't cover.

Too many stories were about banal, obvious, uninteresting, or not particularly
May 25, 2010 Dana rated it it was amazing
Great read if you're a nostalgic, anglophile like me
Nov 14, 2016 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Go back to visit England

First off, this is not a Bill Bryson book, but if you have enjoyed reading Bill Bryson, especially his books on England and the British Isles, you will still enjoy this book. Reading this book, especially if your only trip to England has been London will make you want to go back and explore, or if you are a British newbie really plan a trip where you will see more than just London.
While this book is just a series of essays, it's not as quick of a read as you would think
Jan 24, 2017 duchessofdreaming rated it liked it
A fitting prelude to my own travels around England, this book definitely whet my appetite for exploring! I enjoyed the fact that these icons were not grand monuments; rather, more personal icons or just an appreciation for nature's gifts. I certainly can't wait to go and see some of these for myself!
May 21, 2017 Suzy rated it liked it
Being an armchair traveller, I enjoyed this series of very short essays on both famous & little-known places or experiences that can be found only in England. There's a warmth and love of the countryside that purveys through the pages, and this was a very pleasing book to read.
Jan 16, 2017 Johnpingham rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
Hit and miss
Sarah Clement
Mar 14, 2015 Sarah Clement rated it liked it
Sadly, I was quite disappointed in this book. I read the reviews before purchasing it, and they generally weren't good. However, the book only cost 1 pence, so how could I go wrong? I also figured that people who reviewed it were just careless, as most of them felt ripped off that this book is merely edited by Bryson. I thought they either didn't understand edited books, or that they just didn't read the description closely enough.

I don't think the fact that Bryson didn't write this book is the
Grant Trevarthen
May 16, 2013 Grant Trevarthen rated it really liked it
I noticed, that Bill Bryson, one of my top 5 favorite Authors,edited this book, and any book, he would be involved with I would read. Knowing that
Prince Charles, The Prince Of Wales wrote the forward sealed the deal.
Even though, I was born, bred, and still live in N.Z,my ancestors on my
father's side of the family came from Cornwall, in the Southwest of England. Added to that fact, I always have been & always will be devoted
I loved the way, that the book was made up of contributi
Kelly Mander
Feb 01, 2013 Kelly Mander rated it did not like it
This is entirely my own fault for asking for this book as a gift at Christmas and not doing my research first. I saw 'Bill Bryson' on the cover, assumed he was the author and thought "I can't go wrong!". Unfortunately it is not written by him and the marketing of this book as 'Edited by Bill Bryson' had the publishers desired effect and duped me into acquiring it! I would never desire to read about Balscombe viaduct, Soggybottom Copse or Ruddyshank Reservoir because I have never been there and t ...more
Gary E
not what I expected but very enjoyable

I did not read anything about the book before I requested that my library purchase it. I saw it was by Bill Bryson and that was enough for me! Well it turns out that this was edited by Bill Bryson and it was written by roughly 100 people a few pages at a time. So it was not at all what I expected!

But it was extremely enjoyable. I laughed out loud in places and I got nostalgic in others and teary eyed in others. It is a wonderful book about what various peopl
May 07, 2010 Cori rated it liked it
This book was compiled to show off England’s hidden treasures — things that most people wouldn’t glance twice at, but that make England, well, England. The royalties for the book support the Campaign to Protect Rural England, of which Bryson is the president. As with most books of essays, this one had some that I liked a lot and quite a few that were completely unmemorable. Most fell somewhere in between — a nice little diversion but nothing special. Each essay was short — between 1 and 3 pages, ...more
Jul 10, 2010 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I haven't actually finished this book yet, but I've bogged down. I'm certain I'll return to it. I've enjoyed what I've read, though some of it is quite difficult to follow if one has not already visited some of the sites discussed in the book. The book is obviously intended for British readers, in the manner of, for example, the owner of a Ford watching Ford commercials and being convinced that he or she has made the correct decision in buying the Ford. It does make those of us who have not visi ...more
Jun 29, 2015 Skye rated it it was amazing
This is not a Bill Bryson book (thankfully) he only wrote one essay in here. It is a collection of essays on 'English Icons' of the atypical variety, by various writers, poets, artists and public figures including immigrants. It focuses primarily on the countryside, but also features several urban and architectural 'icons.' You will not find the Tower, Buckingham Palace or double decker buses in here (thankfully) but things like; holloways, birdsong, mist, cider orchards, moors, limestone, viadu ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
So, this book is by no means a "page turner" in the sense that you can't put it down, but it is a beautiful collection of odes to random lovely things that make England what it is. Famous literary figures, actors, journalists, and even Prince Charles himself, are humbled to wrote about things like fence posts, mailboxes, small country towns, fells, cliffs, corner shops, and the list goes on. Each snippet is about 2 pages and expounds on the simple beauty that comprises England. And how incredibl ...more
Sherry Sharpnack
Mar 04, 2016 Sherry Sharpnack rated it liked it
I was hoping to learn something about Bill Bryson's writing, & then figured out he was only the editor of this collection of various folks' ideas of "icons" of England. Many were actually personal memories, as opposed to landmarks or monuments to visit. I was hoping to learn a little about my mother-in-law's homeland, but don't really feel that I did. I don't have a knowledge of the geography or topography of England, which would have been helpful. I will grant that this book was not written ...more
Meredith Walker
Jul 20, 2012 Meredith Walker rated it it was ok
As a big Bill Bryson fan, I bought "Icons of England" purely because it has his name on the cover (and yes, I know it is edited by, rather than written by Bill). Unfortunately it is disappointing. Some articles, I liked a lot but largely they were completely unmemorable, short on fact and long on reminiscing about the past. As such I suggest they are perhaps only really of interest to their writers. The articles' only saving grace is that each is very short, allowing the reader to quickly skip t ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Felicity rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this collection of essays and it was a very varied selection. I was expecting to read about the usual land marks and attractions that everyone always associates with England, but here were stories about the weather, cattle grids, the mist, cherries, summer fetes and a lovely one about an old viaduct. The book was edited by Bill Bryson and all the pieces are amazingly short and quick to read while still being full of wonderful descriptive text.
Michael Moseley
Nov 18, 2012 Michael Moseley rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A collections of essays from a huge number of contributors writing about their icons of England. Lovely insight into different things that are important top people from village cricket to the English weather. The book makes me want to find out even more and certainly visit some of the places and lookout for the sites. How privileged we are to live in such an age where we have time, money a means to access and enjoy plus celebrate England, the English and Englishness.
May 30, 2014 Beccy rated it it was ok
This book was bought for me as I like Bill Brysons writing style. His name is boldly emblazoned on the cover with the small words 'edited by' above it.

This collection of short essays about some of England's idiosyncrasies contains some interesting points - but let's face it, it's no Bill Bryson!

Mathieu Marechal
Feb 01, 2013 Mathieu Marechal rated it did not like it
I’ve read all of Bill Bryson’s books, this one is basically the only one that I didn’t really enjoy. This is probably due to the fact that it’s not written by Bill but by about 90 co-authors each writing a few pages each. I’m not too much a fan of this format + it made me really miss Bryson’s wit and humour.
Sean Keefe
Oct 11, 2016 Sean Keefe rated it it was ok
A tourist information pamphlet, and nothing more. It's described as a collection of essays, but it's more like a collection of blurbs from the backs of National Trust attractions. Nothing at all here that the average Briton wouldn't already know.
Pleasant, if you read the Daily Express and yearn for a bygone England that never really existed.
Mar 21, 2010 Meg rated it liked it
Shelves: read-10, physicalbook
A collection of short - mostly two page - pieces about England. Quite sweet for the most part but does suffer from a bit of NIMBYism, which, well, when Prince Charles is writing the foreword, is not unexpected but remains somewhat annoying. This is also a bit of England as she ever will be, which as an expat, can be somewhat grating.
Andy Law
May 24, 2016 Andy Law rated it really liked it
I quite liked this. A series of short essays by fairly well-known writers and broadcasters about their 'icons of England'. Paul Kingsnorth on 'the Green Man' was interesting as was Dan Cruickshank on the demise of the Euston Arch(I never knew it existed). I enjoyed Julia Bradbury talking about her love of Rutland and also many others. There are 90 essays in total so plenty to choose from.
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William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS

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.

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