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Bill Bryson's African Diary

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  6,353 Ratings  ·  417 Reviews
Bill Bryson goes to Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to working with local communities to eradicate poverty around the world.

Kenya, generally regarded as the cradle of mankind, is a land of contrasts, with famous game reserves, stunning landscapes, and a vibrant cultural tradition. It also provides plenty to worry a traveller like Bill
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 2002)
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Catherine No, it's very different. It's a smattering of side-stories on his way to visiting Kenya. It was a poor read considering his other books are excellent.…moreNo, it's very different. It's a smattering of side-stories on his way to visiting Kenya. It was a poor read considering his other books are excellent. If you found his Australian book disappointing, I wouldn't bother with this one, it was worse. (less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jason Koivu
Sep 01, 2016 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, humor, travel
All the Bryson goodness you've come to know and love at half the calories!

Actually, it's more like a 10th the size. In fact, the worst part about Bill Bryson's African Diary is its shortness. This slim volume is more about awareness and philanthropy rather than a literary or journalistic endeavor for its own sake.

Bryson heads to Kenya to check out CARE International's charitable works. Times are tough there. Clean drinking water is at a premium. There's some slight heart-string pulling, but it'
Sam Quixote
May 27, 2016 Sam Quixote rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2002, CARE International invited Bill Bryson on an eight day trip to tour its humanitarian work in Kenya with him writing it up into this, Bill Bryson’s African Diary (something of a misnomer as Bryson only visits Kenya). The entire proceeds of the short book will go to help the kinds of people depicted inside it - and it’s a wonderful read too!

As you would expect, the horrors of the country’s widespread poverty aren’t ignored as Bryson visits Kibera, a shanty town on the outskirts of Kenya’s
Mar 03, 2013 Catherine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
CARE, an international aid agency headquartered in the UK, asked Bill Bryson to visit their Kenyan operation and write about it. Somewhere along the lines the idea changed to include publishing a "book" and using all profits as a donation to charity, with a small amount of the $12 cover price used for printing and distribution costs. Most of the participants were volunteering their time.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Except, the book itself is disappointing. It's more a novelette. It's 40 page
Feb 06, 2008 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like an asshole for not giving this more stars. I am an enormous Bill Bryson fan -- I've read everything else he has published (with the exception of "Shakespeare: The World as Stage" which I'm starting tonight). Unfortunately, this sort of wasn't a Bill Bryson book. It was a Bill Bryson... journal entry. It was only 49 pages, and because it was done for charity, it was overly sincere. It almost completely lacked Bryson's signature humor. He normally has such a colorful way of describing ...more
Natalie Vellacott
This is not really a book. It is Bill Bryson's Diary about his 8 day trip to Kenya with CARE international. It's just 55 pages long. I got it from the library due to being interested in charity work. I found it odd that it was in the library in the first place as it is not for profit and all the proceeds go to CARE...surely having a copy in the library defeats this purpose?....anyway...

Content wise, it was okay but limited. The descriptions of the slums and various people Bryson met were interes
This is a pretty short travelogue (a week's diary) written as part of an initiative from CARE to bring in visibility and focus to the enormous challenges being faced in Africa, and the stellar work that CARE and similar organisations are doing. Kudos to the thought behind this initiative, inventive and world-wise enough to know the innovative channels to tap to bring in the much-needed publicity. I'm not going to be patting the backs of Bryson and the publishers too much, because no-profit doesn ...more
Mar 23, 2013 TCPils rated it really liked it
First of all, this is not a book. It's a diary. Bryson recounts his 8 days in Kenya with members of CARE International. And that's 7 days longer than I'd want to be there. What a dreadful place! Poverty, crime, hunger, lack of sanitation, no clean water, disease, corrupt government and a hostile climate.
Some of the other reviewers on Goodreads fault Bryson for not covering enough ground, but I disagree. You don't need to read 300 pages to see the terrible conditions in which these people live E
Jun 24, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, africa
This should really be Bill Bryson's Kenyan Diary, since that's the only country he visits. I had been looking for this book for a while, but I didn't realize that it was a slim charity volume, with all proceeds going to CARE. As such, it does its job, presenting the excellent work of CARE and other organizations in Kenya, with a dash of Bryson's signature wit. It did its job, showing the country's poverty but also its beauty, and the tireless work of those who are investing in the country throug ...more
Madhulika Liddle
There are a handful of writers whose books I will buy without hesitation, secure in the knowledge that my money will be well-spent. Bill Bryson is one of these: each of his books is a joy to read, chock full of painstakingly researched material, presented in the author's inimitably chatty, humorous and irresistible style. I've read all his travel books (and some of his non-travel related books), so when I finally came across African Diary - which I'd heard about, never seen in a bookshop - I pou ...more
Jun 26, 2008 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unlike most people, I guess, I had no idea that this book was little more than a 49-page pamphlet for CARE, a group doing international aid work, including work with refugees and the poor in Kenya (the focus of this book/pamphlet). I placed the thing on hold sight unseen with my library, and only when I stopped by to check it out did I find a volume rather slimmer than I had expected.

Well, I'm a big Bill Bryson fan, so I hoped that it would at least be just under 50 pages of typical Bryson fun.
Nov 13, 2012 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-fire
This was such a zippy little read; I think I finished in one insomniac rolling-about. My first Bryson was At Home, which I found to be plodding, then I read In a Sunburned Country (just a little bit ago) and saw his wit, and here I am, with another library-electronic-read. It is aptly titled, though, perhaps it shouldn't be called "African" diary, as it's all about Kenya, and all about a sponsored trip to Kenya, meaning to be a public service kind of ad. But it seemed more was devoted to being p ...more
This short little book was written by the well known travel writer Bill Bryson. It is the brief story of an eight day visit to Kenya during 2002. It was often clever and funny, but an obvious effort to give a flavor of Kenyan life, problems and insight to the best and worst of a very special place. One of my questions, while reading the book was why was this short experience written. It turns out the while he was in Kenya his hosts were the humanity and welfare organization known widely as CARE. ...more
6McElwee J
May 17, 2016 6McElwee J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the book Kaffir Boy, author Mark Mathabane does a dangerously good job describing the horrible racism his family and the others living around him endured. In one quote he describes portraits that he saw, “Two portraits in particular always had me thinking: one depicting heaven and God; the other, hell and the Devil. The former portrayed God as an old blue-eyed white man with a long white beard, sitting between white, fluffy clouds, flanked by two bearded white men. And all around heaven were ...more
Mar 09, 2014 heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read some disappointing reviews of this book less than five minutes ago -- when I was entering this title into my "Read" shelf -- but I'll stick to the five stars I had in mind when I finished it.

Firstly, I agree with comments that the title "African Diary" is misleading -- Bryson went to Kenya for a week, that's all. One country is NOT a whole continent. That said, it was an entertaining AND educational read nevertheless, however short it is. No this book does not suffer from a lack of Bryson
Nov 12, 2014 Mickey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with other reviewers who were slightly disappointed in this book. I just don't think what makes Bryson such an entertaining traveler had time to take hold in this book before it was over. His companions did not have time to turn into quirky but beloved characters. There was no evidence of Bryson's typical heavy research into the history, geography, horticulture, and ethnography that make his work so engrossing.

That said, this still could be a useful book to introduce someone to Bryson.
David Bales
Bill Bryson went to Kenya to write about Somali refugees in the remote south of the country. Along the way he strolls through Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, (in Nairobi) visits some old white colonials and goes on safari. His usual good writing, but I read this book, literally, in a half hour. I wish he could REALLY go to Africa and write a REAL book. He did this one to benefit CARE, the relief agency. It has about 60 pages.
Okay, now I have officially read ALL of Bill Bryson's books (since his latest isn't out in the U.S.) Yes, I even have read his book of difficult words. This book is slight and cute and doesn't contain his trademark snark. But I couldn't just skip it.

In 2002 CARE asked Bryson to go to Kenya for 8 days to see their facilities and write this charity book. He visits some horrible slums in Nairobi, meets women with small businesses assisted by CARE, sees the water spigots CARE has installed, and visi
Jul 23, 2015 norcalgal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wanted to read "Bill Bryson's African Diary" because I had read a couple of his other works and loved the warmth and humor of his writing. I had no idea this book was written under the auspices of CARE (the international aid organization), and now I feel guilty that I borrowed the book, rather than purchase it.

Because this "diary" documents Bryson's trip to Kenya traveling with CARE workers to understand their work better, you'd think it would be all grim and depressing. Rather, there were a c
Jan 02, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I mistakenly thought this was going to be a book touring Africa, as "Sunburned Country" was of Australia. Then I saw that it was less than 100 pages! It's actually a short glimpse of Kenya that Bryson did, I believe, as a donate to CARE (a charity organization). Still very informative, vivid, and a worthwhile, if short, read.
Graham Mulligan
Bill Bryson’s African Diary
Bill Bryson, 2002.

This is a short book but I thought I’d review it because it was sponsored by CARE, the international charity. Bryson visited Kenya for a brief 8-day tour, sponsored by CARE, so he could add some celebrity status to their work and give them a nice little book. His journey included very brief visits to locations where the charity is doing some badly needed work. In Nairobi, the massive slum of Kibera is featured, with some photos and a very brief mentio
Memorable Quotes
"Especially at night when it is unsafe to venture out, many residents rely on what are known as “flying toilets,” which is to say they go into a plastic bag, then open their door and throw it as far as possible."

"For a lot of people Kibera is essentially a life sentence. Unless you are exceptionally lucky with employment, it’s very, very difficult to get ahead.”

“Every time you flush a toilet you use more water than the average person in the developing world has for all purposes i
Jul 08, 2015 Robin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
I don't know. I love Bill Bryson, but his style doesn't fit this kind of project. I don't think my takeaway from travels in Africa on behalf of a charity organization should be that he knows how to write a scary airplane flight and landing hysterically.

I don't blame Bryson. He wrote relatively passionately about the few people and projects he was shown, but as he said himself, he only saw a tiny handful of projects and met a few people for a few hours each. It's hard to say much in great detail
Jun 17, 2016 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bryson visited Kenya in 2002 at the invitation of CARE International, then wrote this brief piece about his visit with the royalties and profits going to the charity.

There are moments of hilarity as Bryson relates their actual travels in the country, including a single engine airplane and the notoriously dangerous Kenya Railways. His visits to slums and refugee camps are, obviously, not high humor and that is as it should be. Perhaps there wasn’t a better way for him to relate the stories of th
Jul 12, 2015 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, interesting
Bryson wit coupled with a real message from Africa. My son is on an ROTC 3-month trip to Tanzania. He commented to me that at dinner last week, the power went out, and nobody in their 30-person group blinked an eye. No storm caused this. But being there for 2 months made them realize that electricity outage can happen any time. Bill explains the reality of REAL life where people live day-to-day amidst the contrasting buffet tables in the community nearby. This short book wrapped me into a single ...more
Ninja Neko
Got African Diary from the library, not knowing this book was actually a fundraiser for a charity organization.
It sort of falls short both ways: there's not enough "story" to actually be a proper novel, and there's not enough info or focus on the charity works to be a real pamphlet for the institution: "CARE" - of which I'd never heard until today, so I guess the book does meet its objective of raising awareness.
Even though this was a charity project it doesn't get too preachy, there's a lot of
Alison Burgess
I think humanitarian efforts from organizations such as CARE have good intentions, but this book had parts that made me cringe because of the white savior attitude. I have spent time getting know people in Kenya, and they are so proud of the work that they do and the beautiful country that they live in. I felt that this book depicts it as fully corrupt, hopeless nation that we can read about to feel better about our lives as white people. The brief mention of the World Bank's role in poverty in ...more
Mar 13, 2016 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great little Bill Bryson read. Funny and insightful, with some depth, and thankfully not over 500 pages, like the rather longwinded non-travel-based non-fiction books he's writing more of these days (A Not-Very-Short History of XXXXX...)! (Not that they're not interesting, but he does tend to ramble, and getting through one always feels like a huge accomplishment!) In BB's African Diary, a children's charity (C.A.R.E.) sends him to Kenya and he writes about his experiences visiting C.A.R.E. proj ...more
Jul 14, 2015 Simone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Bryson was invited in 2002 to visit Kenya on behalf of CARE International. CARE is a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with effective methods, by eliminating the causes instead of fighting the symptoms.

Bill Bryson is a famous author of humorous travel, science and language books. For me, he is most known for his A short history of nearly everything, which tells the story of science in a popular, easy-to-read way. Starting to read his African Diary, I was actually surprised t
Dec 10, 2015 Monique rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
It's only 55 pages long and takes, conservatively, 20 minutes to read so I don't really know if this counts as a book. As all the proceeds go to the CARE foundation though I can hardly be mad at Bill Bryson for this very short diary. Or can I?

His African Diaries are very funny and nicely descriptive but very rushed. Bryson came to Kenya and visited maybe six places and spent a day at each. At the end of that day he wrote a diary entry about it, and his publishers bound the six entries into a bo
Andres Eguiguren
At 49 pages, this is more of a lengthy magazine article than a book. It was done for charity (CARE), yet most reviews tend to grumble about the brevity of the enterprise. It's not bad, but it really should have been titled Bill Bryson's Kenya Diary, as it briefly chronicles his eight-day visit to that East African country. It's a shame that Bryson, CARE or the publisher didn't see fit to put Kenya in the title given that it is one of 55 countries in the continent. Frankly, if I picked up a book ...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.

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“Of course, you’ll have to fly to the refugee camp at Dadaab,” Will observed thoughtfully at one point. He glanced at me. “To avoid the bandits,” he explained.
Dan and Nick nodded gravely.
“I beg your pardon?” I said, taking a sudden interest.
“It’s bandit country all round there,” Will said.
“Where?” I asked, peering at the map for the first time.
“Oh, just there,” Will said, waving a hand vaguely across most of east Africa. “But you’ll be fine in a plane.”
“They only rarely shoot at planes,” Nick explained.”
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