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I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away

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After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly 3 million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens--as he later put it, "it was clear my people needed me"). They were greeted by a new and improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item.

Delivering the brilliant comic musings that are a Bryson hallmark, I'm a Stranger Here Myself recounts his sometimes disconcerting reunion with the land of his birth. The result is a book filled with hysterical scenes of one man's attempt to reacquaint himself with his own country, but it is also an extended if at times bemused love letter to the homeland he has returned to after twenty years away.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1998

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About the author

Bill Bryson

147 books19.2k followers
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS 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 travel book, he chronicled a trip in his mother's Chevy around small town America. It was followed by Neither Here Nor There, an account of his first trip around Europe. Other travel books include the massive bestseller Notes From a Small Island, which won the 2003 World Book Day National Poll to find the book which best represented modern England, followed by A Walk in the Woods (in which Stephen Katz, his travel companion from Neither Here Nor There, made a welcome reappearance), Notes From a Big Country and Down Under.

Bill Bryson has also written several highly praised books on the English language, including Mother Tongue and Made in America. In his last book, he turned his attention to science. A Short History of Nearly Everything was lauded with critical acclaim, and became a huge bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, before going on to win the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. His next book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, is a memoir of growing up in 1950s America, featuring another appearance from his old friend Stephen Katz. October 8 sees the publication of A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,191 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 10, 2020
Who says you can't go home?

Bryson grew up in America, married his English wife and moved to England with her. Now, after 20 years across the pond, he moves back. And that's when things got weird.
Coming back to your native land after an absence of many years is a surprisingly unsettling business, a little like waking up from a long coma. Time, you discover, has wrought changes that leave you feeling mildly foolish and out of touch.
I suppose I feel a milder version of this whenever I visit my parents or extended relatives. Reading his take on returning home was a delight and there were so many parts I could relate to.

As always, I enjoyed his colorful scenarios and contemplations. His signature dry humor was charming and engaging. How could you not enjoy such thoughtful musings such as:
Christmas tree stands are the work of the devil and they want you dead.
His book certainly brings to light several "normal" things that Americans don't quite realize how out-of-the-ordinary they truly are:
In the United States, frozen cheese pizza is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Frozen pepperoni pizza, on the other hand, is regulated by the Department of Agriculture.
This book was a bundle of joy. However, the spark that so charmed me at the beginning fizzled out - it just got a bit samey-samey.

Audiobook Comments
Great book (if I judged solely on the power of the voice (William Roberts)). The reader had excellent timing and tone.

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Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,655 followers
October 27, 2014
Have you ever visited a foreign country for a length of time, to the point where you were caught up in a completely different lifestyle and society, and then when you finally returned home, you experienced a form of reverse culture shock?

That is what happened to Bill Bryson when he moved back to the U.S. after living in England for two decades. This delightful book is a collection of weekly columns he wrote for the Mail on Sunday newspaper from 1996 to 1998. Bryson has fun talking about American food, going shopping, holiday seasons, going to the movies, going to the beach, the U.S. postal service, U.S. tax forms, and dozens of awkward and humorous encounters he had with fellow citizens.

Even though some of the columns showed their age a bit (such as referencing pre-Internet computers and habits) or they included statistics from the 1990s when Bryson was trying to make a point, the pieces were still largely relevant and got at the heart of what it was like to live in America.

Is this your favorite Bryson book?
No, that honor would go to "A Walk in the Woods," with "At Home" getting second place.

Would you recommend this to fellow readers?
Yes, but I would say that I don't think it should be the first Bryson book you read. The short columns are fun, but they're not as cohesive as his travelogues or history books.

Is this one of those times when you would recommend listening to the audiobook instead of reading the print?
Yes, I would. Bryson is a wonderful narrator and I think I enjoyed the book more because I listened to him tell these shorter stories.

Why are you reading so many Bill Bryson books? You're getting a bit obsessive. We're concerned and we're thinking of an intervention.
WHOA. Everyone can calm down. I'm not obsessed, I've just been working my way through a collection of his audiobooks. They are a delightful way to pass my daily commute to work. You should try it -- some days a Bryson story makes me laugh so hard that it brings tears to my eyes. It's a great way to start the day. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go listen to his book about visiting Australia.

Some favorite quotes:

"Coming back to your native land after an absence of many years is a surprisingly unsettling business, a little like waking from a long coma. Time, you discover, has wrought changes that leave you feeling mildly foolish and out of touch. You proffer hopelessly inadequate sums when making small purchases. You puzzle over ATM machines and automated gas pumps and pay phones, and are astounded to discover, by means of a stern grip on your elbow, that gas station road maps are no longer free."

"Some weeks ago I announced to my wife that I was going to the supermarket with her next time she went because the stuff she kept bringing home was -- how can I put this? -- not fully in the spirit of American eating. I mean, here we were living in a paradise of junk food -- the country that gave the world cheese in a spray can -- and she kept bringing home healthy stuff like fresh broccoli and packets of Swedish crispbread. It was because she was English, of course. She didn't really understand the rich, unrivaled possibilities for greasiness and goo that the American diet offers. I longed for artificial bacon bits, melted cheese in a shade of yellow unknown to nature, and creamy chocolate fillings, sometimes all the in same product. I wanted food that squirts when you bite into it or plops onto your shirt front in such gross quantities that you have to rise very, very carefully from the table and sort of limbo over to the sink to clean yourself up."

"I'm going to have to be quick because it's a Sunday and the weather is glorious and Mrs. Bryson has outlined a big, ambitious program of gardening. Worse, she's wearing what I nervously call her Nike expression -- the one that says, 'Just do it.' Now don't get me wrong. Mrs. Bryson is a rare and delightful creature and goodness knows my life needs structure and supervision, but when she gets out a pad and pen and writes the words 'Things to Do' (vigorously underscored several times) you know it's going to be a long time till Monday."

[On why his mother was not a great cook] To be perfectly fair to her, my mother had several strikes against her in the kitchen department. To begin with, she couldn't have been a great cook even if she had wanted to. She had a career, you see -- she worked for the local newspaper, which meant that she was always flying in the door two minutes before it was time to put dinner on the table. On top of this, she was a trifle absentminded. Her particular specialty was to cook things while they were still in the packaging. I was almost full-grown before I realized that Saran Wrap wasn't a sort of chewy glaze. A combination of haste, forgetfulness, and a charming incompetence where household appliances were concerned meant that most of her cooking experiences were punctuated with billows of smoke and occasional small explosions. In our house, as a rule of thumb, you knew it was time to eat when the firemen departed."

My rating: 3.5 stars rounded up to 4
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,047 reviews902 followers
May 17, 2018
When in doubt and/or a funky reading mood, pick a Bill Bryson book - that's my (newest) motto.

As much as I'd love to re-read favourite books - if only to reacquaint myself with the story/characters and/or to check if they still thrill me as much, it's difficult to do so, when many unread books are beckoning me to pay attention. For the past month or so I've been a reluctant reader. Luckily, I'm still able to listen to audiobooks. So when perusing the library overdrive for audiobooks, I spotted this book and I had to download it even though I read it 10-15 years ago.

If the number of owned books is an indication of how much you love a certain author, then the eleven Bill Bryson books gathering dust on my bookshelf make him my favourite author. My love for him, better said for his wit, humour, intelligence, sarcasm, curiosity, observation skills and snark, has reached its highest level and after all these years it's still intact.

This book is a collection of weekly columns penned by Bryson between 1996-98. Dated, right? Or is it? Let's see:
- mass incarceration for minor offences, injustice, the death penalty issues relating to the immense costs, inequality of who gets put to death and most importantly, people wrongly convicted - still current and getting worse;
- airline companies not doing a very good job as service providers - check
- people being dumber and dumber, and the increasing trend of dumbing down - check
- too much choice, too much of anything, over-consumerism, disregard for the environment and conserving resources - check
- mindless shopping - check
- having a million and one TV channels and nothing to watch - check.
I'm guessing most people still have to drive everywhere as most places don't make any allowances for pedestrians?

Things that have changed: desktop computers seem to have put the serial numbers in more accessible places :-), oh, and who remembers the last time they spoke to a real person in a company about installing/setting up anything you bought from them?

While listening to this, I couldn't help wonder "what would Bryson make of today's this and that". I wish he still wrote weekly columns. I would even buy a magazine/newspaper subscription to read his musings.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,230 followers
April 24, 2017
1000 BOOKS READ!!!

Okay, maybe it's not an exact 1000. Some of the books I've added to my GR read list are not even books. On the other hand, I know I've forgotten some of the books I read as a kid, so maybe it evens out in the end, and GR's count is probably as accurate as it's going to get. Therefore, let the good times roll!


Oh my goodness, that was fun. Okay, back to business.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away is a very long title. It rambles a bit, doesn't it? Unfortunately, so does its author, Bill Bryson. This book loses focus. Sure, these are essays, but even within each essay he gets lost now and then.

I am a Bryson fan, but this was not one of my favorites of his. It's a collection from his column in a Brit newspaper. It's mildly interesting for its take on American life viewed through the lens of an American ex-pat returning home after Englishing himself up for a few years. That could be a good premise and most of this is fairly entertaining, but often it devolves into complaining rants. The humor also occasionally falls back on John Cleese's list tactic of comedy creation, where if you don't have a strong premise, you just keep adding to it so that the preponderance of substance eventually feels like quality. You can almost see Bryson flailing around for things to write about. Creating content for a weekly column is no easy task!

I prefer when he focuses on a topic and sticks with it for the length of the book. For instance, A Walk in the Woods is about walking the Appalachian Trail. In a Sunburned Country is a humous look at the deadliness of Australia. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a delightful recounting of his childhood in the Midwest. One Summer: America, 1927 is...self-explanatory. All of these are better than I'm a Stranger Here Myself, as far as my tastes go.
Profile Image for Valerie.
252 reviews12 followers
January 18, 2008
As an expat about to return to the US, this book simply wasn't Weird enough for me. It in no way captures my experience of how completely absurd the US feels upon returning after an extended absence.

Obsessions with skinny white girls named Jessica; the unbelievable noise, especially from radio and TV; un-ending ads for stuff on sale (which exist in other places, but when it's in another language, I just tune it out); the fact that no one walks anywhere; the enormous bodies(quitting smoking maybe wasn't such a great idea, folks...); the amount of non-food items for sale in a grocery store; the general ignorance and out-right disinterest in news from other places; the list goes on.

I like Bryson's humor, but I think I like his earlier work best. ("Fat Girls from Des Moines" remains one of my favorite Granta reads.)
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,347 reviews4,864 followers
December 4, 2021

Bill Bryson is an Anglo-American author of books on travel, science, language and other non-fiction topics.

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson, born in Iowa, lived in England for twenty years before returning to the U.S. with his family. This book is a compilation of humorous articles about America that Bryson wrote for a British publication. The book, published in 2000, is somewhat dated. Even taking this into account many articles have a snarky, annoying tone. This was disappointing as I usually like Bryson's books.

Parts of the book did make me smile 😊, including a few satirical - but overly long - articles detailing the million steps required to: fill out an income tax return; get a foreign-born family member declared a legal resident of the U.S; and set up a new computer (of course this is much easier now).

Other things on Bryson's mind were more problematic for me, such as his: whining about smoking restrictions because people want to avoid second-hand smoke; griping about letters being returned even though he didn't know the correct address (he seems to feel the post office has an obligation to figure out where he wants his letters delivered); day-trips for fun - which he generally describes as endless hours of driving for 10 minures of recreation, and so on. I wanted to tell Bryson, "if you don't like it here, go back to England" (which he actually did in 2003).

The book might be worth checking out of the library but it's not worth buying. He's written much better ones.

You can follow my reviews at http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Mario.
Author 1 book190 followers
December 7, 2015
First think I will say is that this isn't the book I would finish if I didn't have to, for university. I'm not saying that this book isn't good, I'm just saying that this book wasn't for me.

Second thing I will say is that I can't believe that I finally finished it. I don't think I've ever needed this much time to finish one book (and the book wasn't even that big).

I'm a Stranger Here Myself (or as it was released in England: Notes from a Big Country) is a collection of columns. When Bill Bryson moved to the United States he started writing columns for British newspapers, and those columns were later collected and put together into a book. And in these columns all Bryson did was moan, moan and (yeah you've guessed it!) moan. It was fun reading it at the beginning, but after few columns it just got annoying.

But one thing I liked about this book (and the reason I didn't give it one star) was the humor. Bryson have sarcastic and dark humor, and in few columns it showed and even made me laugh. If he used his humor more, I might have actually liked the book more.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,180 followers
September 3, 2016
Bill Bryson has become something like my spiritual guide. Taken together, his works form a roadmap for living life as a middle-aged, oversensitive, bookish, misanthropic, curious, and curiously inept man; and I am following his lead into the sunset.

This book was particularly relevant for me, because I recently returned to New York to renew my visa. Like Bryson, I would be seeing my native land after a spell abroad (although my time away was much shorter). As usual, I got the audiobook version so I could savor his delicate voice and charming transatlantic accent. The whole experience warms my heart.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself originated as a newspaper column for a British magazine, written about the trials of moving back to the United States after living his whole adult life in England. As such, this book is more of a collection than a unified whole. The subject jumps from buying fax machines to filing immigration paperwork, from playing ball with his son to gardening with his wife, not to mention thanksgiving, hair cuts, spell checkers, air travel, the economy, and much else.

Strangely enough, the imposed brevity of a newspaper column allows us to see more of Bryson, not less. He mainly writes about whatever is on his mind, and frequently lapses into autobiography. We meet his wife and kids, examine his memories of his childhood, and get a tour of his town. If you like Bryson, this will be delightful; and if not, not.

As far as the ostensible subject goes—and I say ostensible because Bryson often strays from it—I cannot say Bryson quite captures the experience of seeing American culture from a distance. He remarks that people here eat too much, walk too little, and consequently weigh too much. He notes our preoccupation with rules, our predilection for junk food, our reflexively optimistic attitude. To his credit, Bryson presciently condemns American xenophobia and our disastrous ‘War on Drugs’. But in general his observations seem rather superficial. Certainly he is no Tocqueville.

I cannot resist including one of my own observations here. The thing that has most struck me upon moving back is the paranoia. There was a heat wave when I arrived, and everybody was worrying about it. When it gets cold, we’ll worry about that too. My family and friends are all biting their nails about this election. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that fear has taken over this election season. On the right, they’re worried about immigrants, Muslims, communists, and Clinton; and on the left, we’re mainly worried about the possibility of a Trump presidency. When I turn on the local news I see there’s been a murder in Brooklyn, a man struck by lightning in Queens, and a fire in Manhattan. In other news, there might be something wrong with our water, certain foods might kill you, and certain hair products might cause cancer. And don’t forget that a terrible epidemic is on the horizon.

This example is just to show that Bryson could have gone much further in his cultural analysis. But the book is not meant to be a serious work of cultural criticism, so I suppose it’s unfair to fault a lighthearted collection of newspaper columns for being trivial. The pieces here were not meant to change your life or open your eyes, but to provide a modest dose of entertaining reading. And that’s what they do. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go practice my transatlantic accent.
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,861 reviews5,638 followers
September 11, 2017

It pains me to say this because I just read, and LOVED, A Short History of Nearly Everything by the same author, but I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away was shockingly dull.

I wasn't a fan of the audiobook narrator, who comically overacted, and the content was so dated that I could barely relate to it anymore. If you like lots (and I mean LOTS) of complaining about topics such as telemarketers, having to use ID to get on an airplane, having to actually put an address on a letter to get it delivered, and people being friendly, then this book is for you. Too much whinging for me.
Profile Image for Nina.
840 reviews219 followers
July 12, 2022
A delightful collection of random articles all concerning USA. As always I kept chuckling at inappropriate moments, not caring if I looked crazy. Great fun!
Profile Image for Lilo.
131 reviews360 followers
February 8, 2022
I was just about to write a review, when I came across Jason Koivu’s review of this book, which was exactly what I had wanted to say but which was written so much better than I would have been able to say it. Here is the link to this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Just allow me to add a few words:

The above book is a collection of essays, written for the weekly column of an English newspaper. And as Jason Koivu says in his review, these essays are rather disjointed and diverse in style. So let me use a little allegory:

I love the following foods: ice cream, mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, raisins, garlic, and caraway seed. Yet I can assure you that I wouldn’t get the idea to mix these foods together in a bowl. And this is, kind of, what Bill Bryson has done with the above book.

Nevertheless of its shortcomings, I think this book should be mandatory reading for every American, as most of these essays—some humorous, some not so humorous—are a society critique—that should be hammered into every American brain. People who have grown up in other countries, or—as Bill Bryson—have lived substantial time in other countries, recognize what’s wrong with our country. (Yes, OUR country, because I have obtained American citizenship.) And as a German saying goes: “Selbsterkenntnis ist der erste Weg zur Besserung.” (Self-awareness is the first step to improvement.)

P.S. Please note that I am a digital 150% idiot. I keep finding typos in my review, which I have to correct. So I keep editing this review, but I do not know how I can delete the previous, typo-ridden reviews, as for some reason I cannot even guess, my reviews no longer show under Notifications on my Home Page. Can somebody, who is familiar with Goodreads' latest quirks and changes, please help?

P.P.S. I keep having trouble editing this review. I just noticed that it says that I read this book twice, which I didn't. I tried to correct it, but it didn't take. Still says that I read this book 2-times.
Profile Image for Martin.
327 reviews137 followers
April 10, 2019
Do the English understand Americans?
And do Americans know anything about the English?
They both will with the humorous help of Bill Bryson

On the Hotline
I came across something in our bathroom the other day that has occupied my thoughts off and on ever since. It was a little dispenser of dental floss.It isn't the floss itself that is of interest to me but that the container has a toll-free number printed on it. You can call the company's Floss Hotline twenty-four hours a day. But here is the question: Why would you need to? I keep imagining some guy calling up and saying in an anxious voice, "OK, I've got the floss. Now what?"

We generally camped in motel rooms where the beds sagged as if they had last been occupied by a horse and the cooling system was an open window and where you could generally count on being awakened in the night by a piercing shriek, the sound of splintering furniture, and a female voice pleading, "Put the gun down, Vinnie. I'll do anything you say." I don't wish to suggest that these experiences left me scarred and irrationally embittered, but I can clearly remember watching Janet Leigh being hacked up in the Bates Motel in Psycho and thinking, "At least she got a shower curtain."

Garbage Disposal
I have never had a garbage disposal before, so I have been learning its tolerances through a process of trial and error. Chopsticks give perhaps the liveliest response (this is not recommended, of course, but there comes a time with every piece of machinery when you just have to see what it can do), but cantaloupe rinds make the richest, throatiest sound and result in less "down time." Coffee grounds in quantity are the most likely to provide a satisfying "Vesuvius effect," though for obvious reasons it is best not to attempt this difficult feat until your wife has gone out for the day and to have a mop and stepladder standing by.

The Boys in Blue
Even better were the sheriff's deputies in Milwaukee who were sent to the local airport with a team of sniffer dogs to practice hunting out explosives. The deputies hid a five-pound package of live explosives somewhere in the airport and then-I just love this-forgot where. Needless to say, the dogs couldn't find it. That was in February, and they're still looking. It was the second time that the Milwaukee sheriff's department has managed to mislay explosives at the airport.

Inefficiency Report
The other day something in our local newspaper caught my eye. It was an article reporting that the control tower and related facilities at our local airport are to be privatized. The airport loses money, so the Federal Aviation Administration is trying to cut costs by contracting out landing services to someone who can do it more cheaply. What especially caught my attention was a sentence deep in the article that said, "A spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration's regional office in New York City, Arlene Sarlac, could not provide the name of the company that will be taking over the tower.

"Well, that's really reassuring to hear. Now maybe I am hypertouchy because I use the airport from time to time and have a particular interest in its ability to bring planes down in an approximately normal fashion, so I would rather like to know that the tower hasn't been bought by, say, the New England Roller Towel Company or Crash Services (Panama) Ltd., very least, that the Federal Aviation Ad ministration would have some idea of whom they were selling the tower to. Call me particular, but it seems to me that that's the sort of thing you ought to have on file somewhere.

Bill Bryson was raised in America and later lived in Britain where he married a British lady. Now, years later he returned to America and with his family views the US as a completely new country. Some bookshops place his stories in the Travel section, others put him in the Humor section - Bill deserves a shelf all to himself

Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,406 reviews462 followers
January 28, 2016
January 1, 1996

A very funny perspective. It must be hard to be both a native and an outsider. Fortunately, Bryson is funny as hell, so the difficulty of it all is related in a way, that might make you laugh out loud, if you're a laughing out loud sort of person.

Library copy
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,118 reviews3,975 followers
July 8, 2009
If you like reading brief, amusing but unrelated snippets about the oddities of life, this may be the book for you. There’s nothing very original in it, but some readers no doubt enjoy the empathy of saying ��Oh, I’ve always thought that too”.

It’s a collection of short articles written for a weekly British news magazine about adapting to life in the US, after 20 years living in Britain – comparing the two countries and comparing the US of his youth with the version he now finds himself in. And guess what he finds in the US? Computer help desks are annoying; Americans are litigious and always want to blame someone else; the news is xenophobic; Toys R Us is a silly name; spell checkers are annoying and not very useful; irony is uncommon; obesity is a problem and there are helplines for all consumer products, including dental floss.

Whilst it’s often quite funny, I prefer a book, whether fact or fiction, to have some sort of sequence. This would be better as source material for standup routines of observational comedy (or in its original form).

Because it was written for a British audience, it’s accessible even to those with little experience or knowledge of the US (whereas Notes from a Small Island needs quite a lot of explanation to some US readers).

Of its kind, I suppose it is pretty good (4*), but as I didn’t especially enjoy it, I’ll only give it 3*. (I bought it in a single volume with Notes from a Small Island and assumed it was a similar travelogue, but set in the US.)
Profile Image for Mia Friel.
8 reviews2 followers
July 8, 2008
This is the first Bill Bryson book I have read, which, I am told, was a mistake. I know several people who consider Bryson one of their favorite authors and they all seem to agree that this book is not a good "ambassador" for the rest of his work.

This book is a collection of newspaper articles that document his move from England to the United States. Most of them explain his bewilderment toward American culture and customs and often longs for the "simplicity" of the British lifestyle. I was originally under the impression that Bryson was British himself, until I discovered that he was born in Des Moines and moved to England at 24. He has spent the same amount of time in both countries, but it seems like he prefers to consider himself British. That's weird.

The articles are funny and short, which make for a quick read. At times, however, his humor was a bit over the top and somewhat whiny. I am excited to give Bryson another chance with his highly recommended "A Walk in the Woods" but I would not suggest this book to friends.
Profile Image for Ben-Ain.
98 reviews13 followers
January 24, 2022
3,5 estrellas (pero no quiere decir que no sea muy entretenido) Me explico.

Antes de meterme en faena he de decir que soy un auténtico enamorado de los libros de Bill Bryson.
Su sentido del humor, la forma de contar las cosas, su amplia documentación y conocimiento hacen que leerle sea todo un placer.

Historias de un gran país no es el libro típico al que estaba acostumbrado. Es una compilación de 78 artículos semanales escritos para el periódico Daily Mail hablando sobre su país de origen, Estados Unidos. Bill Bryson nació en Iowa, pero vivió 20 años en Inglaterra antes de mudarse temporalmente a New Hampshire a mediados de 1996. En estos artículos cortos, que no llevan más de 5 minutos de lectura, el autor nos sacará más de una sonrisa contando aquellas cosas tan curiosas con las que una se topa cuando llega a Estados Unidos.

Aunque fue escrito a mediados de los 90, muchas cosas no han cambiado en absoluto, y me he sentido identificado con multitud de situaciones, pues yo viví allí 5 años. Lidiar con inmigración, tratar con el IRS, la comida, los grandes almacenes, ¡las mofetas!... No ha habido artículo que no me haya sacado como poco una sonrisa; otros directamente me han hecho reír a carcajadas.

Aunque no sea un 5 estrellas, pues en comparación con otros libros que he leído éste se queda corto, lo cierto es que se lee con rapidez y no cansa en absoluto. Muchas cosas de las que cuenta son muy interesantes, y aunque alguna gente diga que no hace sino quejarse y quejarse, lo hace con tanta gracia que al final hubiese deseado que siguiese haciéndolo durante otros 78 artículos más.

Lectura recomendable para los amantes de Bryson o para aquellos que hayan vivido allí durante un tiempo y que hayan tendio oportunidad de empaparse un poco de la cultura estadounidense.
Profile Image for Ray Nessly.
356 reviews23 followers
December 30, 2022
Yet another one I reviewed earlier this yr and forgot to post!? Sheesh. I'm getting older/forgetful, not better.

Not as great as Road to Dribbling, another Bryson I read this year, but still very good. Bryson is hilarious and interesting.

A collection of essays Bryson wrote for a British audience, his observations from having moved back to America after living in England for two decades. The essays are of very uniform length, roughly 3 and half pages, so he was obviously cramped by minimum/maximum word requirements as well as that dreaded weekly deadline. They were written in the late 90s, so a few things, inescapably, are a trifle outdated (borrowing one of his favorite words: trifle. Which also is a spectacular dessert.) On occasion the last line seems overly predictable and/or forced—a small complaint. Very few of the essays bomb outright (Last Night on the Titanic), a small handful are just okay, but most of them are either informative, entertaining, and/or funny, usually all at the same time. Of the seven Bryson books I’ve read, I wouldn’t rank this one as high as Road to Dribbling, A Sunburnt Country, or A Walk In the Woods, but it’s still quite good. Good enough to re-read someday? Probably. Bryson is one of the few writers out there who is not only interesting but can make me laugh out loud.

Favorite Chapters: What’s Cooking; Well, Doctor … (the one on injuries suffered by Americans); The Numbers Game; Tales of the North Woods; Inefficiency Report (about the FAA and FDA; Why No One Walks; The Best American Holiday; Your Tax Form Explained; At the Drive-In (mostly or only because it spurred me to recall the title and plot of the last movie I saw at a drive-in, many-many decades ago, “Raymie”); The Great Indoors; Your New Computer.

Here's a fact for you: According to the latest Statistical Abstract of the United States, every year more than 400,000 Americans suffer injuries involving beds, mattresses, or pillows.
Tonight," he began with enthusiasm, "we have a crepe galette of sea chortle and kelp in a rich mal de mer sauce, seasoned with disheveled herbs grown in our own herbarium. This is baked in an inverted Prussian helmet at gas mark 12 for 17 minutes and four seconds precisely, then layered with steamed wattle and woozle leaves. Very delicious, very audacious. We are also offering this evening a double rack of Rio Rocho cutlets, tenderized at your table by our own flamenco dancers, then baked in a clay dong for 27 minutes under a lattice of guava peel and sun-ripened stucco. For vegetarians, we have a medley of forest-floor sweetmeats gathered from our very own woodland dell."
And so it goes for anything up to half an hour. My wife, who is more sophisticated than I, is not fazed by pretentious terminology. Her problem is trying to keep straight the more bewildering of options. She will listen carefully, then say: "I'm sorry, is it the squib that's pan-seared and presented on a bed of organic spoletto?"
"No, that in fact is the baked donkling," says the serving person. "The squib comes as a quarter-cut hank, lightly rolled in payapaya and tossed with oil of olay and calamine, and presented on a bed of chaff beans and snoose noodles." ....
“Just bring me something that's been clubbed,'' I wanted to say ….
I turned to the waiter with a plaintive look. “Do have anything that once belonged to a cow?”
He gave a stiff nod. “Certainly, sir. We can offer you a 16-ounce suprème de boeuf, incised by our own butcher from the fore flank of a corn-fed Holstein raised on our own Montana ranch, then slow-grilled over palmetto and buffalo chips at a temperature of . . .”
“Are you describing a steak?” I asked, perking up.
“Not a term we care to use, sir, but yes.”

(Re: the national debt, which apparently was a mere $4.5 Trillion then)

What does $4.5 trillion actually mean? Well, let’s just try to grasp the concept of $1 trillion. Imagine you were in a vault filled with dollar bills and that you were told you could keep each one you initialed, (that) you could initial one dollar bill per second and that you worked straight through without ever stopping. How long do you think it would take to count a trillion dollars? Go on, humor me and take a guess. Twelve weeks? Two years? Five?
If you initialed one dollar per second, you would make $1,000 every seventeen minutes. After 12 days of nonstop effort you would acquire your first $1 million. Thus, it would take you 120 days to accumulate $10 million and 1,200 days— something over three years—to reach $100 million. After 31.7 years you would become a billionaire, and after almost a thousand years you would be as wealthy as Bill Gates. But not until after 31,709.8 years would you count your trillionth dollar (and even then you would be less than one-fourth of the way through the pile of money representing America’s national debt). That is what $1 trillion is.”

First half of "Your Tax Form Explained". Brilliantly hilarious—oh and also not as outdated as you might suspect) :

Enclosed is your 1998 United States Internal Revenue Service Tax Form 1040-ES OCR: “Estimated Tax for Self-Employed Individuals.” You may use this form to estimate your 1998 fiscal year tax IF:

1. You are the head of a household AND the sum of the ages of your spouse and dependents, minus the ages of qualifying pets (see Schedule 12G), is divisible by a whole number. (Use Supplementary Schedule 142C if pets are deceased but buried on your property.)

2. Your Gross Adjusted Income does not exceed your Adjusted Gross Income (except where applicable) AND you did not pay taxable interest on dividend income prior to 1903.

3. You are not claiming a foreign tax credit, except as a “foreign” tax credit. (Warning: Claiming a foreign tax credit for a foreign “tax” credit, except where a foreign “tax credit” is involved, may result in a fine of $125,000 and 25 years’ imprisonment.)

4. You are one of the following: married and filing jointly; married and not filing jointly; not married and not filing jointly; jointed but not filing; other.


Type all answers in ink with a number two lead pencil. Do not cross anything out. Do not use abbreviations or ditto marks. Do not misspell “miscellaneous.” Write your name, address, and social security number, and the name, address, and social security numbers of your spouse and dependents, in full on each page twice. Do not put a check mark in a box marked “cross” or a cross in a box marked “check mark” unless it is your express wish to do the whole thing again. Do not write “Search me” in any blank spaces. Do not make anything up.

Complete Sections 47 to 52 first, then proceed to even-numbered sections and complete in reverse order. Do NOT use this form if your total pensions and annuities disbursements were greater than your advanced earned income credits OR vice versa.

Under “Income,” list all wages, salaries, net foreign source taxable income, royalties, tips, gratuities, taxable interest, capital gains, air miles, and money found down the back of the sofa. If your earnings are derived wholly, or partially but not primarily, or wholly AND partially but not primarily, from countries other than the United States (if uncertain, see USIA Leaflet 212W, “Countries That Are Not the United States”) OR your rotated gross income from Schedule H was greater than your earned income credit on nontaxable net disbursements, you MUST include a Grantor/Transferor Waiver Voucher. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $1,500,000 and seizure of a child.

Under Section 890f, list total farm income (if none, give details). If you were born after January 1, 1897, and are NOT a widow(er), include excess casualty losses and provide carry over figures for depreciation on line 27iii. You MUST list number of turkeys slaughtered for export. Subtract, but do not deduct, net gross dividends from pro rata interest payments, multiply by the total number of steps in your home, and enter on line 356d.

On Schedule F1001, line c, list the contents of your garage. Include all electrical and nonelectrical items on Schedule 295D, but DO NOT include electrical OR nonelectrical items not listed on Supplementary Form 243d.

edit: Found this later, seems to be the entire text of this chapter.
Profile Image for Jo .
198 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2008
Bill Bryson grew up in Iowa, then spent twenty years in England. He has returned to the U.S. with his British wife and children. I'm a Stranger Here is selections from his newspaper column which chronicles his experiences. Some of them are funny, like "Dying Accents" and "The Best American Holiday". Others, particularly anything is which he tries to mock the writing style on instructional booklets, electronics, the government (I'm all for mocking the government, but he just doesn't do it well), are overreaching and dull.
He also has the annoying habit of showing off a keen sense of understanding, both of general topics and the English language, and then goes on long rambling paragraphs about how he doesn't understand anything.
Profile Image for Emily.
452 reviews23 followers
June 14, 2008
I read this several years ago, so I have no idea what it was about. But I do know that I have LOVED every Bill Bryson book that I have ever even seen, let alone read.

I think Bill Bryson is very cool. I'd like him to be my neighbor. He could write stories about me. Like "I have this neighbor who stands in her garden and chats with her plants. She introduces the new ones when they arrive. She asks everybody how they are doing and if they are thirsty. Boy, she sure is a great lady." Ok, I don't remember if he even wrote stuff like that. But since I really like him, I like to think that if he was my neighbor he would.

Perhaps I got a little off topic here. I think it is because of the man (I'm at the library) right behind me who is coughing a lot. There's a lot of phlegm. I am struggling not to concentrate on that.
Profile Image for Gabriela Pistol.
424 reviews141 followers
May 1, 2023
Am râs în hohote, pentru că asta-i umorul lui Bryson, dar cu ce am rămas din reportajele-eseu despre America lui poate fi rezumat perfect de titlul unuia dintre ele: "Uniformitatea fără gust".
(Dar cu gloanțe, orașe pentru mașini, nu oameni, salvată uneori de bunăvoința oamenilor. Și de diners, dacă ai noroc să mai găsești vreunul original, interbelic).
Profile Image for Antonomasia.
973 reviews1,199 followers
October 4, 2021
Even on audio, this is very obviously a collection of humourous 1990s newspaper columns - a category I know better than any non-media person under 50 probably should, on account of having been certain, as a teenager, that I wanted to be a journalist, and reading a lot of the things, whether collected in books, or in their native papers and magazines. There's a glibness these things tend to have, even under the pen of their better exponents, and that is certainly found in Notes From a Big Country.

In these columns, Bryson, by the time of writing now a well-known author - Notes From a Small Island (1995) was one of the bestselling books of the decade in the UK - is getting used to life back in the USA with his family after having lived in Britain for years. Among the discussions of differences between, and names of, DIY and homeware items on either side of the pond, the respective temperaments and cultures of the people, some very late 90s grumbles about tech - and occasional parodies and comedy sketches about soft targets, from tax forms to aristocrats on the Titanic - are a few serious subjects that remain all too relevant and current today. These include shockingly harsh sentencing for drug offences; racial bias in the justice system, especially capital punishment; difficulties with immigration bureaucracy (though back then Britain's was more relaxed than the US); and the excesses of American consumerism and energy use and their effects on the environment and natural resources. But you probably shouldn't pick up this book just for those, as the bulk of it is Bryson rambling on about daily life and his absent-minded, fairly ordinary middle aged self and family. As in Notes From a Small Island, he frequently recounts a level of irritation with customer service staff that nowadays might be considered bordering on abusive - if his anecdotes are actually true - but which in lighthearted writings such as these 25 years ago (and unfortunately in my own family at that time) was more or less normalised.

If he finds things in general so irksome, and travel itself so trying (he often has shambolic mishaps on the way) one may glibly wonder, as Bryson's wife does near the end of this volume, why he is a travel writer. But for a certain generation (see also Paul Theroux) this misanthropic streak, and proneness to mishap, seems to be part of the job description: it did, after all, give more to write about. The shambling still does, though these days writers, like everyone else, are expected to be somewhat better mannered.

William Roberts' readings of Bill Bryson are useful, jauntily companionable low-effort audiobooks, and several are on Audible's new 'included with membership' category, which if you were used to Audible when you had to pay for each book, basically translates to 'free'. I wouldn't have paid for the first one or two, nor probably even gone to the effort of downloading them from a public library, but in this context they are very useful and I am starting to value them more.

(October 2021)
Profile Image for Florin Pitea.
Author 41 books180 followers
May 28, 2015
Lovely collection of articles. Funny, witty, charming, reads like a dream. I can hardly wait to begin reading another book by Mr. Bill Bryson.
21 reviews
September 28, 2008
This is the first Bill Bryson book I have read and I found it laugh out loud funny. My husband was given it as a christmas gift and when he started reading it kept reading bits out to me because he thought they were so funny. We gave up on that approach and started reading it together and both loved it. Some of that might have been that we have just moved back to Australia from the US and enjoyed the reminders of some of the more quirky aspects of US culture that we miss, and also could relate to some of the frustrations he experienced in moving back there. This has inspired me to check out some of his others books which if the reviews on here are to go by should be even better than this.
Profile Image for Sarah.
39 reviews3 followers
March 10, 2010
I always really want to love Bill Bryson, but never can quite get there, he's like the best friend you want to fall in love with, but just doesn't have the magic. Usually I get about halfway or even (on a good day) three-quarters of the way through his books and I start to find him annoying or repetitive. This, I had less issue with...as it's a collection of his newspaper columns, so they're short vignettes, and difficult to get tired halfway through. Also, I read this one sporadically over several months, so again, less time to get irritated.

I enjoy his comparisons of the UK to the US, though I am not sure I buy all of them--although he always hit the nail on the head when he talked about everything in America being big: houses, cars, serving sizes, people. I got fairly annoyed at his cutesy way of tidying up each column with a summation sentance, but I found that if I just didn't read the last paragraphs of each chapter, I did ok.

All in all, not my favorite Bryson, but certainly not a bad read under the right circumstances.
Profile Image for Philip.
1,388 reviews72 followers
July 17, 2019
Apparently there's an earlier audiobook version of this recorded by Bryson himself, which I would love to get my hands on somewhere, because I've enjoyed his low-key reading on several of his other books. Unfortunately, this version narrated by William Roberts quickly became unlistenable. I just barely managed to get through the first CD, but by then was pretty much ready to drive into a brick wall. Roberts overacts shamelessly and relentlessly, sounding like a character from some 1940's radio comedy like Fibber McGee & Molly, or else the guy who let's you know that Fibber is "brought to you by Chesterfields, the cigarette smoked by more doctors than any other." At times he even chuckles gently at "his" (i.e., Bryson's) own cleverness...nyyaarrRRRGGH !!

That said, Bryson remains a highly skilled and amusing writer. I particularly enjoyed his very first piece on returning to America after living 20 years in England, since his experiences readjusting to the land of his youth reminded me so much of my own return to the States after 15 years in Taiwan - he just tells it so much better than I ever could. But from there on, he sounds increasingly like the bastard child or Garrison Keillor and Jerry Seinfeld during his observational "what's the deal with...?" period, as he riffs on more mundane topics like airports, basements, garbage disposals and the like.

This could well be a 5-star book, but with this 1-star narration I couldn't give it more than an overall 3-star average. However, I will definitely look for it in either print or Bryson-read formats and hopefully give it the review - and rating - it truly deserves.
Profile Image for Agnė.
753 reviews57 followers
February 6, 2016

“I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away” by Bill Bryson is a collection of seventy comical weekly columns written for the British newspaper “Mail on Sunday” in 1996-1998. After living in Britain for almost two decades, Bryson moved back to the United States, his homeland. Together with his English wife and four children, Bryson settled down in Hanover, New Hampshire, from where he wrote the weekly columns about his reacquaintance with American culture. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” is full of hilarious and shamelessly frank observations of American lifestyle in the ‘90s as well as nostalgic reminiscences of America in the ‘70s.


1) Thoughtful, sidesplittingly hilarious and seemingly effortless.
I sincerely don’t remember the last time a BOOK made me laugh out loud so hard, so many times. It seems like Bryson can write an engaging, thoughtful and, above all, hilarious essay about absolutely ANYTHING, let it be dental floss, breakfast pizza, keyboard, garbage disposal, cupholder, or taxes. What is more, he makes the writing seem effortless, as if he wrote the essays as fast as I’ve read them.

2) Charismatic personality.
In addition to being clumsy and childishly silly, Bryson is often grumpy and rather whiny. But, underneath his crankiness, you can see a glimpse of a warm, bright, observant, humble, and extremely witty personality that instantly wins you over. Oh, and he NEVER misses a chance to laugh at himself.

3) Outdated but still quite relevant.
Although “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” was written more than sixteen years ago, in its pages I could easily recognize my own impressions of the US when I first came here five years ago (choice abundance, vastness of the country, incomprehensive tax forms and bizarre junk food options, just to name a few). I guess some things never change. The other more time-sensitive essays on technology and ‘90s statistics as well as snippets from the author’s childhood maybe are not that relevant but definitely highly entertaining (and also quite educational).


1) Not meant to be read all at once.
“I’m a Stranger Here Myself” is kind of a bathroom read and is most enjoyable if read in short spurts over time (like weekly columns are supposed to be read). Otherwise, the essays become a little bit repetitive and tiresome, and Bryson’s whining, though truly hilarious, finally gets to you.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5

“I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away” is a collection of thoughtful, hilarious and still quite relevant weekly columns on American lifestyle in the 90s, and it is best read in short spurts over time.
Profile Image for Alkatraz.
73 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2011
A wonderfully poignant collection of Bryson's published news paper article. After twenty years in England, where he married and had his children, Bryson returns to America to an interesting version of culture shock. We follow him over a few years worth of articles as he reeducates himself with the strange ways of Americana. Everything from a day at the beach to children leaving the nest, Bryson shows us his world, both intimate and familiar.

His style is humorous and quirky, a lovely mix. You can see Queen's English as well as American English in his writing, a trait I rather enjoy. He is at times annoying with his views, as an old man on his front porch, but then he's no spring chicken. Some of his writing are silly and happy memories from childhood, or experiences with his own children. Other occasions show his profound disappointment in the difference between England and America. One gets the feeling that, while he is a patriot, he's also a "red coat".

The articles are all short, a few pages at most, and makes for a quick read. I would definitely recommend this book to, well just about anyone.
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