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If Only They Didn't Speak English: Notes From Trump's America
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If Only They Didn't Speak English: Notes From Trump's America

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,042 ratings  ·  112 reviews

'You see, if only they didn’t speak English in America, then we’d treat it as a foreign country – and probably understand it a lot better’

‘the sanest man in America’ – Bill Bryson
‘Jon Sopel nails it’ – Emily Maitlis

**With a brand new chapter, charting Trump's first year in power**

As the BBC’s North America Editor, Jon Sopel has had a pretty busy time of it lately

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by BBC Digital
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,042 ratings  ·  112 reviews

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Andrew Smith
Jon Sopel is a respected (and as anyone paying attention to the recent gender pay debates will know, very well paid) journalist who works for the BBC. As North American Editor, he’s lived in Washington DC since 2014. One amusing recollection I have is of Donald Trump’s reaction to Sopel at a heated White House press conference, shortly after taking office. Trump was clearly agitated by the fact that he was about to be asked a question by a reporter from the BBC, stating ‘here’s another beauty’ a ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The US and England share a language, some history and a long, if not in reality, the ‘special’ often discussed, relationship. Author, and journalist, Jon Sopel, is the BBC’s North American correspondent and has his own relationship with the country in which he has spent so much time. He has reported from all around the world, of course, but he is correct in saying that we could understand the US better if we consider it as the foreign country that it undoubtedly is to us. Yes, we may be inundate ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pol-econ
I'll start this by saying I don't know a lot about American politics, so I was looking for a book that would help me understand the last year or so in the US. Jon Sopel is an experienced BBC correspondent so I felt his knowledge and opinions would be worth listening to, and they certainly were.

The title is part of this sentence: "If only they didn't speak English in America, then we'd treat it as a foreign country - and possibly understand it better." He covers the difference in approach between
Jonathan Pool
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s an old adage that ‘Timing is everything’. Boy, is Jon Sopel’s debut political memoire a good example of this. When Sopel was commissioned to write “If only they didn’t speak English” Barack Obama was President and Hilary Clinton was the firm favourite to succeed him.
Donald Trump’s subsequent election and his first 18 months in the job have made Washington and world affairs febrile with opinion, outrage, incredulity, and interest- big time.
Jon Sopel’s book is a 90%  state -of - the - nation
Michelle Keill
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
America can be a confusing place for us Brits. On the face of it, we have a lot in common. But, there are also many differences between us. This book explains some of those, and provides some very interesting insights, figures and facts, and shines a light on how we got where we are today by turning to the past. Very engaging, very smart and, often, very amusing (but without being flippant). And some of the topics covered are so difficult to comprehend that this humour is much needed.

Note: I think the title is wrong on this entry. The picture of the book is correct and matches my ISBN, but the title does not match the ISBN (nor the picture).

If you are an American who wants to get a glimpse of your culture through the eyes of the British, Jon Sopel’s If Only They Didn’t Speak English: Notes from Trump’s America might interest you. Sopel is a Washington D.C. political correspondent for the BBC and has been in America for about four years. It feels as if the subtitle, “Notes fr
Tariq Mahmood
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bbcd, british
Fantastic profile of USA culture, especially if you are a Brit. The book gives a journalist account of American society with just the right amount of historical context. But the best bits are reserved for so-called 'special relationship' between US and UK. Jon is not only candid but unreservedly non-partisan when it comes to explaining this relationship in its historical context.

I also understood just how much the American society loves their guns and the love of their Trump.

And I think if the e
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Interesting analysis of the American political landscape by one of the BBC's most eminent journalists, who has himself been at the end of 'fake news' jibes by the current POTUS. Particularly useful to those who, looking from afar, are thinking 'Wtf'...
Faith Spinks
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book insightful and amusing. As someone who works daily for an American organisation I know all too well that although we technically speak the same language our cultures and our approach to life are very different. It’s presented as a look at how we reached Trump’s America. But it isn’t just about Trump. It considers issues such as guns, trust, our special relationship and so much more. This book helped me to further understand some of the background as to why and how American cult ...more
Really enjoyed this full review to follow
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm not quite getting all of the very positive reviews for this title. It is an easy enough read, with a bright and breezy style. However it flirts with doing one of three very interesting things, either:
a) exploring the myriad and profound ways in which America is different to the UK, despite the common language (attitudes to guns, god, and government for a start);
b) discussing how some of these differences were instrumental in Trump's victory;
c) looking at the tactics Trump deployed, and why t
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awful lot of words have been published as a result of the disastrous 2016 election and having read a decent chunk of them, I can say with confidence that these are some of the best.

Sopel doesn't take aim at Trump or at Clinton, he doesn't lambast the poor coverage or the role of social media and he doesn't reduce Americans down to thoughtless fools. Instead, he explains, in a humorous and engaging fashion, what it is that makes the USA a place where a person like Trump could be elected. He d
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was easy to read, as the style lends itself very much to the pace and intonation of a typical BBC foreign correspondent; all the more so as I had heard some sections as an audio book (read by Jon Sopel, possibly a better choice than reading it yourself?). I found the content insightful and informative, with good illustrations and occasional humour, and it shed some much needed light. I'm not sure how well this book will wear, as it is very much seeking to describe the current (and seemingly ...more
Jess Fowler
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun and interesting dissection of the differences between British and American culture. It helps us understand some of the entrenched cultural factors that make the US seem so different to the UK and reminds us not to think that because we speak broadly the same language, we’re the same.

Could have given it five stars but there were some typos, the tone of voice got a bit tedious and there were some odd uses of commas. Also clearly because it discusses Trump a lot it’s a snapshot from
Maura Heaphy Dutton
As an American living in Britain, I always look forward to BBC News Washington correspondent Jon Sopel's contributions to our nightly news, especially in these days of the head-spinning, jaw-dropping, I can't believe what I'm hearing disruption of the old certainties. Sopel does a great job of enlightening British readers on some of the realities of life and attitudes in the USA, while at the same time giving American readers interesting insights into the way others see us.

The edition I read ha
Simon Fletcher
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little while ago someone asked me why I read so much about American politics. My answer? Schadenfreude. It's comforting to see another country cocking life up as badly as the UK currently is with Brexit.
Sopel's book is an enjoyable, light hearted, funny and nuanced look at what life is like in the states. He shows how, though we'd like to think we do, we Brits dont really understand America or Americans and if anything never can and maybe never should.
Jon Sopel is a well known journalist and this is well written and I suppose well researched book.

Interestingly he comes accross as quite sympathetic to Donald Trump, which is a bit odd given that he makes the case for the 45th president being unhinged. Sopel clearly loves America and has a lot of time for Americans and their way of life, though, which is oddly nice to read.

Ross Borkett
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read about the background to Trump’s victory and the state of the nations mind at the time (and now!). If you followed the previous few years closely you will know a fair bit of this but he does categorise it well and his analysis is good. Worth a read if you are into this kind of thing
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read, extremely interesting and helps to explain some of the craziness going on in US politics at the moment. If you’re outside the US read it, if you are inside the US half of you would say it is fake news :-)
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The USA as a whole hardly knows UK exists, but Westminster politicians have talked up the "special relationship" for decades.
It's rather pathetic: for centuries Scotland an France maintained the "Auld Alliance" against England, but it was always unequal- France gained more for small investment, and France forgot us completely when it suited, but we kept on loving France.

This is how US/UK relations are.

If you followed G7 in Italy via La Repubblica or L'Express you'd have seen May trailing forl
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A super interesting look at the pre and post-election Trump era in the US - it is informative, funny, scary and depressing all at once. From his experience as the BBC's North America editor, Jon Sopel gives facts and insider's anecdotes which illuminate American politics, history and culture.
Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
If you haven't spent the last two years glued to twitter and obsessively refreshing politico and 538, you'd probably get more out of this - but it felt like a series of headlines arranged by theme, and I'd already seen them all before.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Readable and very interesting. Does explain a lot that puzzles me about Americans. But worrying too...
Martin Poetz
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another account of our post-truth society and yet, I found this book highly amusing. Whether it's Jon Sopel's interpretation of the non-existing 'special relationship', or his dry and factual yet humorous way of talking about what led to Trump and Brexit as well as the Post-Trump and Post-Brexit era (I'm not sure what's worse), I enjoyed this book from start to finish. And if the world falls apart, one can count on the BBC and their reporters to do an excellent job reporting on it.
Really engaging, immensely readable, interesting, informative, enjoyable yet obviously worrying. It's quite clear that the US and UK have little in common, as we traditionally think, apart from the language, which is why we can't understand how Trump happened. The author clarifies for me the present state of America. Troubling times for America and the world. One minor negative is that it ended really abruptly without any conclusion which was odd.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
It is certainly very readable. I almost gave it 2* because there were quite large chunks that reveal nothing new. For anyone who does closely follow US news and politics this may not have enough depth or analysis.

Having said that I thought the early chapters were good, covering ground less known in the UK. Some of the better known sections did raise a "God, yes, I had forgotten about that..."

OK and enjoyable to a point but a bit lightweight overall.
Liz C
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. It says it all in the title. A very intelligent, well crafted and witty book about America and the rise of "The Donald". Certain chapters will make you blood boil. Recommend to everyone.
Alexander Bell
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The central premise of Jon Sopel’s If Only They Didn’t Speak English is that Americans are a bit nutty and hard to understand for a Brit. Many countries seem to have odd cultures when seen from the British Isles, or even Europe. Pakistan springs to mind, although that could just be a media misrepresentation. But you sort of expect Pakistan to be very foreign. You can’t understand the language and most Europeans don’t share the religion. But the USA? At first glance, it appears that we do share t ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In this book, BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel makes some serious and possibly important points, it's just a shame that the title doesn't really fit. The title suggests that we'd understand the US a lot better if we fully grasped that it is a foreign country, and that the fact that we have a language in common (two nations divided by a common language?) gets in the way. Sopel doesn't then really set his stall out to support that view. The book would be much more accurately described by a title ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I tend to enjoy Jon Sopel's reporting from North America, particularly in the last couple of years when he's had quite a lot of material to work with. This book has been on my want-to-read list for about a year, and so when I was on holiday recently and it just happened to be sitting by the cash register in the bookshop I was in, it seemed only right to pick it up and have a read. I was not disappointed - Sopel writes in an entertaining and interesting way, and shines a light on what it's been l ...more
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