Gary's Reviews > The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
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's review
Apr 10, 2010

it was amazing

It's funny how so many Americans begin their reviews of 'The Lost Continent' with statements such as "I loved Bryson's other books but this one is terrible!", all because he treats America the same way as he treats everywhere and everyone else.

So while many Americans think it's acceptable - hilarious, even - for Bryson to make disparaging-but-witty comments about non-Americans and the places they call home, it is an utter outrage for him to be anything other than completely worshipful with regard to America and Americans.

The unavoidable, undeniable fact of the matter is that Bill Bryson's 'The Lost Continent' is not only one of his finest works, but one of the best books ever written by anyone in recent times about the USA and Americans.

It is as funny as anything you'll ever read, as well as being touching, poignant and fascinating. It is the first book I've read since 'Neither Here Nor There' (also by Bryson) that has caused me to think of calling my travel agent.

America has never been half as interesting as it is in 'The Lost Continent' and Americans ought to be supremely grateful it was written and published.

Five stars and highly recommended.
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04/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson I'm guessing you've never drove across our beautiful country. If you had, you'd understand why this book is so widely panned.

message 2: by Gary (last edited Apr 28, 2012 11:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary You're correct, I have never drove across your country...but then I'm not a cowboy.

However, I have driven across much of the USA, and have met many such as yourself, which is how I can understand why Bryson's book is simultaneously accurate and disliked.

message 3: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth His book is just wrong in parts, so it makes me think all of it is likely to be wrong. And it's nasty to boot.

Gary Beth wrote: "His book is just wrong in parts, so it makes me think all of it is likely to be wrong. And it's nasty to boot."

What you're really saying is, "I disagree with his opinions with regard to my utterly perfect nation, therefore he is wrong. And nasty."

message 5: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Nope. I'm saying that a lot of the things he said about Philadelphia were wrong, so it makes me think a lot of the other things he said were wrong. Eg. he said that the houses in Philadelphia are brownstone, but that is New York. Philadelphia houses are brick. Then there was the part when he said he was visiting his friend in Mt. Airy, saying that it's a part of the neighborhood Germantown. They are actually two very different neighborhoods and I don't know why or how he combines them, especially when he said his friend lives there. Also, he said that all the children who lived in the Move house were killed when the city burned it down. That's also wrong. One of the kids did get out and the last I heard is still alive. It doesn't mean Philadelphia is perfect, but it does mean he didn't know what he was talking about.

message 6: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Sorry, I'd neglected to mention why I said the book is nasty. It's mostly the way it berates anyone who doesn't look or think just like Bill Bryson. People don't all have to be the same, and shouldn't be attacked so viciously like that when they are who they are.

D.A. Cairns I agree, he sounds mean, and I can understand how people would be offended. You are also right about the hypocrisy of American readers.

message 8: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Not all of the facts he got wrong were mean, just incorrect in ways that make me assume he didn't drive across the country at all. Because if he did he made some really stupid mistakes.

Gary The USA is just like everywhere else: It has good points and bad.

message 10: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Sutcliffe Well I have driven across America a number of times and found this book to be excellent company. Not be taken seriously and no intended slight on those wonderful and quirky off the beaten track!!! Perhaps not take to take oneself so seriously is the key to his books and the ability to laugh at yourselves which unfortunately many people can't do.
Perhaps it's because Mr Bryson has chosen to live here in the UK where we accept him for what he is.

message 11: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth I suppose it makes sense if you don't live in the U.S. and were only travelling through it that you find the book accurate. But, seriously, how can you even drive through Philadelphia and think there are brownstone buildings? It doesn't add up.

message 12: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Sutcliffe Didn't take as gospel or serious. As for visiting your great American cities we didn't if we could avoid them at all. It's the country roads and small towns that we found to be much more worth visiting. You can keep your cities thank you very much.
Seen enough of them over the many years of travelling the great US since the late 60s

Glenna Wisniewski Just not funny. Period. Disappointing

Kaveri I'm not American and found this the most tedious and boring of Bryson's books. He is so caught up in scoffing at everything that he forgets to do anything else. Awful, boring book. The fact that it was Bryson made me read it to the end.

message 15: by Harrison (new) - added it

Harrison would not describe this book as poignant or touching.

message 16: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc Bryson's UK, US and Australia books are essentially the same, right down to the goofy plays on placenames and the people he meets. Now *that* is offensive.

message 17: by JohnNY (new)

JohnNY Its not that he comes off as a person who needs to learn about people first then go to that country and write a book?! i love the fact how he wont talk about the great things the Brits destroyed, so when he talks about black people and how many is in Tuskegee and how Auburn students dont know thomas hardy that was funny for i am a loyal to the Tides Crown.back to the blacks...The British Crown i think well they brought millions and Blacks but as Americans we abolished slavery i wonder if he knows that cause he saw black people! WOW! The British pple are what built this culture of ours and it seems at times that he dont want to understand Americans. But just wants to see and write without the knowledge. Over time they were the biggest empire ever but they leave there posts and say here Washington and Ghandi." Nice Land bye chaps, sorry for the mess and the masses of slaves and i hope you deal with them better than we did I think there still bitter bout 1776 we took the country from them and know hes here to write about our progress? Is he trying to tell the facts or write a witty, humorous British book for what? He shoulda came to me i coulda told him the facts and some jokes. I bet hes a good chap cause he wrote ' short history of everything' which is The best non fiction book ever to me.

message 18: by Gary (last edited Nov 23, 2015 05:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary JohnNY wrote: "Its not that he comes off as a person who needs to learn about people first then go to that country and write a book?! i love the fact how he wont talk about the great things the Brits destroyed, s..."

Bryson has good things and bad things to say about both Americans and Brits. In fact, he has those things to say about everyone. But the thing you must understand is that Bill Bryson always reserves his harshest criticism for himself.

message 19: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna I liked your review very much Gary. Bryson is like a crabby relative who makes you mad but after he leaves you sort of miss him.

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