Tag: Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson – Made in America | Review

Title: Made in America

Author: Bill Bryson

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 480

Rating: 3.25/5

As a general rule, I’m a pretty big fan of Bill Bryson, although I will admit that I’ve enjoyed some of his books more than others. This is one of the ones that I didn’t quite enjoy as much as the others, but mostly because it’s just a super dense read and because the print on it is so tiny that you feel like you’re straining your eyes just to read it.

The good news is that the core subject matter here is pretty interesting, especially if you’re the kind of person who’s quite bookish or who’s fascinated by the written word. That’s because it basically covers the history of American English, beginning at the beginning with the formation of America and carrying on through pretty much to the modern day.

That gives this book a pretty weird vibe wherein it feels kind of like a history book and kind of like a dictionary, which is why I made this book one of my bedtime books. You’d have to be kind of mad to pick this up as your main read because of how difficult it is to lose yourself in it. It’s not really one of those books that you can binge on, you know?

With all of that said, there’s some great stuff in here, and I particularly liked the origin stories for some early Americanisms. Because of the makeup of the United States and its early colonies, US English has a bunch of words borrowed from French and Spanish, as well as from the many Native American languages that are now sadly extinct.

The thing that I struggled with was the way that so much of the text just consisted of italicised words in lists and stuff. You’d get a couple of paragraphs of really fascinating history and then just as you’re gearing up and getting into it, he’d hit you with a long list of the different words that relate back to that bit of history and eventually I just found my eyes glazing over.

So I think it would have been a little more interesting if he’d selected fewer words to talk about and made it matter, rather than just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. That makes it a better choice for a reference book perhaps, especially with the comprehensive sources and index at the end, but it doesn’t work so well if you’re just trying to read it like a normal book.

So make of all of that what you will. I would probably recommend it to people who are interested in language and the origins of words, but not to the general reader. Even if you’re a bit of a Bryson fan, you might find it heavy going. Yeah.

Learn more about Made in America.

 


Bill Bryson – The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid | Review

Title: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Author: Bill Bryson

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 416

Rating: 4/5

Bryson’s non-fiction is always a lot of fun to read, and this book was no different. What’s interesting, though, is that instead of focussing on travel writing as he usually does, this was instead a memoir about Bryson’s childhood adventures. That was cool in one sense, but in another sense I would have preferred to have had some travel writing from him, purely because that’s what he’s best at.

There’s also the Thunderbolt Kid gimmick, which I wasn’t particularly a fan of because I’m not much into superheroes in general. I get that it was his childhood fantasy and stuff and it did a good job of tying the book together, it’s just that I have different interests I guess. Plus it wasn’t really needed, and it ended up just feeling like a gimmick that Bryson relied on when he wasn’t too sure how to finish a chapter.

But I don’t want to complain too much, and in fact as a general rule, I did still really enjoy this. Bryson’s writing is always a pleasure, and I’m sure he could write about literally any subject and I’d still enjoy it. If anything, that’s kind of the gist of this review. I have less in common with Bryson when he’s writing about his upbringing as a kid in America than I do when he’s writing about the places that he’s visited.

And that’s kind of the problem here. I don’t really have anything else to say about this one and it was just okay, although at least it didn’t have any of the sort of inadvertent snootiness that’s ruined a couple of other Bryson books for me. Overall, it was eminently readable and I’m glad I picked it up, especially because it was for free from a little book exchange outside someone’s house, but it wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting.

If you’re a Bill Bryson fan then you’ll want to pick this one up of course, but at the same time I should warn you that it’s just so-so, and definitely not up to scratch if you compare it to some of his other stuff, and Notes from a Small Island in particular. If this was written by just anyone, it would’ve been fine. But because it’s by Bill Bryson, it’s a let down.

Learn more about The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

 


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