Tag: High Expectations

Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man | Review

Title: Invisible Man

Author: Ralph Ellison

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 478

Rating: 3/5

Okay, first thing’s first – don’t get this confused with the H. G. Wells novel, as apparently some people do. There was no chance of that here because I’ve already read the Wells novel and I’ve also already come across Ralph Ellison, and so I’d been looking forward to getting to this one.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t really engage with it. It’s not as though there’s anything wrong with it, although it’s perhaps a tad overwritten here and there and it’s definitely way longer than it really needed to be. It gets its point across, but it gets its point across pretty early and then just keeps on reinforcing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate this book for what it is, and it was definitely an important milestone in modern literature, especially in America. It does a great job of portraying the African American experience and shining a light on it from a different angle. It’s just that it isn’t particularly accessible, especially to a modern reader. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a white British dude.

I suppose I was just hoping for something like To Kill a Mockingbird, and while this does cover a lot of similar societal issues, this leans too heavily on the message and doesn’t leave the reader any room to arrive at their own interpretation. It’s sort of clunkily done, and it doesn’t have the engaging core story line that Harper Lee had.

And here we arrive at my biggest problem with this book, and that’s that I just don’t have anything else to say about it. This poses a challenge, because each of my reviews has the same word count as the book has pages, and so I’m going to have to bulk this one out a bit. Sorry about that – but on the plus side, we only have 150 words to go.

I think what it all comes down to is that I had high expectations for this one and then it just didn’t quite deliver. It’s one of those contemporary modern classics that I’ve heard a lot about, and I’d been feeling bad because I hadn’t got to it. Then I picked it up and felt glad that I’d left it as long as I did.

So it’s not that it isn’t worth reading, it’s just that it’s definitely not for everyone and it also feels like a product of its time. If you can get over that then I’m sure that you’re in for a lovely old time, but it just wasn’t for me. It failed to grab my attention from the outset, and even if it had managed to redeem itself, I would have got bored again anyway. So maybe skip this one unless you have to study it.

Learn more about Invisible Man.

Bill Bryson – Notes from a Small Island | Review

Title: Notes from a Small Island

Author: Bill Bryson

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 352

Rating: 5*/5


Bill Bryson - Notes from a Small Island

Bill Bryson – Notes from a Small Island


I had high expectations going into this book because my friend Neil lists it as his favourite book of all time. Neil has pretty good taste, so I picked this up when I saw it on the basis of that.

It turns out that Neil was right. Bryson’s book tells the true story of his travels across Britain when he basically headed off on a farewell tour before moving back to his native America after a number of years in the UK. For me, that was part of the appeal – when he was talking about London and Liverpool and other such places, I could picture it all in my head because I’d visited a bunch of them.

Bryson also has a quirky writing style that makes you literally laugh out loud while you’re reading it, and I even took to reading short excerpts aloud to my girlfriend – and she said it sounded like a funny read. He makes the reading experience a pleasure, and he does a great job of bringing Britain to life with the unique perspective of an American. Because of that, it’s hard not to love it.


Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson


There’s also the fact that this book has the potential to appeal to a wide range of people. You don’t have to be British to like this, and you don’t have to be an American. You also don’t need to be a fan of travel writing, because it’s also an entertaining piece of comedy. It’s almost the forerunner of some of the comedy/travel hybrids that you see from people like Tony Hawks and, later, Dave Gorman.

So go ahead and grab yourself a copy of this. It really is a fantastic book, and it belongs in any serious reader’s collection – no matter what sort of stuff you’re usually into. My only complaint would be that the layout made it look much denser than it actually is. That was offputting, until I started reading it. Otherwise, it’s awesome!

Bill Bryson


Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson


Click here to buy Notes from a Small Island.