When I grow up, I want to write like Bill Bryson. I love his tone, I love his insatiable curiosity, and I love that he lives in England. Not that living in England has anything to do with writing. I’d just like to live there some day.
I’ve read almost all his books. The ones I didn’t read, I listened to. I listened to a Short History of Nearly Everything twice because I know I missed a bit the first time through. The important bits like… how gravity works. (Knowing how gravity works is not supposed to be a requirement for walking without tripping over invisible rocks, but it can’t hurt, right?)
I have just re-read I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away. It is still funny, even for now sounding a little dated. He at one point goes on about telemarketing as if it is a new thing, and I really wonder, haven’t they had telemarketers for as long as they have had telephones? But you have to forgive him because even though he is an american, he’s spent the majority of his adult life overseas.
This book is a collection of essays he wrote for an English newspaper over a period of eighteen months while back living in America. While he does spend time poking fun at our odd American habits, like driving everywhere, for the amusement of his English readers, throughout the essays there is a sense of nostalgia for the things he’s missed:
He attributes much of his writing skill to his time working as an editor for a newspaper, that paring down other people sentences gave him the ability to write with concise clarity. But he also weaves subtle humor through every sentence. You don’t even realize that you are being led to a punchline until it hits you. Always when I’ve just taken a sip of milk, of course. My day is not complete until I’ve had milk shoot out of my nose from laughing. And that is something Bill Bryson would completely understand.