In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Last year I featured Bryson’s Appalachian Trail travelogue A Walk in the Woods, and mentioned his Australia travel book. This year it gets its own featured spot in the series.
It’s been 10 years since I read this book, and I still remember large chunks of it clearly. The disappearing politician. The snakes and other hazardous wildlife. The hazardous marine life. The longest stretch of straight train tracks in the world. Did I mention the hazardous wildlife?
Bryson has such an appealing writing style – bringing you along as he treks across Australia, sharing interesting tidbits of information about the history, geography, geology, and, yes, hazardous wildlife. His book is the closest I’ve ever come to traveling there, but his stories make the country enormously appealing for a visit. Just not appealing to go communing with nature. 🙂
Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiousity.
Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.
If you haven’t read it, of course I recommend A Walk in the Woods. Bryson has written other books, but I’ve never read any of the others (something I really do need to rectify soon.) For a similar feel in travel books, I’d recommend Polly Evans. She’s got a similar humorous style in her writing – check out It’s Not About the Tapas to start and see if she appeals to you.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.
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