Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There

I worry that I am using up my backlog of reviews too quickly, and will soon run out of filler material.  In the interest of not losing any readers, however, I’m going to post another older review anyway.

Today’s review is of the second Bill Bryson book I have read, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe.  (Before that, I read his book about the Appalachian Trail, called A Walk in the Woods.)

This was definitely entertaining, but not something to read if you want an unbiased account of various travels through Europe, or just unprejudiced information about any European countries.

I got many a chuckle from this book, but it was almost too sarcastic for even me – which would probably make it too sarcastic for the average person. I felt that Mr. Bryson complained quite a bit about the lack of culture and historical integrity of some places, and then complained about it when he found it, or just was unable to appreciate it.

Because I’m not interested in the European bar scene, I did not really acquire the kind of information I was looking for about a lot of these European cities.

Perhaps I’m being a little too harsh. I enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t particularly useful. I didn’t really pick it up for information so much as I did for entertainment, because I was amused by the first Bryson book I read, so I suppose I got what I was looking for. Sometimes, however, it’s just a little difficult to appreciate a travel book in which the author has something deprecating to say about every single place he visits, and sometimes nothing positive to say at all about some of the places.

It was at times difficult to determine whether he was speaking truthfully or making something up for comedic effect, and also he tended to judge certain countries based solely on a handful of experiences that occurred in one or two of that country’s cities. He spent only one or two nights in many places, which to me is nowhere near enough to really get a feel for an area, so some of these cities that were judged rather severely by Bryson were given the short end of the stick, in my opinion.

Again, I really feel that I should say that this was for the most part a very funny book, and I think that Bryson is considerably high up on the spectrum of intelligence. I wish he had a little bit more tolerance of other cultures and customs, though, and didn’t use his sense of humor at the expense of others quite so frequently.

There are definitely some mixed messages in this review, but I later went on to purchase a copy of his book The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, which I think demonstrates more clearly how I feel about Bryson’s writing.  A few of his other works are on my to-read list, as well.

In other news, I am churning my way through Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run, and am now just over halfway through it.  For those interested, I have written my thoughts about it so far on my other blog, elizabethly.  I will give it a more thorough write-up here when I have finished it.

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About Elizabeth M. Lee

I am a compulsive reader, an emerging writer, a musician, an artist, a feminist, and an enthusiastic home cook. My husband and I follow a vegan diet and lifestyle, try to live low-impact, and enjoy a simple life.
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4 Responses to Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There

  1. Alpa says:

    I have to read Bill Bryson. Hopefully soon. :)..Any good recommendations ?

    • It’s hard to say, because he’s written on so many wide-ranging topics, so it kind of depends on what you’re into. Also, I’ve only read those three books, so I’m no expert. The Mother Tongue is my favorite so far, though, because it talks all about English as a developing language, with all its growing pains and quirks. I thought it was very interesting. :)

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