24 December 2012

Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson (redux)

My ARC and finished copy. The knife is to give scale and to cut anybody who doesn't like Bill Bryson

I'm in a quasi-reading rut right now but for my audio books.  Last week DH and I had dinner with some friends and at the end of the evening, one of them handed back to me the audio book of In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson that I had let him borrow quite some time back. I'd forgotten that I had let him borrow it and was actually just on the verge of ordering another copy since I'd been looking around the house for it in recent weeks to no avail.  I LOVE Bill Bryson. I popped disc one into the car on the drive home that night and just finished the last one tonight as I pulled into the driveway.

Normally I would write a whole new blog post about how incredible his book about Australia is (it ties for me with A Walk in the Woods as my favorite), but it's the holiday season and I work in the retail world and frankly I'd rather be drinking, eating, or sleeping than almost anything else in what little spare time I have. Thus I have reprised one of my previous posts about Bill Bryson (with slight modifications), in which I met the man himself and spent the better part of the afternoon in his company whilst he signed books.  Of course, I cannot post it at the time of said modifications because Alice recently taught me that nobody writes or reads blogs on the weekend, so this will post on Monday morning instead. Merry Christmas Eve, y'all.

Bill Bryson's latest work, piled high!

I don't think I've mentioned recently just how much I love my job.  Or my sales reps.  Because right now I'm bursting with love for bofe 'em. (NB: I still love my job and my sales reps, but by "right now" I meant October of 2010.)

Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson.
The man himself
 You might have guessed, but I just got to meet Bill Bryson.  There has been exactly one other author I have been this excited to meet, and he happened to write the best book I've read in the last decade (Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone.  Read it, y'all!), and I definitely went all fan-girl on him the two times our paths crossed.  But Bill Bryson is in a different category all together.  I'm not usually a completist when it comes to most authors, let alone non-fiction writers, but he's one of the few authors of whom I can say I've read all of his or her published works (And I mean an actual body of work, smartass.  John Kennedy Toole and other one-hit wonders most emphatically do not count), and I'm such a Bryson-completist that I include his reference books, too.  Yup, read every word. The little book he wrote for charity that scarcely broke the 50 page mark?  I read that one, too.

I have also listened to many of his published works, and because he is the reader of his audio books, I've listened to him for hundreds of hours.  His voice is as familiar to me as my own brother's.  He's like a friend whose humor has seen me through the years, both the high times and the rough patches.  I bought In a Sunburned CountryA Walk in the Woods, and Neither Here Nor There on tape.  I listened to all of them so many times that the tape wore through in several places.  Then I replaced them with CD versions and kept on listening.

Today I drove to Arlington, MA, with my devoted and long-suffering husband to meet Bill Bryson, who was signing books at the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) office in Arlington, MA.  One of my sales reps from Random House, Ann Kingman, arranged for Bryson to sign books for her accounts.  So I got to take the day off work and go for a Sunday drive on a beautiful day with my favorite person in the world to meet one of my favorite writers in the world.  The phrase "walking on sunshine" comes to mind. 

Bryson was in the region promoting his new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, which I've already blogged about twice.  You can read the posts here and here.  It's marvelous and funny and erudite and everything else that I like about his writing. 

May I confess something?  Before I moved from Mississippi to New England to live with the man who became my husband, I wrote up an extensive pro and con list.  My husband knows that one of the "cons" was that I would no longer be able to watch episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as they aired because he didn't have access to the UPN network (this was before newfangled websites like Hulu were around).  But what he doesn't know is that one of the "pros" is that I would be more likely to have the chance to meet Bill Bryson, who lived in New Hampshire at the time.  So you could say that Mr. Bryson is one of the reasons I moved to New England.  I'm just not revealing exactly what position he had on my "pro" list. 

Mr. Bryson was also kind enough to sign and inscribe my personal collection of his works, or at least those books still holding together without tape.  I thought it might be unseemly (though a compliment of the highest order) to bring him my copy of In a Sunburned Country that was in two pieces. Or my copy of A Walk in the Woods, which one of my dogs enjoyed as much as I did. 

Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson. 

L-R: The man I moved to New England for, the other
man I moved to New England for, and me.


  1. Ok, you've convinced me :)...which book do I start with?

    1. Either a Walk in the Woods if you want to read about nature or In A Sunburned Country if you want to learn about Australia. They're both amazing!

  2. "The knife is to give scale and to cut anybody who doesn't like Bill Bryson" AMAZING! Also OMG he is so awesome, he's that awesome in real life too right?

    1. Yeah, I will cut anybody who says Bill Bryson isn't awesome! (You read that, Alice? Consider your opinion carefully next time you post about A Walk in the Woods...)

      He was terrific to talk to and I pretty much just wanted to hang out with him ALL DAY. Unfortunately he had other things to do so I only had a couple of hours in his company.

  3. Oh man, I appreciate this post starts with a threat to anyone who doesn't like Bryson. Cos seriously, WHO DOESN'T?

    Also I really want to get some of his audiobooks cos I heard they're excellent with him reading them. I went to a book talk deal-y for At Home and it was fantastic

    1. yeah, i thought of you when i re-posting this one. you should totes try his audio books if you enjoyed his speaking voice at the book talk deal-y. i now feel like i'm listening to an old friend whenever i pop in one of his audio books.


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