By Bill Bryson
Published: May, 2001; Broadway
Synopsis: 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 adore the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond the beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of a 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.
My Take: Having read all of Bryson's previous books on travelling Europe and the majority of them on the States I was really looking forward to his book on Australia. The difference in my experience being that I have travelled extensively around Europe and the United States and have, sadly, yet to make it to Australia. All I have to go by is the piddly amount of Australian information I've learned in school (it was founded by prisoners!) and from the news and what my Australian friends have told me now. So I came at this book from a different perspective than I had to Bryson's previous books, being that I didn't have too many expectations already of my own, besides the Australians that I do are great and that someday I do really want to go there.
Bryson takes us all over the country of Australia, which we learn by reading this book, is no small feat. He goes into immense and fascinating detail on the founding of the country, far more detail than most of us would probably ever learn. He teaches us about each of the major cities and how they were founded and tells us about lots of random funny facts too. In Bryson's normal style he uses his wit to parley what might be droll facts into something much more interesting. I wish everyone's history teacher could be like this! Granted I know that, because Australia wasn't founded that long ago, you couldn't really do that with Europe, it would take volumes for him to wittily go through and summarize the history of that continent. However, most of us were taught the basics of the European history in school and not Australian history. What I found amusing was that up until the mid-1930s apparently so where the Australians - they weren't taught their own history but that of Britain! There is also a chapter on the history of the Aborigines and how they are the oldest society in the world and the grapples throughout the book on how no one really scientifically deals with this.
But don't let me lead you to believe this book is all just history. It is also about the people and how they make this country so wonderful. If I didn't want to visit this place before I sure as heck do now! It's my first Grade A book of 2010!
(I got this book at a garage sale where all proceeds went to charity)