Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sharks, Crocodiles, and Snakes, Oh My!

'In A Sunburned Country'
By Bill Bryson

Format: Paperback
Published: May, 2001; Broadway
Pages: 352

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)


  1. Haven't read anything by Bryson but I would love to. I like travelogues so I'll keep an eye on this book. Haven't read anything based in Australia.

  2. If given the opportunity to live somewhere other than the United States it would be Australia for me! I have visited the land "down under " quite a few times now. Most recently returning from the capitol, Canberra on Friday the 15th of this month. I have been to Sydney three times, Canberra twice, Darwin for a night and Melbourne briefly. I would like to visit Perth and Brisbane in the future as well.

    Though my visits have been on official government business, I have been lucky enough to visit some wonderful places there in a tourist capacity as well. Walking the streets of Sydney and joining the night life there is indeed a great time. I am always greeted with a "G'Day mate!" where ever I go.

    The capitol of Australia, Canberra, located in South Eastern Australia, is a very cool place to visit. It is of course a little more calm than Sydney but a must for someone visiting Australia. You can learn so much more about Australia in Canberra than you can anywhere else. The city is set up very much like our own Washington D. C. in that it is sectioned if you will in quadrants. Sort of a NW, NE, SW, SE sort of thing. There is a "Mall" similar to ours in our nation's capitol. At one end of their mall sits there Parliament house and at the other is the Australian War Memorial. The memorial sits there so as to be a reminder for the folks in Parliament. The significance is that they can look down the mall out of their window and see the consequences of their actions or decisions. Pretty cool.

    Australia's mascots if you will hold some significance as well. The Kangaroo and the Emu are held as the "mascots" or revered animals of the country. They chose these two animals because they are animals that can not move backwards. The kangaroo and the emu can only move forward. This represents forward progress and a way of thinking that looks only forward into the future. Also very neat.

    Hope this further inspires you and others to get down there and visit our good friends in Australia. I can't wait to get back and get out into the territories or "the bush" as they call it!

  3. Bryson is just wonderful. I loved Into the Woods and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid :)

  4. I'm so glad to hear you liked it! I haven't read this one, but I really enjoyed A Walk in the Woods (and really didn't like The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid). I haven't visited Australia yet either, but I would love to. Have you seen the movie Australia? I was surprised how much I loved it.

  5. I've always wanted to go to Australia but haven't made it there as of yet. I suppose this book would be one way to get there...at least through books!

  6. I love Bill Bryson. He's got a great sense of humor. I read A Walk in the Woods and fell in love with hiking. That's saying a lot :)

  7. I used to live in Australia-and loved this book. Have you read A walk in the Woods?


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