Browsing Archives for April 2009

This Garden is Coming Soon.

April 16th, 2009



I hope to get a garden giveaway up this evening.  If you like upside down homegrown tomatoes, you might want to check back tonight.

A Bill Bryson Giveaway

April 16th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote of my love for books about grand old hotels.  I do truly love to dream about extended stays at old hotels, but sometimes I am willing to skip the hotel, and just ramble around the country side, often on foot, sometimes via public transportation and occasionally in a car, but only if Bill Bryson is right beside me, providing a running narration the entire trip. 

Bill Bryson is a travel writer.  A very funny  travel writer.  Bill has written books about his travels to Australia, Europe, Africa, and several different parts of the United States.  He packs his bags, kisses his wife and four children goodbye, and sets out on long journeys that often last for months, to explore a small part of the world.  He has an innate ability to discover the craggiest pubs, the craggiest outcroppings and the craggiest characters along the way.  You almost wonder if Bill has some type of crazy character magnet stuck in his skin somewhere.  His insight into both himself, the people he meets and the places he visits are always interesting and often hilarious.  

Somewhere along the way, in almost every book, Bill starts to miss his family very badly.  This is when you will suddenly find yourself in the midst of a few long chapters where he is medicating himself with Reese’s peanut butter cups and six packs of beer.  The entire world turns gray, sodden and weary right before your eyes.  You want to leave him sitting by himself in the dark pub with his cups and his sorrow, but it is too late,.  You have already travelled too far with this man.  You can’t abandon him.  Besides, just a few chapters back he was making you laugh so hard that your spleen busted open.  The only thing you can do is hope that he cheers back up.


And he usually does.

In two or three chapters.  

Watching Bill discombobulate between joyous discovery, penetrating observation, grim determination, scissor like wit, and wretched hopelessness is half the fun of his books.  You truly experience the places he visits right along with him.. as if you were him… except you are not as funny… or hopefully… as given over to bouts of melancholy.  


Or maybe you are…



Today I am giving away two copies of A Walk in the Woods, which is my very favorite Bill Bryson book.

In this book, Bill attempts to hike the entire Appalachian trail starting in Georgia and ending in Maine.  The trip takes months.  He takes his old friend Katz along with him.  Neither of the men are expert backpackers or campers.  They are both out of shape and overweight.  They pack way too much stuff.  They suffer tremendously and they discover several lunatics along the way.  

For what more could you ask?

This book is in my top ten favorite books of all time.  




Bill Bryson grew up in the United States, but went to England as a young man and did not return for twenty years.  While in Great Britain, he married an English girl, had four kids, worked for a newspaper, and wrote the first of many books.  Eventually he decided to move back home.  I’m a Stranger Here Myself is about Bill reacquainting himself with America.  He is stunned by our lust for convenience foods, our need for speed, the ridiculous strangle hold that the fear of lawsuit has on our society, and our astounding variety of personal hygiene products.  Maybe it doesn’t sound like it would be a funny book – but it is.  




In Bryson’s book, “The Lost Continet” he goes back to Des Moines, Iowa where he grew up and begins a journey that takes him through 38 states in and around America’s heartland.  He describes Americans walking around a touristy, Ozarkian downtown with their ever present buckets of soda and a funnel cakes.  He writes about how it has become almost impossible to navigate even a small town without a car as a complete lack of sidewalks and pedestrian friendly crosswalks made it extraordinarily difficult for him to even walk from his motel to a nearby restaraunt.  This book is written in his typical humorous style, but the things that stuck with me the most, are unfortunately not the most pleasant parts of present American civilization.  




In “Neither Here Nor There” Bryson attempts to re-trace the footsteps he took twenty years previously as a young man on a backpacking trip through Europe.  I couldn’t remember much about this book, so I read a few reviews online.  All the reviews were positive calling the book the funniest travel book of the year… uproariously funny… snorting coffee through your nose… except for one which pronounced the book as lewd, obscene, and dangerous.  So now I don’t know what to tell you.  

My best bet is that it is a damned funny book, and if you are super uptight, you probably won’t like it much.  





To win one of these books, simply leave a comment. Winners will be chosen at random sometime on Monday… after I get home from work… and force myself back upright from collapsing in a heap of trembling humanity… on the laundry room floor.

A stooped ninety year old gentlemen who uses a walker to get around came in to see the Country Doctor a while ago.  As he slowly made his way from the lobby of the clinic to the exam room, he passed a snazzy, young drug rep. sporting a short skirt and a pair of high heeled shoes.

“Nice shoes.” the elderly gent said as she passed him.

As the Country Doctor’s nurse got the elderly gent situated in the exam room she said, “Mr. B.!  Do you like high heel shoes?”

“I wasn’t looking at her shoes.” grinned the elderly gent.