Book of the Month

April Read: “The Lost Continent” Review

In 1989 Bill Bryson drove throughout the United States on a quest to find the quintessential American city. He referred to it as “Amalgam, USA” and the quest became his book “The Lost Continent.” He did find many beautiful spots in the U.S. but sure doesn’t hold back when he is disappointed.  Heads up- this is not a children’s book, too many four letter words (well placed, too, I stoop to crass humor…).

I enjoyed this read, but I offer a couple cautions-

  • If you are an American, read only if you have a healthy sense of humor and can take a joke about your country.
  • If you are not an American, Read this book if you want to read an ex-pat’s biting description of the USA, but please take most of it with a grain of salt. Please?
  • He’s a timid traveller here after living abroad, but uses his wit in his defense. Two quotes (of many examples) to illustrate: “A sign beside the highway said ‘Welcome to Mississippi. We Shoot to Kill.’ It didn’t really. Just made that up.” On New York City’s Times Square- “New York frightened me… I felt a personal gratitude to everyone who left me alone. I wanted to hand out cards that said, ‘Thank you for not killing me.’
Travel books and Bryson's commentary on his travels
Travel books and Bryson’s commentary on his travels

Reading this book kind of makes you want to tour the States- not because his descriptions of beautiful scenery and fascinating people draw you in, but instead because you want to defend them! It would be satisfying to visit the New England states he hated and send him a postcard detailing the fine sights that you were able to view, in contrast his perspectives of a New England with never ending strip malls, a slow witted South, a monotonous Midwest… etc. Remember- he’s a comedian, and if you are going to laugh at one region he details, you have to be able to take it when he sticks it to your region.

Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” is funny. I liked it, but definitely not for everyone.

Two by Bryson... on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.
Two by Bryson… on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.

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