Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951 and was christened Willian McGuire Bryson. He shot to prominence in the UK with the publication of Notes from a Small Island (1995), an exploration of Britain and its accompanying television series.
He received widespread recognition again with the publication of A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), a book widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.
Bryson settled in England for many years and was the chief copy editor of the business section of The Times. In 1995 he moved back to America with his wife and four children for a few years, but has since returned to live in the UK and was Chancellor of Durham University from 2005-2011.
Bryson writes in various genres and his bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK. He has also written two popular works on the history of the English language, Mother Tongue and Made in America and, more recently, an update of his guide to usage, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words.
In November 2006, Bryson interviewed the then Prime Minister Tony Blair on the state of science and education and on 13 December 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to literature. The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin. In May 2007, he became the President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and in May 2013, he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society, becoming the first non-Briton to receive this honour.
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe – 1991
This humorous travelogue documents the author’s tour of Europe in 1990, with many flash-backs to two summer tours he made in 1972 and 1973 during his college days. Parts featured his 1973 tour, focusing on the pseudonymous “Stephen Katz” who accompanied Bryson. His trip begins in the winter, in Hammerfest, Norway, where Bryson’s goal is to see the Northern Lights. He visits numerous locations throughout Europe, commenting on the various aspects of life in different parts of Europe and comparing them to how he experienced them in his earlier visits. The book ends with Bryson reaching Istanbul and contemplating on how the city is the gateway to Asia.
Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words – 2002
This book has been published under several titles since 1984 and it catalogues some of the English language’s most commonly misused words and phrases in order to demonstrate preferable usage. It helps writers and editors think about how to make written communication clearer.
Bryson describes the English language as a valuable entity, with no two experts agreeing on any point of usage, claiming that those guides that do exist for the common user often expect the reader to be familiar with grammatical terms not encountered since (or even at) school. The aim is accomplished using a large degree of humour as well as a willingness to hold the experts he quotes up to the light for their own failings, thus illustrating how easy it is to make errors of usage.
One Summer: America 1927
In the summer of 1927, America had a booming stock market, a President who worked just four hours a day (and slept much of the rest of the time), a semi-crazed sculptor with a mad plan to carve four giant heads into an inaccessible mountain called Rushmore, a devastating flood of the Mississippi, a sensational murder trial and a youthful aviator named Charles Lindbergh who started the summer wholly unknown and finished it as the most famous man on earth. (So famous that Minnesota considered renaming itself after him.)
It was the summer that saw the birth of talking pictures, the invention of television, the peak of Al Capone’s reign of terror, the horrifying bombing of a school in Michigan by a madman, the ill-conceived decision that led to the Great Depression, the thrillingly improbable return to greatness of a wheezing, over-the-hill baseball player named Babe Ruth, and an almost impossible amount more.
In this hugely entertaining book, Bill Bryson spins a story of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy. With the trademark brio, wit and authority that have made him Britain’s favourite writer of narrative non-fiction, he rolls out an unforgettable cast of vivid and eccentric personalities to bring to life a forgotten summer when America came of age, took centre stage and changed the world for ever.