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I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away.
By Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a middle-aged travel writer with a family and a fondness for putting strange objects in the garbage disposal. When he was in his early twenties he moved to England and never looked back. Now, twenty years later, he’s returned to the States and has found a world completely new and utterly bizarre. His reason for moving back was that he had read somewhere that nearly 3 million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens—as he later put it, “it was clear my people needed me”. So, the New York Times bestselling author of A Walk In The Woods uprooted his British family and moved to New Hampshire and that is where his adventure begins.

For one thing, have you ever noticed the little things about this country that bug you (not counting politics) and you’ve complained and complained about them, but you’ve never actually done anything about them? Well, Bill Bryson doesn’t do anything about them either but he sure makes some dead on, absolutely hilarious observations about the stupidity of this modern generation. His observations regarding American culture are so intelligent and hysterically funny, I laughed throughout most of this book. During some parts I laughed so hard I had to put the book down or I would have hurt myself and become a casualty of chapter 5. Which is about people who are constantly being hurt by inanimate objects including staplers and their clothing. He pokes innocent fun at everything from a visit to the barbershop (“Every few months, with a sense of foreboding, I take this hair of mine uptown to the barbershop and allow one of the men there—usually the new guy, the one they call “thumbs”—to amuse himself with it for a bit. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is that a barber will give you the haircut he wants to give you and there is not a thing you can do about it”) to the war on drugs (“According to a 1990 study, 90 percent of all first-time drug offenders in federal courts were sentenced to an average of five years in prison. Violent first –time offenders, by contrast, were imprisoned less often and received on average just four years. You are, in short, less likely to go to prison for kicking an old lady down the stairs than you are for being caught in possession of a single dose of any illicit drug.”)

I’m a Stranger Here Myself elicits the kind of forbidden pleasure you get when you make fun of someone not in the room. I couldn’t help nodding along with many of the essays thinking all he time what a genius Bill Bryson was for calling attention to the inefficiency of daily life. For example, what’s with all the new cars being built with more cup holders than the average family needs? Why do people insist on driving the 30 feet to the corner drug store? How come movies are so expensive? Who really understands the Internet? Why does dental floss come with a hotline? And how the hell are people getting hurt from their ceilings? According to the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” more than 250,000 people are being seriously hurt by ceilings, walls and inside panels. Likewise, almost 32,000 people are injured each year by their “grooming devices”. I can’t imagine being hurt by a hairbrush and not having a story worth hearing.

Basically, the concept behind this book is simple. Get one world famous writer who is also an ordinary man with a child like attention to detail and have him write a book about rediscovering America after twenty years across the pond. He’s humorous, he’s infectious, and he’s insightful; he’s a modern sage in this time of convenience and chaos. His observations are so painfully funny that you can’t help but enjoy this book. Take my advice, read I’m a Stranger Here Myself then pick up his other books--A Walk in The Woods, Neither Here Nor There, The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island and In a Sun Burnt Country. You won’t be sorry. Bill Bryson could write about dryer lint and still make it sound interesting. That’s talent.

Written By Nicole R. Hermatz


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