Notes From A Small Island

Notes From A Small Island

Book - 1995 | First U.S. edition
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Baker & Taylor
The author of Made in America combines social commentary and travel notes, irreverent wit and fond appreciation, in an account of life in and the land of Great Britain, his adopted home for the past two decades. Tour.


Before New York Times bestselling author Bill Bryson wrote The Road to Little Dribbling, he took this delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation of Great Britain, which has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie&;s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey.

Book News
A combination travel guide and loving crack at the mannered manners of Britain written by journalist and long-time resident Bryson whose whirlwind trip around the island before his return to America yielded a number of witty essays on life, love, and beer. Traveling by public transit, Bryson zips from Liverpool to Stonehenge to Farleigh Wallop documenting searches for restaurants, pub discoveries, and a "litter festival" in Liverpool. Lacks an index, but a glossary is provided with such gems as the definition of berk (a jerk, though the etymology is more ribald than one would imagine). Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Blackwell North Amer

Before New York Times bestselling author Bill Bryson wrote The Road to Little Dribbling, he took this delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation of Great Britain, which has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie’s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey.

& Taylor

Before returning to America after spending twenty years in Britain, the author decided to tour his second home and presents a look at England's quirks and its endearing qualities

Publisher: New York : Morrow, 1995
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9780688147259
Branch Call Number: 914.1 B91
Characteristics: 324 pages : map ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 22, 2018

I always enjoy Bill Bryson's books and this is one of my favorites. As an American who has also lived in the U.K. for some years, I can relate to many of his experiences. Hilarious!

SPPL_János Mar 21, 2018

After living in England for 20 years, Bryson embarks on a farewell tour of his adopted country before moving back to the U.S. His circuit, accomplished mostly by public transit and hiking, is travel writing at its most enjoyable.

ArapahoeCatherine Sep 02, 2016

Bryson is a delightful curmudgeon! His fond farewell trip around Great Britain made me long to go back!

Aug 11, 2016

This is the first Bill Bryson book I have read. Bryson, after living in Britain for 20 years, is returning with his family to the US for a while. Before leaving, he takes a 7-week farewell tour of the island. These notes describe his experiences in, and reactions to, the countryside, towns and cities he visits. His route, which takes him from Calais to John O’Groats and back to his home in the Yorkshire Dales, is somewhat arbitrary, visiting both well-known cities and obscure towns.

Bryson clearly loves Britain in spite of, or perhaps because of, its peculiarities. Although often critical of the people, the architecture and the institutions, he still loves the country and wants to return to it. The book is well written and laugh-out-loud funny. There is rather too liberal and unnecessary use of the F-word for my taste but this entertaining book is otherwise well worth a read.

This book was written in 1995 and much has happened in Britain since then. My next stop is “The Road to Little Dribbling – More Notes From a Small Island”, published in 2015. I’m curious to see if and how his views have changed in the intervening 20 years. I’m expecting more hearty laughs.

sherry_library Apr 21, 2016

I always start off by enjoying Bill Bryson books but then get turned off by what an angry crank he can be, constantly picking fights with locals everywhere he goes. He is genuinely funny and I love travelogues of all kinds but I wish he didn't have such a massive chip on his shoulder.

rb3221 Dec 03, 2015

After living in England for many years, the author takes a farewell tour before moving back to the U.S. It seems unusual that he often doesn't know where is going next, when the trains are running and never has an umbrella in the pouring rain. He offers many critical opinions on the hotels, the food, the lack of town planning but very few comments about the people. I found this rather odd for a travelogue. It seems to be written for a British audience or for someone who has already visited England ( as many of the towns and villages are quite obscure).
The usual Bryson humour is clearly evident but is somewhat sparse. He says Britain may have made a good communist country as they queue patiently for indefinite periods, are comfortable with dictatorships (like Margaret Thatcher) and have boring food. When booking into a local hotel totally soaked the receptionist asks if it is raining out and he answers "No, my ship sank and I had to swim the last seven miles." He marvels at the ingenuity of many Chinese inventions but can't figure out how they haven't "yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food". In being totally disappointed in Pleasure Gardens he says it should be renamed " It's a Pleasure to Take Your Money". There is a great laugh-out-loud section on the differences between women and men shoppers (too long to quote here). The first rule of excessive drinking "is don't take a shine to women bigger than Hoss Cartwright". The other two rules are equally amusing.
Overall it is an enjoyable read but with no great insights and somewhat dated (1995)as a travelogue. In the end Bryson has a high opinion about England and almost wishes he could stay.

JCLBethanyT Aug 28, 2013

Hilarious, observant and delightfully fun to read. My only complaint is that now I want to go visit the UK again!

ManUtdFan Mar 16, 2012

Hilarious read. The best parts are the descriptions of the British B and Bs and their complicated rules.

Jan 08, 2012

I've been referring to the BBC's list of the 100 books everyone should read in their lifetime, and this was on it. I'm not sure why actually; it seems to be more of a travel book and no real literary masterpiece to me, but then perhaps it is the BBC being egocentric about the UK? Bill Bryson is an American writer who has lived extensively in Great Britain and took a tour of the "small island" before moving with his family back to the US. The writing is delightfully funny, and made me think fondly on my few trips to the UK. I especially liked the fact that on this trip he went over to Calais to cross into Dover as he had the very first time he entered the UK. It made me think of the first time I made that crossing, as a university exchange student in France accompanying a bunch of British friends home for the Toussaints holidays.

Sep 09, 2011

You will love this book if you know England. As someone who doesn't, it was mildly amusing.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SCLibrary

To Top