Read: Because Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors, even if he canceled his upcoming reading in Sacramento (lame). (Harper Perrenial, 256 pages, originally published 1991)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (finished 10/9/10)
Synopsis: After 20 years as a London-based reporter, American journalist Bryson (The Mother Tongue) set out to retrace a youthful European backpacking trip, from arctic Norway’s northern lights to romantic Capri and the “collective delirium” of Istanbul. Descriptions of historic and artistic sights in the Continent’s capitals are cursory; Bryson prefers lesser-known locales, whose peculiar flavor he skillfully conveys in anecdotes that don’t scant the seamy side and often portray eccentric characters encountered during untoward adventures of the road.
Overall Impression: I’ve read a bunch of books by Bill Bryson (see below) and it had to come to a point where I finally didn’t absolutely love one of his books. It was one of the first books he wrote, and I found it…rough. He really did hone his skills as time went on, so reading one of his earlier books felt like he hadn’t quite refined his writing like he did in later books. It was a little cruder, a little more repetitive, a little gloomier, and a little less delightful. I think I also had a hard time with it being written 20 years ago, so times have changed and it was hard to relate to traveling how he traveled. That being said, it was still a fun travel memoir, that had some fairly hilarious parts (why a cow makes the best pet had me in stitches). It made me want to see the Northern Lights and avoid Naples like the plague. I liked how he retraced his travel’s with Katz (who co-stars in A Walk in the Woods, and is…well…a character) and talked about the difference between his first travels and his second travels twenty years later. I’d love him to do another trip in 2011, twenty years after Neither Here Nor There. It would be interesting to see how things have evolved!
Pros: Helpful thoughts on two dozen or so European countries. Anecdotes that had me laughing out loud in Starbucks.
Cons: A little gritty compared to his later works.
Other books I’ve read by Bill Bryson: A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, The Mother Tongue, Shakespeare, Notes from a Small Island, and Icons of England [editor].
Other blogger opinions: None. Have you reviewed this? If so, I’ll link you here!