Tue07222014

Books

Bill Bryson: A voice to enjoy


I have written about Bill Bryson before, because he is one of my favorite authors. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa, but has lived most of his adult life in England. One of his first books, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” (Broadway Books, 2007), is a humorous recollection of his childhood in Des Moines.

During his college years, he dropped out for a while and went to Britain where, for a brief time, he worked in a psychiatric hospital. It was there that he met an English nurse named Cynthia and married her. Throughout their married life, they (along with their four children) moved back and forth between Britain and the United States – but mostly in England, where they now reside (again).

All this moving around provides great fodder for his humorous and often caustic accounts of life wherever he happened to be – and by his own admission, not really feeling truly at home anywhere.

Bryson is known for his pithy travelogues as well as detailed writings on history and science. He has a wonderful sense of humor and uses it perfectly in his travel books, including “A Walk in the Woods” (Anchor, 2006), “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” (Broadway, 2000) and “Notes from a Small Island” (William Morrow, 2001). I only wish he didn’t check it at the door when he writes his science and history books.

I must confess that I don’t really enjoy his books that are based on endless historical or scientific details, like his latest, “One Summer: America 1927” (Doubleday, 2013) or “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” (Anchor, 2011), along with a few more in that genre.

I do, however, adore his voice. I listen to some Bryson books over and over, because he never fails to entertain me.

But here’s the thing: I already suffer from TMI – too much information. I am even annoyed when someone hits “Reply All” in email to include me in a conversation that often has nothing to do with me. Why do people do that? I’m on a need-to-know basis.

I would like to suggest to dear Bill that he branch out into self-hypnosis products for people who would like to be smarter but can’t be bothered to actually read all the science and history it would take to pull that off. You could put Bill on your iPod and listen as you sleep. (He could actually read the yellow pages and I would feel soothed.) Your subconscious would absorb the salient points and you would wake up a little smarter. But don’t try this with his witty travel books, because the laughing would keep you awake. I’m just saying … the man has gifts we could all benefit from, awake or asleep, and you can’t say that about many people.

Sharon Lennox-Infante is a Certified Life Coach who lives and works in Los Altos. For more information, visit sharonlennox.com.

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