In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

68 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.

I’m a fan of Bill Bryson, and I wasn’t disappointed in this book. In a Sunburned Country is Bryson’s tale of traveling across Australia, looking at the country through the eyes of an American. It’s as funny and informative as his other books.

He reminds us that Americans mostly forget about Australia until something happens to remind us it exists. We don’t remember the names of their politicians. We don’t see much about them in our newspapers. Yet we’re still fascinated with this country that, to our imaginations, is much like the American Wild West of yesterday.

Australia, as it turns out, really is pretty wild. There are species there that don’t exist anywhere else. There are deadlier spiders and snakes and so forth than you are likely to find most anywhere. There are also more primitive species that still exist nearly the same as they did at the dawn of life on this planet. This is mainly due to the fact that Australia is a massive island that was mostly left alone by outside influences for most of the history of life on this planet.

This isolation means they have a greater variety of life than can be found most anywhere. They have lots of trees and plants and animals and bugs and so forth that don’t exist anywhere else. This fact, along with the continued isolation of many people living in the Outback, seems to make Australia a little harsher for human life than many other places. Bryson shares story after story of people who’ve discovered this in the most tragic manner. Yet, he also shares story after story of people who are resilient and hardy and good natured.

I feel like I’m running true to form regarding Americans who are vague on what Australia’s all about. I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and I’m already fuzzy on a lot of the details. I do know I enjoyed it, though, and I do know that it’s the kind of thing any American should read before traveling Down Under. If nothing else, the book should remind you to be be careful of sunburn. Byson had the most awful sunburn while he was there.

Good stuff. A quick and easy read that will teach you a few things without making you struggle too much to learn.

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