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Publisher's Summary

Hardly anyone ever leaves Des Moines, Iowa. But Bill Bryson did, and after 10 years in England he decided to go home, to a foreign country. In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America.
From the Deep South to the Wild West, from Elvis' birthplace through to Custer's Last Stand, Bryson visits places he re-named Dullard, Coma, and Doldrum (so the residents don't sue or come after him with baseball bats). But his hopes of finding the American dream end in a nightmare of greed, ignorance, and pollution. This is a wickedly witty and savagely funny assessment of a country lost to itself, and to him.
©1989 Bill Bryson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Rachel on 08-10-14

There are better Bill Bryson audiobooks

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Have the older, kinder Bill Bryson go back in time and take this journey. While some of his commentary was both hilarious and heartwarming, like many other reviewers, I was startled at how mean-spirited this book could be in comparison to Bryson's later works. He is comparatively positive about Iowa and the Midwest, as he waxes nostalgic about his childhood in Des Moines (and as an Iowan myself, I both confirm his assessment of our state and breathe a sigh of relief that his memories were good ones!) His commentary on other regions, particularly the South and Appalachia, was gratingly negative. Perhaps he was still in the process of finding his comedic voice, but I often found myself sympathizing with the unassuming and often kind people he was lampooning. The reader choice did not help matters any.

What other book might you compare The Lost Continent to and why?

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.

What didn’t you like about William Roberts’s performance?

This is Bryson at his most...curmudgeonly...and William Roberts was perhaps not the best narrator for this task. My first encounter with this book was of the dead trees variety; I noticed the negative tone then, but Roberts seemed to draw it out in the worst way, making the narrator seem even more smug, arrogant and rude, when Bryson's voice tends to be more self-deprecating and light-hearted. The advantage of this version is that it is unabridged; perhaps I was better off with my old beaten-up paperback, read in my head with Bryson's less irritating voice.

Was The Lost Continent worth the listening time?

If you are a Bryson fan, perhaps try to find a version that he reads himself.

On the whole, I would still recommend the book, but not as an introduction to Bill Bryson if you haven't read any of his stuff before. He's less of a jerk in his later books, so if you've read Neither Here nor There, A Walk in the Woods, or Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, you'll approach The Lost Continent in a more forgiving mood. This is his first major book, and he's still honing his voice.

It's also worth listening to simply because you can see the connections between his travels and topics that he covers in his later works, for instance, his near-visit to the Biltmore Mansion vis-a-vis his lengthy treatment of the Vanderbilt family in At Home: A History of Private Life. Don't expect that level of research in this book--this is primarily a travelogue--but it is interesting to get a glimpse of the context behind some of his more recent nonfiction books.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By shipit on 02-13-14

Not one of my favorites

This is one of Bryson's earliest books, published in the late 80's. As such, it lacks much of the humor that balances his snarkiness, leaving a book that seems to have been written by a curmudgeon. Americans have a lot of issues, but I found the book mean spirited. I also couldn't figure why he chose to travel during the cold, rainy season when some of the prettiest parts of the west weren't accessible. Maybe he wanted a better comparison with life in England.

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9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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5 out of 5 stars
By Miss on 04-13-13

The road trip you're dying to take

I won't be the first person to tell you that Bryson is smart, funny, and has absorbed British sarcasm by osmosis so seamlessly that it almost trumps us when narrated in the velvety American accent of the actor on this audiobook. Small town America is pulled apart, examined forensically by each of its cast of stock characters and institutions, and then put back together with a new-found affection by both you and the author. This book is like dismantling an old Chevy, finding that it still works, restoring it and then driving it around proudly. You'll feel both the European distaste for anything nouveau that Bryson has adopted, and the universal pull towards Americana. Brilliant.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Anthony on 07-12-13


Where does The Lost Continent rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is without doubt the best audiobook i have listened to thus far.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The only real character in the book, the man himself, Bill Bryson!

Have you listened to any of William Roberts’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This is the first time i have listened to a William Roberts performance, the man is an absolute genius. I found myself still sitting in my car long after i had parked up, still listening to him. I couldn't tear myself away!

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Apart from laugh most of the way through it, the book also brought feelings of nostalgia and that heart warming feeling you get from remembering the good times when you were a child.

Any additional comments?

I would highly recommend this audiobook to anyone i know, and everyone i don't! It is expertly read and a joy to listen to from start to finish. Another gem from Bill Bryson.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By G. Harvey on 08-21-17

Half glass empty.

I love bill Bryson. but I found his writing in this book somewhat depressing. he was always complaining about something. the cost of everything, the quality of the food and the service. it just went on and on. in the end, I wasn't sad that the book ended. actially it was a bit of a relief and a disappointment at the same time. looking forward to my next bb book. I will steer away from this earlier stuff tho.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By oceanjasper on 10-19-16

Highly entertaining

This is the story of Bill Bryson's journey around America to try to reconnect with the home of his youth, and his general disillusionment with the America he finds. He visits historically significant places turned into incredibly commercialised and tacky tourist attractions, endures the mind-boggling insularity and repetitiveness of small town radio stations on his long days of driving, and remembers humorous experiences from his childhood.

William Roberts' narration is conversational and expressive, which really suits the material. We share the author's bewilderment at the multitudes of fat holidaymakers he encounters everywhere he goes, his fond ridicule of his father's clueless behaviour that made every childhood holiday a disappointment, and his hopeful search for parts of the perfect small town he calls Amalgam.

Bryson has a PG Wodehouse-like ability to use unexpected words very precisely to hilarious effect. I loved his made up place names like Fartville, Idaho or Spotweld, Indiana. I laughed out loud many times.

The Lost Continent is very funny but also a bit melancholy in its realisation that many of the charms of mid-century America are gone forever. In audio format it's a great listen.

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