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What is the difference between cant and jargon, or assume and presume? What is a fandango? How do you spell supersede? Is it hippy or hippie?
These questions really matter to Bill Bryson, as they do to anyone who cares about the English language. Originally published as The Penguin Dictionary for Writers and Editors, Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors has now been completely revised and updated for the twenty-first century by Bill Bryson himself. Here is a very personal selection of spellings and usages, covering such head-scratchers as capitalization, plurals, abbreviations and foreign names and phrases. Bryson also gives us the difference between British and American usages, and miscellaneous pieces of essential information you never knew you needed, like the names of all the Oxford colleges, or the correct spelling of Brobdingnag.
An indispensable companion to all those who write, work with the written word, or who just enjoy getting things right, it gives rulings that are both authoritative and commonsense, all in Bryson's own inimitably goodhumoured way.
What does history really consist of? Centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - sleeping, eating, having sex, endeavouring to get comfortable. And where did all these normal activities take place? At home.
This was the thought that inspired Bill Bryson to start a journey around the rooms of his own house, an 1851 Norfolk rectory, to consider how the ordinary things in life came to be.
And what he discovered are surprising connections to anything from the Crystal Palace to the Eiffel Tower, from scurvy to body-snatching, from bedbugs to the Industrial Revolution, and just about everything else that has ever happened, resulting in one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live, enhanced in this new edition by hundreds of stunning photographs and illustrations.
This celebration of the English countryside does not only focus on the rolling green landscapes and magnificent monuments that set England apart from the rest of the world. Many of the contributors bring their own special touch, presenting a refreshingly eclectic variety of personal icons, from pub signs to seaside piers, from cattle grids to canal boats, and from village cricket to nimbies.
First published as a lavish colour coffeetable book, this new expanded paperback edition has double the original number of contributions from many celebrities including Bill Bryson, Michael Palin, Eric Clapton, Bryan Ferry, Sebastian Faulks, Kate Adie, Kevin Spacey, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, Richard Mabey , Simon Jenkins, John Sergeant, Benjamin Zephaniah, Joan Bakewell, Antony Beevor, Libby Purves, Jonathan Dimbleby, and many more: and a new preface by HRH Prince Charles.
What is the difference between mean and median, blatant and flagrant, flout and flaunt? Is it whodunnit or whodunit? Do you know? Are you sure?
With Troublesome Words, journalist and bestselling travel-writer Bill Bryson gives us a clear, concise and entertaining guide to the problems of English usage and spelling that has been an indispensable companion to those who work with the written word for over twenty years.
So if you want to discover whether you should care about split infinitives, are cursed with an uncontrollable outbreak of commas or were wondering if that newsreader was right to say 'an historic day', this superb book is the place to find out.
Bill Bryson (Author) , Kerry Shale (Read by)Hardly anyone ever leaves Des Moines, Iowa. But Bill Bryson did, and after ten 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. Travel through small-town America with Kerry Shale's popular BBC Radio 4 reading of Bill Bryson's comic novel.
Published: 2 Jun 2003
'More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to...'
Only Bill Bryson could make a book about the English language so entertaining. With his boundless enthusiasm and restless eye for the absurd, this is his astonishing tour of English. From its mongrel origins to its status as the world's most-spoken tongue; its apparent simplicity to its deceptive complexity; its vibrant swearing to its uncertain spelling and pronunciation, Bryson covers all this as well as the many curious eccentricities that make it as maddening to learn as it is flexible to use.
Bill Bryson's classic Mother Tongue is a highly readable and hilarious tale of how English came to be the world's language.
Published: 1 Oct 2009
Published: 2 Feb 2004
Bill Bryson goes to Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to working with local communities to eradicate poverty around the world. Kenya, generally regarded as the cradle of humankind, is a land of stunning landscapes, famous game reserves, and a vibrant culture, but it also has many serious problems, including refugees, AIDS, drought and grinding poverty. It also provides plenty to worry a nervous traveller like Bill Bryson: hair-raising rides in light aircraft, tropical diseases, snakes, insects and large predators.
Bryson casts his inimitable eye on a continent new to him, and the resultant diary, though short in length, contains all his trademark laugh-out-loud wit, wry observation and curious insight.
All the author’s royalties from this book, as well as all profits, will go to CARE International.
Bill's own fascination with science began with a battered old schoolbook he had when he was about ten or eleven years old in America. It had an illustration that captivated him - a cutaway diagram showing Earth's interior as it would look if you cut into it with a large knife and carefully removed about a quarter of its bulk. And he very clearly remembers thinking: "How do they know that?"
Bill's story-telling skill makes the "How?" and, just as importantly, the "Who?" of scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for all ages. In this exciting edition for younger readers, he covers the wonder and mysteries of time and space, the frequently bizarre and often obsessive scientists and the methods they used, the crackpot theories which held sway for far too long, the extraordinary accidental discoveries which suddenly advanced whole areas of science when the people were actually looking for something else (or in the wrong direction) and the mind-boggling fact that, somehow, the universe exists and, against all odds, life came to be on this wondrous planet we call home.
Published: 2 Sep 2010
Bill Bryson’s first travel book, The Lost Continent, was unanimously acclaimed as one of the funniest books in years. In Neither Here nor There he brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Fluent in, oh, at least one language, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before.
Whether braving the homicidal motorists of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant or window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations. He even goes to Liechtenstein.
‘Funny, wise, learned and compulsive’ - GQ
Bill Bryson turns away from travelling the highways and byways of middle America, so hilariously depicted in his bestselling The Lost Continent, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Notes from a Big Country, for a fast, exhilarating ride along the Route 66 of American language and popular culture.
In Made in America, Bryson tells the story of how American arose out of the English language, and along the way, de-mythologizes his native land - explaining how a dusty desert hamlet with neither woods nor holly became Hollywood, how the Wild West wasn’t won, why Americans say ‘lootenant’ and ‘Toosday’, how they were eating junk food long before the word itself was cooked up - as well as exposing the true origins of the words G-string, blockbuster, poker and snafu.
‘A tremendously sassy work, full of zip, pizzazz and all those other great American qualities’
Will Self, Independent on Sunday
Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science.
The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, A Short History of Nearly Everything is the biggest-selling popular science book of the 21st century, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to’
And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn’t hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. He discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land.
Bryson’s acclaimed first success, The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature – hilariously, stomach-achingly, funny, yet tinged with heartache – and the book that first staked Bill Bryson’s claim as the most beloved writer of his generation.
Bill Bryson has the rare knack of being out of his depth wherever he goes - even (perhaps especially) in the land of his birth. This became all too apparent when, after nearly two decades in England, the world's best-loved travel writer upped sticks with Mrs Bryson, little Jimmy et al. and returned to live in the country he had left as a youth.
Of course there were things Bryson missed about Blighty but any sense of loss was countered by the joy of rediscovering some of the forgotten treasures of his childhood: the glories of a New England autumn; the pleasingly comical sight of oneself in shorts; and motel rooms where you can generally count on being awakened in the night by a piercing shriek and the sound of a female voice pleading, 'Put the gun down, Vinnie, I'll do anything you say.'
Whether discussing the strange appeal of breakfast pizza or the jaw-slackening direness of American TV, Bill Bryson brings his inimitable brand of bemused wit to bear on that strangest of phenomena - the American way of life.
In the company of his friend Stephen Katz (last seen in the bestselling Neither Here nor There), Bill Bryson set off to hike the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and - perhaps most alarming of all - people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.
Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors.
In At Home, Bill Bryson applies the same irrepressible curiosity, irresistible wit, stylish prose and masterful storytelling that made A Short History of Nearly Everything one of the most lauded books of the last decade, and delivers one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live.
Bill Bryson was struck one day by the thought that we devote a lot more time to studying the battles and wars of history than to considering what history really consists of: centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - eating, sleeping and merely endeavouring to get more comfortable. And that most of the key discoveries for humankind can be found in the very fabric of the houses in which we live.This inspired him to start a journey around his own house, an old rectory in Norfolk, wandering from room to room considering how the ordinary things in life came to be.
Along the way he did a prodigious amount of research on the history of anything and everything, from architecture to electricity, from food preservation to epidemics, from the spice trade to the Eiffel Tower, from crinolines to toilets; and on the brilliant, creative and often eccentric minds behind them. And he discovered that, although there may seem to be nothing as unremarkable as our domestic lives, there is a huge amount of history, interest and excitement - and even a little danger - lurking in the corners of every home.
In summer 1927, America had a booming stock market, a president who worked just four hours a day (and slept much of the rest), a devastating flood of the Mississippi, a sensational murder trial, and an unknown aviator named Charles Lindbergh who became the most famous man on earth.
It was the summer that saw the birth of talking pictures, the invention of television, the peak of Al Capone’s reign of terror, the horrifying bombing of a school in Michigan, the thrillingly improbable return to greatness of over-the-hill baseball player Babe Ruth, and an almost impossible amount more.
In this hugely entertaining book, Bill Bryson spins a tale of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy. With the trademark brio, wit and authority that make him Britain’s favourite writer of narrative non-fiction, he brings to life a forgotten summer when America came of age, took centre stage, and changed the world.
It is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents and still Australia teems with life – a large portion of it quite deadly. In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in a very nasty way than anywhere else.
Ignoring such dangers – and yet curiously obsessed by them – Bill Bryson journeyed to Australia and promptly fell in love with the country. And who can blame him? The people are cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted and unfailingly obliging: their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water; the food is excellent; the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines. Life doesn’t get much better than this…