In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson

Posted 26 June, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 15 Comments


sunburned country

Title: In a Sunburned Country
Author/Narrator: Bill Bryson
Published: 2001; Pages: 352
Audio Duration: 11 hrs, 54 min
Genre: Memoir/Travelogue
Rating: Can we go to Australia now?

In Short: Bryson takes us on a tour of Australia while imparting trivia, history, commentary, and other random randomness about the land down under.

Why I Listened: I enjoyed Bryson’s narration of At Home and thought that a roadtrip would be a perfect time to listen to his own roadtrips in Australia.

Thoughts in General: Australia–a country and continent that is worlds away from me (*waves to the handful of Australian blog readers*). Australia is certainly a bucket list trip for me–specifically to SCUBA the Great Barrier Reef and jump off the Syndey Bridge. When I think of Australia I think of kangaroos, the infamous Syndey Opera House, Hugh Jackman, the Outback, and a land so far away that I can’t even imagine getting there. It feels exotic and romantic and unknown. But since my knowledge of Australia really is limited to the above (plus a few other things), listening to In a Sunburned Country was such a delight.

Bryson travels around Australia and in doing so gives his readers a tour through the country as well as many history lessons along the way. In addition to learning the flora and fauna of the various Australian states and the history of the first colonists and the aboriginals, Bryson peppers his narrative with his personal experiences while traveling. As with every other Bryson book I’ve read (which admittedly isn’t many), there is an incredible wealth of information in In a Sunburned Country and you’ll find yourself fascinated, entertained, and surely wanting to visit Australia to experience the sights for yourself. But because Australia is so far away and many are likely to not visit, Bryson does give a very thorough guide of the continent.

I’m a sucker for “random information overload” type books. And Scott is the King of “Did you know…?” While In a Sunburned Country wasn’t always the most exciting of books (we had just finished listening to The Martian when we started this one), we both had moments where we chuckled out loud, both loudly exclaimed “huh!” and both learned a lot and ended the book dreaming of our own trip to Australia. By the end I felt so much better informed about Australia…but also dying to know more. Or at least revisiting the book again the try and absorb more of the information–there is entirely too much to keep straight from just one reading!

The book was originally published in the 90s and I have to wonder how much of the information is now outdated–specifically some of the social and economical bits. And I would also love to hear what Australians think of Bryson’s portrayal of the citizens as well as some of the other sentiments of Bryson’s. I always get the feeling that Bryson is a bit condescending–whether intentionally or not. He did speak very highly of Australians and their country, but there are always moments that make me go “hmmm.” I never get the impression that Bryson is relating anything from an objective point of view. Everything seems colored by his perspective–which is fair–but it reminds me that he is telling his story.

Bottom Line: Do you love learning about different places in more depth? Do you enjoy dry humor and heavily anecdotal.travelogues? Do you just eat up random tidbits? Then this one is for you. Really any Bryson is for you. Honestly I admit I’m a bit weary recommending Bryson after my book club bashed on A Walk in the Woods, but he is generally a favorite amongst book bloggers. Including me.

A Note on the Audio: The only thing better than reading Bill Bryson is listening to Bill Bryson reading Bill Bryson. That’s really all I need to say about that. The only pitfall with listening was that I needed to see a map of Australia while reading the book (not sure if the paper copy has a map but it should!) and we were without Internet for me to look up a map online.

Do you enjoy reading travelogues? What travelogue would you recommend?



15 Responses to “In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson”

  1. Both Mr. BFR and I *loved* this book! It was so fascinating. I was left wanting to visit Australia immediately and wondering how people managed to survive all the dangers!

  2. I must read this. I really enjoyed Walk in the Woods (why did your book club bash it?) and of course I’d love to see Australia someday- though it is so very very far away.

  3. This is the one I would recommend. I really liked it when I read it. I think because Australia seemed filled with so many different things than anywhere else. I always joke that everything in the place can kill you!

  4. Kristi

    I listened to this one a month or so ago. There is so much information to absorb. I had to go back and listen to several sections again. I made my husband listen to the cricket part. I was laughing so hard.

    The social stuff was kind of disturbing. The part about the children being taken from their homes was awful. I guess it’s been 20 years, so hopefully there’s been progress.

    My in-laws are going on a mission to Brisbane, Australia in September so my husband has been researching trips for us to go and visit. After listening to the book, I’m kind of freaked out. So many deadly things!

  5. Ti

    I have loved Bryson since A Walk In the Woods. Can’t wait for the movie version.
    He has a knack for storytelling but he’s also funny and humble about all of it.

  6. Meg

    I just finished A Walk in the Woods coming back from walking around at Yosemite, and I absolutely loved it! Such a delightful read. I remember you recommending it last year and immediately added it to my mental wishlist… so excited to have finally read it.

    In A Sunburned Country sounds great, and I’ll be looking for the audio from the library. I’m sure listening to Bryson read Bryson is fantastic!

  7. I just finished my first J Maarten Troost book so I’m much keener to read more travel books than I have been in the past. I’m going to have to check this out, I have an unhealthy obsession with Australia!

  8. I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but a few years ago I did borrow Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid from the library prior to taking a short road trip to Chicago. My husband and I both loved it – the humorous narratives, the historical references as well as his natural storytelling voice. I should do this again soon … I just need to decide if I want to focus my attention on Australia or Britain (Notes from a Small Island)