In A Sunburned Country

Bryson, Bill

Book - 2000
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
In A Sunburned Country
Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion up, down, and over the Appalachian Trail (well, most of it) resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. Now he has traveled across the world and all the way Down Under to Australia, a shockingly under-discovered country with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. In a Sunburned Country is his report on what he found there--a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity. Australia is a country that exists on a vast scale. It is the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a country. Despite being the most desiccated, infertile, and climatically aggressive of all inhabited continents, it teems with life. In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else: sharks, crocodiles, the ten most deadly poisonous snakes on the planet, fluffy yet toxic caterpillars, seashells that actually attack you, and the unbelievable box jellyfish (don't ask). The dangerous riptides of the sea and the sun-baked wastes of the outback both lie in wait for the unwary. It's one tough country. Bill Bryson adores it, of course, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond the beaten tourist path. Here is a place where interesting things happen all the time, from a Prime Minister lost--yes, lost--while swimming at sea to Japanese cult members who may have set off an atomic bomb (sic) entirely unnoticed on their 500,000-acre property in the great western desert. Wherever he goes (and Bryson goes just about everywhere) he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging--the beaming products of a land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine. On occasion the Aborigines, a remote and mysterious race with a tragic history, make a haunting appearance in this book. But by and large Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide. Published just in time for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, In a Sunburned Country offers the best of all possible introductions to what may well be the best of all possible nations. Even with those jellyfish.

Publisher: New York :, Broadway Books,, 2000
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 0767903854
Branch Call Number: 919.4 Br
Characteristics: x, 307 pages : maps ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Australia has the terrain and creatures most likely to prove fatal to tourists, so it's a perfect destination for Bryson.

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Sep 10, 2014
  • hey44 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I’d left this book, freshly checked out from the library and not yet cracked open, on the dining table and gone upstairs, leaving my partner still seated at the table finishing his morning coffee. A few short minutes later, I heard some strange gurgly sort of sounds emanating from the main floor below. The sounds were sort of human like, but not the sort of noise you routinely make while sipping your mug of morning brew. “Is this a medical emergency?”, I wondered, slightly alarmed. My partner does, after all, have a heart condition. “Is the cat regurgitating a larger than usual volume of barely-begun-to-be-digested Fancy Feast?” As I sat at my computer trying to determine the source of this aural outburst and pondering whether the noise indicated a situation urgent enough to demand further investigation, it dawned on me – the book!....those gurgled snorts I was hearing through the floorboards were the sort of fits of laughter that emanate from a fellow who does not laugh out loud easily or often. My partner, a fellow fan of Bryson, must have noticed this book on the table, picked it up, and started to read. I smiled and relaxed, relieved that all was well, I didn’t need to leap into action to deal an animal or human emergency, and pleased that some good fun, in print format and authored by Bill Bryson, was readily at hand.

So there you have it. This book will have you laughing a short while into it, and you will find yourself sputtering with amusement at regular intervals. Bryson has a gift for writing in a manner that is both informative - it`s a travel book, so you will learn about Australian history, geography and culture - and entertaining, often to the point of laugh-out-loud funny. The humour is often self-deprecating, other times it pokes fun, but not in an unkind way (ok, except perhaps for some of what he writes about Canberra). The friend who recommended this book to me wryly commented that the take-home message for her was that pretty much everything you may encounter in Australia will either kill you or seriously harm you, given the right circumstances - poisonous and otherwise nasty creatures, harsh and at times and places unforgiving climate and geography etc - and while there is certainly a goodly dosage of that served up (!), Bryson also illustrates the challenges posed by the general vast emptiness of the country interspersed with descriptions of unique and unsurpassed beauty to behold, interesting, amusing and poignant historical accounts of how Australia was discovered and settled, and encounters and conversations he has with some of the people he meets as he explores the country.

Go ahead, read "In a Sunburned Country" during your bus commute – your fellow passengers just might wonder how come you are having so much fun on an otherwise dreary bus ride and be envious. Either that or they`ll think you are slightly loopy, in which case you will make their commute more interesting and amusing.

Sep 09, 2012

I have no plans to go to Australia (I wish), just happen to pick it up off a family members coffee table...and could not put it down. I laughed throughout
and learned a ton. Most importantly I was entertained on my long bus rides:) I am now a Bryson fan and am on to the next...perhaps his African journey. *Highly recommended.

Jun 16, 2012

I loved this book. Read it just before travelling to Australia - its full of anecdotes, history, and travel information. Well written and humerous. Recommend it to anyone planning to travel down under.

Feb 23, 2012
  • bmetcalf64 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Loved this book. I knew next to nothing about Australia. Now I know there are lots of poisonous and dangerous things, and that it's little explored and vast. Well, and a lot more besides. It's my first book by Bryson. I will definitely seek out more of his stuff.

Apr 26, 2011
  • brendanjon rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of my favorite all time books, it makes me want to move to Australia.

Oct 12, 2010
  • melbl8tr rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Delightful account of one man's visit to a country very much NOT like his own.

Sep 25, 2010
  • neonbacalao rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Even if you have no plans to go to Australia anytime soon, this is a great read. It's especially good for if you're going on a plane trip soon and you don't want anyone to talk to you because you will be laughing like a maniac through almost the whole book. Funniest travel book ever!

Aug 11, 2009
  • tegan rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Very funny. Bill Bryson always makes me laugh out loud.


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Sep 10, 2014
  • hey44 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

On television the green of the House of Representatives has a decidedly bilious look, as if the members are debating inside someone's pancreas.....

Sep 10, 2014
  • hey44 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Nervously I quickened my pace. Dogs don't like me. It is a simple law of the universe, like gravity. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never passed a dog that didn't act as if it thought I was about to take its Alpo. Dogs that have not moved from the sofa in years will, at the sniff of me passing outside, rise in fury and hurl themselves at shut windows. I have seen tiny dogs, no bigger than a fluffy slipper, jerk little old ladies off their feet and drag them over open ground in a quest to get at my blood and sinew. Every dog on the face of the earth wants me dead.


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