Bill Bryson’s best books as he plans to ‘retire from writing’

October 15, 2020 11:30:48 AM

Bill Bryson’s best books as he plans to ‘retire from writing’

We might just be facing the end of Bill Bryson’s writing career – he’s announced he’s considering retirement.

The 68-year-old has been a mainstay of British literature for decades, but has told Times Radio he’s been experimenting with retirement this year, saying: “It has been successful and I’m pretty likely to continue.”

Born in Iowa and with US-UK dual citizenship, Bryson was the chancellor of Durham University between 2005 and 2011. He told Times Radio he hasn’t found himself bored by not writing, saying: “The world is full of other things to do that are enjoyable without any of the pressures that come with you doing this as a job.”

Entirely new to Bryson’s writing? These books (all published by Black Swan) are a great place to start…

1. Notes From A Small Island

First published in 1995, Notes From A Small Island is Bryson’s humorous journey around Britain. After living in North Yorkshire for many years, the author had to move back to America with his family for a stint, so took a farewell tour of the island first, solely on public transport – and so this book was born.

He travelled as far north as John O’Groats in Scotland, and mixes personal reflection with the history of the quaint places he visited, all in humorous detail,

2. A Short History Of Nearly Everything

Bryson is a true polymath, and as well as travel tomes, he’s also published best selling works of pop science. In A Short History Of Nearly Everything, he explores the atomic make-up of the universe, the earth’s geology, and human evolution in a way that’s frank and engaging. It’s not without humour either – Bryson has a knack for describing the comic accidents that have led to some of science’s greatest discoveries.

According to Penguin, it’s the biggest-selling popular science book of the 21st century.

3. The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid

To really understand Bryson, his life and work, reading his memoir is no bad idea. Published in 2006, it explores Bryson’s early years in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s and Sixties. The title comes from his childhood alter-ego, while the subtitle – Travels Through My Childhood – is a nod to the travel writing career he would grow up to have.

A personal look at Bryson’s upbringing in the Midwest, it also covers big issues of the day – like the burgeoning civil rights movement and the atomic bomb.