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In a Sunburned Countryby Bill Bryson
Synopses & Reviews
"Everything, it seems, is interesting to Bill Bryson. The marvel is that he can make it all interesting to us. Three billion year old fossilized organisms off the western coast; a giant lobster on the side of a highway; empty, forbidding spaces... In a Sunburned Country introduces Australia, a giant, mostly barren continent in the Indian Ocean populated by 18 million people, or, as Bryson points out, less people than are born each year in China. Like the rest of his writing, his new book is informative, funny, and almost impossible to put down." Dave Weich, Powells.com
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 — 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.
"He glorifies the country, alternating between awe, reverence and fear, and he expresses these sentiments with frankness and candor, via truly funny prose and a conversational pace that is at once unhurried and captivating." Publishers Weekly
"Bryson...is one heck of a witty, intelligent, wry, opinionated, frequently salacious, and always entertaining writer whose books are a treat not to be denied." Library Journal
"His books are, quite simply, among the best and most rewarding travel literature ever written — head, shoulders, and torso above most of the competition — and this new title is a guaranteed winner." David Pitt, Booklist
"Bryson is a real traveler, the kind of guy who can be entertained by (and be entertaining about) a featureless landscape scattered with rocks the color of bad teeth. Fortunately for him and for us, there's a lot more to Australia than that." Kirkus Reviews
"What the indefatigable, keenly observant Bryson did a few years back for the Applachian Trail with A Walk in the Woods...he does now for the generally undiscovered land Down Under." Chicago Tribune
"Vastly entertaining....If there is one book with which to get oriented before departure or en route to Australia, this is it." New York Times
Beginning with the Neapolitan saying, and#147;Every cockroach is beautiful to its mother,and#8221; Schweid goes on to explain how cockroaches have been living on earth since long before humans, and continue to thriveand#151;over five thousand species of themand#151;everywhere we live, and many places we donand#8217;t.and#160; As Schweid writes in his new foreword, people always remember their encounters with cockroaches, so the bugs provide him with memorable stories about what scares us, what inspires us, what weand#8217;re willing to put up with, and what we need.and#160; Illustrated with photographs and drawings, enlivened with references from literature, interviews with exterminators and biologists, and accounts from the authorand#8217;s own travels, this witty and thoughtful compendium will tell you more than you want to know about cockroaches . . . and quite a bit about the human race as well.
Skittering figures of urban legendand#151;and a ubiquitous realityand#151;cockroaches are nearly as abhorred as they are ancient. Even as our efforts to exterminate them have developed into ever more complex forms of chemical warfare, roachesand#8217; basic design of six legs, two hypersensitive antennae, and one set of voracious mandibles has persisted unchanged for millions of years. But as Richard Schweid shows in The Cockroach Papers, while some species of these evolutionary superstars do indeed plague our kitchens and restaurants, exacerbate our asthma, and carry disease, our belief in their total villainy is ultimately misplaced.
Traveling from New York City to Louisiana, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Morocco, Schweid blends stories of his own squirm-inducing roach encounters with meticulous research to spin a tale both humorous and harrowing. As he investigates roachesand#8217; more nefarious interactions with our speciesand#151;particularly with those of us living at the margins of societyand#151;Schweid also explores their astonishing diversity, how they mate, what theyand#8217;ll eat, and what weand#8217;ve written about them (from Kafka and Nelson Algren to archy and mehitabel). Knowledge soon turns into respect, and Schweid looks beyond his own fears to arrive at an uncomfortable truth: We humans are no more peaceful, tidy, or responsible about taking care of the Earth or each other than these tiny creatures that swarm in the dark corners of our minds, homes, and cereal boxes.
About the Author
BILL BRYSON'S many books include, most recently, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, as well as A Walk in the Woods, Lost Continent, Notes from a Small Island, and Mother Tongue. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951, he lived in England for almost two decades. He now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and their four children.
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