46. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
I read the majority of this book on a plane flight to and from Mexico, and I kept laughing out loud. So I am sure that other passengers thought I was mentally ill! I would read it before I went to bed, and I had to hold my hand over my mouth so my laughing would not wake up my husband.
I love England and its people with all my heart. (In fact, we just got a Christmas card from the owners of one of the bed and breakfast places we stayed at!) It was such a delightful experience to go there.. So, this book warmed my heart, but I don't think you have to go to England to really enjoy this. He is a masterful comedic writer!
Just a warning: there is some profanity, but it is not gratuitous. Also, his humor can be quite sarcastic and snarky at times, but I think he is just doing it tongue-in-cheek. So, if that is not your cup of tea, you might NOT like his book. Also, I am wondering if you have never been to England if you would like it as much. I definitely liked reading about the places I had already seen and experienced better than the places that I had not yet seen.
Here is a favorite quote:
“Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain - which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad - Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but', people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays - every bit of it.
What a wondrous place this was - crazy as f**k, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ('Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue.') What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners' Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.
How easily we lose sight of all this. What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things - to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view.
All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.”
― Bill Bryson,