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The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America

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"The kind of book Steinbeck might have written if he'd traveled with David Letterman." -- New York magazine An inspiring and hilarious account of one man's rediscovery of America and his search for... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

6 ratings


I was so looking forward to a lighthearted look at traveling the USA, but right out of the box, the author was critical of conservatives, farmers, & anyone not of his educated elite status. I prefer to use my time more wisely listening to the voices of those who defend America rather than trash it. This book now resides at a dump.

Possibly Bryson's funniest book

It would be a real stretch to say that Bill Bryson thoroughly researches everything he writes about, goes out of his way to learn about and see and document only the most interesting aspects of places, and presents his portraits of places fairly and with an effort to see every side of both places and issues. A real stretch. But, it wouldn't be a stretch at all to say that Bill Bryson is undeniably loaded with wit and humor. This book is, I believe, Bill Bryson's very funniest. I laughed so hard at his descriptions of eating in small town diners that I woke my wife up who was sleeping next to me, several times. I tried to read passages from it to my brother over the phone, but couldn't get certain words out because I was silenced by laughing, by the sort of full-body laughing usually only high schoolers drinking milk get to enjoy. This book is not an objective or a thorough or a totally accurate picture of America; its passages about the West, places I'm especially familiar with, almost appalled me at the total lack of effort Bryson made to go out of his way to see anything other than major attractions like the Grand Canyon. Even there, he just stood on the edge and looked over. However, what this book is, is funny. Very funny. Dangerously funny, especially if you ever find yourself hiding in an Anne Frank-style bunker, living secretly in fear of the government, where laughing very loudly could end your life. I highly recommend this book. Writers about American subjects will find quotable quotes on almost every region, and lovers of good comedy will find a very enjoyable read. Plus, and I couldn't believe this, it's really well-indexed.

An unsparing look at America

This book was mean-spirited, misanthropic, and cruel--I loved it. I think most of the negative reviewers of this book would benefit by lightening up a little and getting a sense of humor. If you're a blind, gung-ho, flag-waving, patriotic America-booster then this book will deflate your bubble. I think America is the greatest country the world has ever seen and I love it, but if you sincerely love your country then you will be able to criticize it and laugh at it sometimes. Bryson's hilariously sharp eye catches all of middle America's absurdities, but what saves the book's harshness is that he doesn't forget to target the biggest absurdity here--himself (yes, the [sad man] who whines about how boring everybody is around him but spends most of his time alone in a motel room drinking beer and eating candy). For me the main joke of the book is that Bryson spends most of his time trying to escape from somewhere rather than looking forward to his next stop. Yes, perhaps some of his targets are a little too easy, but still hilarious. As a travel book: 1 star. As a comedy: 5 stars

Humor -- and much more

Since many of the reviews below do a fine job of describing this book's general attributes, I'll just mention a few things you'd best remember when reading a Bill Bryson book, particularly The Lost Continent:First, Mr Bryson's doesn't write guidebooks or serious travelogues. He writes anti-guidebooks. Much of The Lost Continent is a counterpoint -- indeed a cure -- for the attacks of 'Meaningfulness And Insight' one sometimes suffers when reading even the best of the 'serious' travel writers such as Jonathan Raban. Second, he's not making fun of the places he goes, the people he meets, and the things he sees because he's a big old meanie. He's trying to be funny, and he tells the unvarnished truth about what he sees and experiences, unlike many travel writers --both professional and amateur -- who simply cannot admit they've come a long way to see something, only to find it disappointing. Mr Bryson is criticized in many reviews for being a 'tourist' not a 'traveler', but it's only tourists who think every sight they see is fascinating simply because they've chosen to see it.Third, Mr Bryson's not 'arrogant' because he doesn't praise everything about America and Americans. In fact, if American readers can hold back their splutters of outrage, they'd realize very quickly that he's *including himself* in nearly all the jokes he makes. A surpassingly ignorant reviewer below has asserted, for example, that our Bill's a hypocrite because he makes jokes about fat people, but then dines on a six-pack and candy bars. Well, of course he does -- Mr Bryson's acknowledging that, for all his griping about fast food and convenience stores and fat bellies, he's no better able to resist temptation than any other American. How many other travel writers -- or any writers at all -- allow us to see them being so fallible? This is arrogance?Finally, I would recommend that the careful reader of The Lost Continent will find much more here than humorous description and anecdote, although both abound. There's also a story. Its only real character, of course, is Bill Bryson, but it's a character who is ultimately open to and changed by his experiences, both in making his comic journeys and in the remembrances of his boyhood his travels evoke. Mr Bryson is seeking more than just an elusive epitome of small-town America; he's trying to learn how to be an American again after a long time away, and he's finding it tough going at times. As an American (an Iowan, even) who's lived overseas for more than a decade myself, I find this story more and more compelling every time I come back to visit both 'lost continents' -- the real one, and this fine book. Highly recommended.


Not only did this book give me more laughs than any I've read, but I also found it to be quite insightful. Although he is American, his humor is rather British in tone. This might not agree with those who think Jerry Lewis is funnier than Monty Python. Yes, he does bash American culture but he does it with love. Have you have ever lamented that you can't walk through an Eastern colonial town without tripping over fifty Ye Olde Gifte Shoppes? Have you ever wondered why folks who live in the middle of some of the world's most breathtaking scenery choose to litter it with Bud cans, spent cartridges and Indian trading posts? Have you ever stepped out of your car in a backwater town and instantly feared for your life? If so, then you will relate to what he's saying. Bryson often criticizes our failure to recognize what is truely valuable; how we seem to always opt for the cheap, the flashy or the big. Sometimes it's better to laugh about these things than moan about them. And laugh you will. My only criticism of Bryson is that my love of his writing seems to be directly proportional to actually knowing the places he's writing about. As an American, therefore, I think I appreciate this book and Notes From a Small Island more than I do, say, his book on Europe, much of which deals with parts of the world I've never experienced. Therefore, The Lost Continent stands out as my personal favorite, so far. If you like Bryson's writing then you will love this book. If you have never read Bryson before and are a Yank, this is an excellent one to start with.

Fall Down, soda-up-your-nose funny

Having just completed a 30,000 mile road trip to photograph citizens in 53 towns in the USA with the funniest names you've ever heard, I can tell you that Bryson's observations are excruciatingly on target and snortingly funny. He sees beneath the contrived commercial and pointless idiocies that coat America's boonies and larger towns. It's satire with an appropriate but minimal garnish of respect and every word is true. He sees us as we are and makes us laugh out loud. I want him in my car for my next foray into the boonies. If you don't think he's funny, then you must be in his line of fire.

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