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The Lost Continent

Travels In Small Town America
Written by: Bill Bryson
Narrated by: William Roberts
Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: Travel
5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Hardly anyone ever leaves Des Moines, Iowa. But Bill Bryson did, and after 10 years in England he decided to go home, to a foreign country.

In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America.

From the Deep South to the Wild West, from Elvis' birthplace through to Custer's Last Stand, Bryson visits places he re-named Dullard, Coma, and Doldrum (so the residents don't sue or come after him with baseball bats). But his hopes of finding the American dream end in a nightmare of greed, ignorance, and pollution. This is a wickedly witty and savagely funny assessment of a country lost to itself, and to him.

©1989 Bill Bryson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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Again and again

I have listened to this book about 4 times now and it never gets old.

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  • Rachel
  • 2014-08-10

There are better Bill Bryson audiobooks

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Have the older, kinder Bill Bryson go back in time and take this journey. While some of his commentary was both hilarious and heartwarming, like many other reviewers, I was startled at how mean-spirited this book could be in comparison to Bryson's later works. He is comparatively positive about Iowa and the Midwest, as he waxes nostalgic about his childhood in Des Moines (and as an Iowan myself, I both confirm his assessment of our state and breathe a sigh of relief that his memories were good ones!) His commentary on other regions, particularly the South and Appalachia, was gratingly negative. Perhaps he was still in the process of finding his comedic voice, but I often found myself sympathizing with the unassuming and often kind people he was lampooning. The reader choice did not help matters any.

What other book might you compare The Lost Continent to and why?

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.

What didn’t you like about William Roberts’s performance?

This is Bryson at his most...curmudgeonly...and William Roberts was perhaps not the best narrator for this task. My first encounter with this book was of the dead trees variety; I noticed the negative tone then, but Roberts seemed to draw it out in the worst way, making the narrator seem even more smug, arrogant and rude, when Bryson's voice tends to be more self-deprecating and light-hearted. The advantage of this version is that it is unabridged; perhaps I was better off with my old beaten-up paperback, read in my head with Bryson's less irritating voice.

Was The Lost Continent worth the listening time?

If you are a Bryson fan, perhaps try to find a version that he reads himself.

On the whole, I would still recommend the book, but not as an introduction to Bill Bryson if you haven't read any of his stuff before. He's less of a jerk in his later books, so if you've read Neither Here nor There, A Walk in the Woods, or Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, you'll approach The Lost Continent in a more forgiving mood. This is his first major book, and he's still honing his voice.

It's also worth listening to simply because you can see the connections between his travels and topics that he covers in his later works, for instance, his near-visit to the Biltmore Mansion vis-a-vis his lengthy treatment of the Vanderbilt family in At Home: A History of Private Life. Don't expect that level of research in this book--this is primarily a travelogue--but it is interesting to get a glimpse of the context behind some of his more recent nonfiction books.

20 people found this helpful

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  • shipit
  • 2014-02-13

Not one of my favorites

This is one of Bryson's earliest books, published in the late 80's. As such, it lacks much of the humor that balances his snarkiness, leaving a book that seems to have been written by a curmudgeon. Americans have a lot of issues, but I found the book mean spirited. I also couldn't figure why he chose to travel during the cold, rainy season when some of the prettiest parts of the west weren't accessible. Maybe he wanted a better comparison with life in England.

16 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Cathy Wagner
  • 2011-03-15

Bill Bryson does America like no-one else!

Bill Bryson's ability to sum up a character in a few well-chosen words, combined with his insight into the American psyche, make this a highly enjoyable and easy-to-listen-to book. I loved it - from beginning to end.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Kasandra
  • 2009-01-09

Every bit as good

As all the others he's released. Insightful and funny.

6 people found this helpful

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  • indyemmett
  • 2018-10-14

One of Bryson's better books.

The author and narrator were great. Much credit to both who made this book very enjoyable on a roadtrip myself.

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  • Timothy Kowal
  • 2018-04-21

Laugh out loud. Wonderfully presented.

Bryson is always a fun read. This was the best-performed audiobook I've ever listened to.

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  • freedom
  • 2015-09-04

Bill Bryson bitches his way from coast to coast!

I barely finished this. I love Bill Bryson, and maybe his own narration would have saved this for me, but the incessant whining and kvetching about the state of the union read so emphatically was trying. Maybe this was novel and clever during the Regan Administration (when this was written), but it's tiresome now. Not nearly as informative as his other works, either. Too bad I saved it as the last of his books to listen to. He's better on foreign soil, in his own voice.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jason
  • 2012-05-26

I had no idea who he was.

My girlfriend suggested I listen to this and I had my doubts, but I figured I had little to lose as I am always looking for a good book to listen to. I listened to this while doing a 1000km drive through my home province and a lot of what was being said really sank in and made me laugh. It's a dated book but very good.

5 people found this helpful

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  • M. S. Cohen
  • 2014-08-11

Written by Bryson's evil twin

I have listened to every one of Bryson's audio books here on Audible.com.

I really like Bryson. He makes even the most mundane topics engrossing.

And it's not that he completely hates America. A Short Walk where he talks about hiking the Appalacian Trail is wonderful and very positive.

But in this early book his nastiness on American is not just palpable, it's suffocating.

In addition, instead of Bryson's warm, folksy reading that I have come to enjoy, William Roberts's reading makes even warm thoughts on America come out snide and snarky.

I pushed myself to listen to the whole thing so I would feel entitled to write a review.

But if I could, I would have rewound the tape to erase it from my brain.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 2013-01-31

Count's stop laughing superbly read .

What made the experience of listening to The Lost Continent the most enjoyable?

So life like with a lots of humor

What other book might you compare The Lost Continent to and why?

Down under by Bill Bryson (as well)

What about William Roberts’s performance did you like?

He is a great reader by any standard.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

6 people found this helpful