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The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to'

And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn't hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instea
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Paperback, 299 pages
Published August 28th 1990 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published August 1st 1989)
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Roxanne Funny man is disappointed about every town in America.

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Average rating 3.83  · 
 ·  51,110 ratings  ·  2,715 reviews


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Start your review of The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
Leftbanker
Sep 27, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: travel
The Lost Continental: A Look at Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson's travel books are mostly like this one, a constant whining about everything. His other books I love. It's not that I don't get the "humor" in this book, I just think that it isn't funny, not in the least. I should also say that I have lived a full one quarter of my life outside of the United States and I don’t care if someone makes fun of anything and everything American (I’ve done a bit of bashing myself).

A dyspeptic man in his middle thi
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Matt
Jun 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
“I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to. When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can’t wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever…”
- Bill Bryson, The Lost Continen
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Gary
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It's funny how so many Americans begin their reviews of 'The Lost Continent' with statements such as "I loved Bryson's other books but this one is terrible!", all because he treats America the same way as he treats everywhere and everyone else.

So while many Americans think it's acceptable - hilarious, even - for Bryson to make disparaging-but-witty comments about non-Americans and the places they call home, it is an utter outrage for him to be anything other than completely worshipful with regar
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Jeff
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, non-fiction


In which a bilious Bryson, returning to the U.S. after living in England, borrows his mom’s car (with her permission) and sets out to find the perfect American small town.

Bryson kind of loses focus of his main task along the way, but that doesn’t prevent him from slinging his jibes at 38 of the lower U.S. states.



This one’s almost as funny as the other Bryson books I’ve read, but he seems to have a stick up his behind for most of it and the sometimes nasty barbs at middle Americans lose steam fai
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Nandakishore Varma
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.

Thus begins Bill Bryson his travelogue, setting the tone for what is going to follow: he is a smart-aleck, and he is going to be at his sarcastic best in taking down small-town America through which he is going to travel.

Des Moines in Iowa is a typical small town in America where nothing ever happens and nobody ever leaves, because that is the only life they have known and they are happy with it. But not so young Bill – he watched one TV show on Europe
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Howard
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, humor, travel
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to. When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can’t wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever.


So begins Bill Bryson’s book about
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Tommy
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: snobs
Well, ain't it somethin for dat rascally Mr. Bryson wit all o dat funny Northern talk to make his way down here to Dixie and spend some time wid us! We sure do 'ppreciate you takin us into your rich and well-knowed book, Mr. Bryson. And yer gosh-darn-right, God save all those poor folk who done shopped at K-Mart! They should've spent their nickels at Crate & Barrel had they knowed what to do wid demselves..... ...more
Vanessa
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I do like my arm chair travelling with a hint of cynicism and much like Australians who are expert at taking the Mickey out of ourselves it was refreshing to see an American being able to take the piss.

He may not be politically correct but who hasn’t had a variation of the same thoughts going through their head about other tourists when travelling through touristy hot spots. I can’t express how much I enjoyed hearing about boring god awful places as much as I did during the reading of this book.
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Ciara
Mar 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Hateful, bigoted, fat white men and racists
Recommended to Ciara by: Salvation Army
Shelves: don-t-read-these
This is the worst book ever. Bryson is a fat, cynical white guy traveling around the country, proclaiming in the subtitle: "Travels in Small Town America." But like most fat white guys, Bryson is scared of small town America. He hates every small town he comes to- whether they're on Indian reservations, small farming communities in Nebraska, southern towns full of African Americans where the author is too scared to even stop the car, or small mining communities in West Virginia, also where the a ...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was the book that made me fall in love with Bill Bryson's writing many years ago. It helps a little bit that we both grew up in Iowa, but this man is so funny, I cannot imagine any reader not having a great time with his books. Enjoy a fun road trip across America in this rollicking tale.
Claire
Dec 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who's noticed the fact that Bill Bryson is a smug bastard who casts a pall of depressing sarcasm over everything he writes about. I mean, I'm all for sarcasm in most cases, but it's as though all of his subjects are cheapened and made despicable by his prose. In The Lost Continent, he turns every small-town inhabitant into an ignorant, obnoxious caricature. The book has virtually nothing to offer, unless you, too, are hell-bent on whining about the const ...more
Jessaka
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
What a pain in the butt!

Julie and I used to take day trips north of Berkeley, and whenever we drove into a town and saw buildings that we didn’t like, we would get out our finger zap guns and make the buildings disappear. By the time we had left a town, it was beautiful. We hated strip malls, gas stations, fast food restaurants, some architecture, and telephone poles. A near perfect townt that I once saw was Etna, CA, just west of Mt. Shasta. It was not fancy, but they had no telephone poles, an
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Zuberino
Bryson does two things very well in this book, besides his trademark humour which is happily a constant in this and every other book he's ever written. He captures the spirit of the land at a very specific time in its recent history: 1987, the high water mark of the Reaganite project. Time and again, he is left demoralized by the mindless affluenza that was the hallmark of American society during the latter half of the 1980s.

More broadly, Bryson leaves a depressingly accurate description of the
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Petra-X
Nothing to write home about, not even if you are from small-town America. The author, in this book, is caught up in himself and his wit rather than the subject, the small towns of America.
W
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This was Bill Bryson's first travelogue,the journey was undertaken in 1987-88.Bryson himself came from a small town in America,Des Moines,Iowa.

He left and settled down in England.After ten years away,he returned to attend his father's funeral.It also brought back memories of his childhood road trips,and he decided to explore small town America.The journey would eventually take him to 38 US states and nearly 14,000 miles.

I was reminded of this book while reading William Least Heat Moon's Blue Hig
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~☆~Autumn??
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I have been to many of the places in the west that he traveled to in this book and it was interesting to me to read about his experiences which were so different to what I experienced. We had a great breakfast in Sundance, WY and the waitress was so super nice and cheerful that I actually purchased a t-shirt to remember her. Bill Bryson did not get to eat there as The Shriners had taken over and the waitress would not help him. I don't find the west to be like his experience at all but overall I ...more
Greg
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I was excited to read this book. I've owned it for a few years now, and it's one of those books that I would see on my shelf and I'd think, this is going to be good, I better save it for another day when I guess I deserve to read something good rather than now when I should read something I'm not looking forward to. Or whatever it is that my thought process is about delaying gratification of books that I actually want to read versus a good deal of the books that I end up reading.

This should have
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Karen
When reading this book, American readers may very well feel like they are eavesdropping on a conversation not intended for their ears. This is because Bill Bryson obviously intended this book to be read by a British audience.

There are lots of laughs in this book. His depictions of Iowa made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes. For example, his explanation for why so many farmers are missing fingers:

"Yet, there is scarcely a farmer in the Midwest over the age of twenty who has not at some time
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Andrew Smith
I do like Bryson. I enjoy his wry views on life, people and places. He informs and he makes me laugh, and that's enough to ensure I keep coming back to spend more time in his company. Here he promises to follow the path of old holidays with his parents, when as a child he was hauled around the country visiting towns of dubious merit and passing time at ‘freebie’ attractions that failed to delight or even stay long in the memory. His father was a cheapskate who preferred to keep his dollar in his ...more
Heather
Mar 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
I started this book while I was sitting in the jury pool waiting room. The first chapter made me laugh out loud. I was sitting in the most uncomfortable, boring, and annoying place in the universe and it still made me laugh out loud. People looked at me. However, after the first few chapters I noticed a steady decline. I stopped reading about halfway through the book because I had read the word fat about 3,000 times. I get it. You don't like fat people. Noted. (But, by the look of the jacket pho ...more
Andrea
Dec 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one I care about. Go read something else - life's too short.
I was really excited to read this book, as I love observational memoir-style writing - especially when it deals with travel and cultural habits people keep with food. And at first I thought his observations were snarky, spot-on, and funny. But as the book wore on (like, about 25 pages or so in), I started to become appalled at how really shallow and mean he started to sound: everyone he encountered was disgusting, stupid, or fat - or all three - and the places he visited never measured up to the ...more
Erica
Hey, I just remembered - I don't like Bill Bryson.
I made it all the way to the end of the first CD, just to be certain I wasn't mistaken about my opinion, and nope, I wasn't.
I still don't like Bill Bryson.

This is especially repugnant coming straight off Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

Note to self: Please stop trying with this guy. You do not like him. You never have, you never will.
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Adam
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Americans, Midwesterners, People coming to America and those that want to 'get outta here'
Ha, oh America!

As much as I hesitated to read a travelogue about America while living abroad (I mean, shouldn't I be reading about my host country), my diminishing pile of books from home lead me to this humorous Bryson tale.

I've now had a couple of encounters with Bryson's writing and each time, seem to grow more and more fond of his haphazard style of not only traveling but writing as well. How many other authors dare pay tribute to their deceased housmaid in the middle of a book or drop in ra
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Michael
Jan 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
While in the Frankfurt airport killing time, I decided I needed something to read while waiting in the airport and on the long flight back. During my vacation, I had already read Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of Freedom, Judith Butler's Excitable Speech, and Yves Simon's Freedom and Community, as well as most of two issues of CCC and an issue of Hypatia. I was a bit tired of academic voices and theory (though I had enjoyed everything I read, except perhaps Simon, whose Thomistic perspective irked me a ...more
Tamara
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hilariously funny, Bryson’s description of the small town America which most of us Europeans don’t know, makes you want take a trip to America, skip all the touristy places, and visit only the never-heard-of no-tourist no-fun towns, such as Des Moines, Iowa.
The part where he describes his long-distance bus trip to New York is unforgettable. Couldn’t literally stop laughing.
Great!
Sharon
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
Probably just as hysterical as Neither Here Nor There: Travels Through Europe, but I enjoyed it a tad less, as it was more of the same thing (Europe, I suppose, was far too fresh in my mind). For that reason alone, I'll be spacing the rest of Bryson's books out.

Nonetheless, what an absolute gift to travel alongside Bryson as he makes his way through America. I learned so much along the way (I've added Colonial Williamsburg and the Henry Ford museum as "must-sees" as a result of the read) but wh
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Negin
I read parts of this during an extremely long wait in the doctor’s office with my teenage daughter. There were lots of giggle-out-loud moments, and, of course, I’d interrupt her reading to hand her a short paragraph or two to read. It was fun to have her chuckle also. It also made the wait go by so much quicker. This isn’t my favorite Bryson book by any means, but as always, I thoroughly enjoyed his humor and wit. Many don’t seem to like this book, claiming that Bryson comes off as grumpy and ov ...more
Tara
Jul 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
How can a man think he's seen America if he refuses to get out of his car? Bill Bryson perfectly embodies what Wendell Berry would describe as a "failure to encounter": Bryson doesn't encounter America. He doesn't find it. He treats it like a disposable tissue, with as little interest in where it came from and in where it's going. Our nation does have a problem in rampant, mindless consumption, but along with our (possibly fatal) flaws are millions of fascinating people, good hearts, heartbreaki ...more
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
As my father always used to tell me, 'You see, son, there's always someone in the world worse off than you.' And I always used to think, 'So?'
Bryson returns to England after ten years and decides to take a road trip full of nostalgic stops. He reflects on many a good adventure with his family and, in particular, his father. Wholly entertaining and engaging!

Audiobook Comments
Read by William Roberts - and he did a fab job. But, it's a pet peeve when an author tells such a personal story but d
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Lorenzo Pilla
Jun 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Cynics who dislike the US
Bad. Bad. Bad. While Bryson can be funny at times, I quickly grew tired of him and eventually he just annoyed me with this one. I would have stopped in the middle, but for my book club's sake, I plodded through, skimming some sections toward the end. This isn't real travel writing. Bryson was a longtime expat in England who returned to the US apparently so he could cynically criticize just about everyone and everything he saw here. I got the feeling that he had pitched the book idea to his publi ...more
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William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bil
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