I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away

by Bill Bryson

Hardcover, 1999

Call number

973.9 BRY



Broadway (1999), Edition: 1st, 304 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Essays. Nonfiction. Humor (Nonfiction.) HTML:A classic from the New York Times bestselling author of A Walk in the Woods and The Body. After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly 3 million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens??as he later put it, "it was clear my people needed me"). They were greeted by a new and improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item. Delivering the brilliant comic musings that are a Bryson hallmark, I'm a Stranger Here Myself recounts his sometimes disconcerting reunion with the land of his birth. The result is a book filled with hysterical scenes of one man's attempt to reacquaint himself with his own country, but it is also an extended if at times bemused love letter to the homeland he has returned to after twenty years aw… (more)

Media reviews

You can be a Bryson fan -- and I am, really -- and still think that these particular columns might best have been left to their original foreign audience. People who have lived in the United States more recently than the mid-1970's have already recovered from their astonishment that there is a
Show More
breakfast cereal called Count Chocula.
Show Less

User reviews

LibraryThing member bardsfingertips
Apparently, this is taken from a column Bill was writing when he returned from England (where he was living for 20 years of his adult life) back to his home country of America.

For the most part the book's chapters (each about 3 and a half pages) muse on about the culture shock of how much things
Show More
have changed since his youth, and how different things are in comparison to the way of the Britons. Of course, this is done with great humorous jest and observation (and frustration).

Byson's actual humor is nearly silly, self-deprecating, and incredibly situational. No matter what his subject is, I will find myself emitting a series of laughs; from snickering giggles to donkey-like guffaws.

A few times Bryson strays from the subject from which the book presents itself from its own synopsis; especially the chapters regarding the Titanic's last night (though, here he is picking on the British) and his commencement speech he gives to a college.

But, gosh, I do love a good, witty observation of culture shock, and this book is plenty stocked.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ElizabethChapman
I’m a Stranger Here Myself is a humorous collection of newspaper columns written by an American who returns to the U.S. after living in England for twenty years and finds his native county both completely familiar and utterly strange. Each short chapter focuses on one element of life in the
Show More
States that is a surprise -- good or bad -- for author Bill Bryson.

I read this 11 years after it was published (and 15 years after the author’s return stateside), which gave the book an interesting and unintended effect. Bryson’s shock is at how different life is in the U.S. compared to the U.K. -- the reader’s shock is at how different life is in the present compared to the recent past. Faxes? Pay Phones? Going to local library to look up a reference? Video Stores? Finding it a ridiculous affront when you must show photo ID before boarding a plane? Tearing articles out of newspapers to put in a clip file? VCRs? Paper airline tickets? The prospect of a Y2K meltdown? All of these seem as foreign to me as the U.S. seems to Bryson. Has life really changed that much in the last ten to fifteen years? Obviously so...

Bryson’s writing is snappy and entertaining and even though many of his observations are dated, they are still funny and interesting on levels Bryson never intended.
Show Less
LibraryThing member blondestranger
My husband and I listened to this book on cd while taking a road-trip from Chicago to the Smoky Mountains. It was very entertaining and had us laughing so hard at times we were crying. Hearing the author read the book in his dry candor, definitely enhanced the experience.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
I was skeptical of this book. The premise is Bryson has been away from American soil for twenty years (living in England) and the book is supposedly his running commentary on how different everything has become. Right off the bat I wanted to ask, "What? They didn't have ATM machines or public pay
Show More
phones in England? Not even by the time Mr. Bryson left?" I have to admit, it never crossed my mind that England could be twenty years behind the U.S. in such things as technology and invention.
In actuality, Bryson's book was, in a word, delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed his opening essay about the differences between English and American postal services. However, for the most part the comparisons ended there. It was more about how nonsensical America could be with it's rules and regulations. It reminded me of Robert Fulghum with his humorous observations.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mazeway
Engaging enough, but many of the essays have a "I need to turn in a column tomorrow!" feel. Bryson is likeable enough to pull it off.
LibraryThing member rosalita
I'm currently re-reading this Bryson gem, and enjoying it very much. One thing I am noticing is that some of the essays (originally written for a British newspaper in 1990s) are a bit dated. The book still features Bryson's trademark humor, although the disjointed nature of the essays is less
Show More
satisfying to me than Bryson's one-subject, continuous books (such as "A Walk in the Woods" or "Notes From a Small Island").
Show Less
LibraryThing member msjoanna
This book is comprised of a short column that Bill Bryson wrote for a British newspaper after he moved to Hanover, New Hampshire in the late 1990s. Though a few of the essays (e.g., those related to technology) are a bit dated, overall the columns were entertaining enough to keep me interested
Show More
through a long plane flight. I was snickering often enough to make the people sitting next to me on the plane think I was extremely strange. Perfect for traveling as each essay is only a few pages long.
Show Less
LibraryThing member AgneJakubauskaite

“I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away” by Bill Bryson is a collection of seventy comical weekly columns written for the British newspaper “Mail on Sunday” in 1996-1998. After living in Britain for almost two decades, Bryson
Show More
moved back to the United States, his homeland. Together with his English wife and four children, Bryson settled down in Hanover, New Hampshire, from where he wrote the weekly columns about his reacquaintance with American culture. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” is full of hilarious and shamelessly frank observations of American lifestyle in the ‘90s as well as nostalgic reminiscences of America in the ‘70s.


1) Thoughtful, sidesplittingly hilarious and seemingly effortless.
I sincerely don’t remember the last time a BOOK made me laugh out loud so hard, so many times. It seems like Bryson can write an engaging, thoughtful and, above all, hilarious essay about absolutely ANYTHING, let it be dental floss, breakfast pizza, keyboard, garbage disposal, cupholder, or taxes. What is more, he makes the writing seem effortless, as if he wrote the essays as fast as I’ve read them.

2) Charismatic personality.
In addition to being clumsy and childishly silly, Bryson is often grumpy and rather whiny. But, underneath his crankiness, you can see a glimpse of a warm, bright, observant, humble, and extremely witty personality that instantly wins you over. Oh, and he NEVER misses a chance to laugh at himself.

3) Outdated but still quite relevant.
Although “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” was written more than sixteen years ago, in its pages I could easily recognize my own impressions of the US when I first came here five years ago (choice abundance, vastness of the country, incomprehensive tax forms and bizarre junk food options, just to name a few). I guess some things never change. The other more time-sensitive essays on technology and ‘90s statistics as well as snippets from the author’s childhood maybe are not that relevant but definitely highly entertaining (and also quite educational).


1) Not meant to be read all at once.
“I’m a Stranger Here Myself” is kind of a bathroom read and is most enjoyable if read in short spurts over time (like weekly columns are supposed to be read). Otherwise, the essays become a little bit repetitive and tiresome, and Bryson’s whining, though truly hilarious, finally gets to you.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5

“I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away” is a collection of thoughtful, hilarious and still quite relevant weekly columns on American lifestyle in the 90s, and it is best read in short spurts over time.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JeffV
This is a collection of essays that humorist Bill Bryson wrote after returning to the US more than 15 years ago. The articles were originally published in England, and written for that audience, in some cases trying to make Brits feel a little better about themselves at the expense of American
Show More
idiocy. And there is no shortage of that...many essays struck me as Leno "Jay Walking" bits or Seinfeld comedy routines. He writes about everything -- from the driving distances on road trips in this country, to food traditions, to holiday chores like decorating the house. He talks about technology as someone with a love-hate relationship, at once probably a rather astute user but also identifying with the tech-challenged elderly.

This collection was published nearly 15 years ago, and it strikes me how what was amusing anecdotes back then have blown to tragic proportions and are no longer funny (our national disregard for energy conservation and pollution control, the cost of college among other things). Sure, some of the essays seemed dated, but by and large I found It entertaining and probably no less relevant today.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ksmyth
Bryson's collection of columns upon returning home to America after twenty years living in Britain. There is some very funny stuff here. Written for an audience in the UK, Bryson shares his observations on anything from American junk breakfast food, to the wonder of New England winters. Much fun.
LibraryThing member CarlGreatbatch
I don't think Bryson has written a book that I haven't enjoyed. In fact some of them have reduced me to dribbling incoherence, all red-faced from fighting for breath after laughing uncontrollably for what seems likes hours. And this book contains some very funny lines and situations, but Bryson's
Show More
humour seems somewhat constrained by the format of short columns and this collection suffers because of that. To be honest all of these types of books tend to be a slight disappointment, rather than simply printing these slightly tawdry collections of weekly columns surely it would be better to get the writer to turn the material into a more coherent whole? Anyway, that aside, I found Bryson's often bemused interactions with what he still sees as his homeland generally interesting and amusing. I'd still recommend just about any of his other books over this one however.
Show Less
LibraryThing member AmyStewart
Quick, funny essays about everyday life are harder to write than you might think. I marvel at them and take them apart the way you might take an old radio apart just to see if you can figure out how to put it back together.
LibraryThing member Yllom
A collection of articles originally written for a weekly British magazine chronicles Bryson's humorous reintroduction to life in America: "The intricacies of modern American life still often leave me muddled." From dental floss hotlines, to cupholders, to the abundance of trees in New Hampshire,
Show More
Bryson entertains us with his laugh-out-loud writing.
Show Less
LibraryThing member AgentJade
A nice, light read; easy to get into, easy to read in small stages. Very true observations of American culture, and (as usual) he makes some points I hadn't ever stopped to think about.

Bryson is one of my very favorite authors, and I enjoyed this book very much. All that said, this is not his very
Show More
best book. Granted, this is due (almost entirely) to the difficulties of coming up with a column every week for two years...some of them work, some of them don't, and when they are read in just a few short sittings the reader gets the sense of repeated conent.

But if this is one of your first forays into Bryson, I hope you won't let this book dissuade you from reading his other excellent publications.
Show Less
LibraryThing member justine
Very funny. I would read anything Bill Bryson writes. A biting look at modern America from a long-time ex-pat.
LibraryThing member Black821Library
I just picked one of Bryson's books to list. All of his books are a hoot.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
On his return to the States, Bryson was convinced by his former London editor to write a series of short articles; eventually, Bryson had written enough to make a book out of them, and here it is.

Not every article works - not all articles can. His piece about the frustrations of modern computing is
Show More
out-dated and obvious, but a lot of what else he writes is full of his usual light-handed wisdom.
Show Less
LibraryThing member vicarofdibley
bill bryson makes me laugh every time and this continued that tradition
LibraryThing member samsheep
Bryson writes good stuff as always but this is a collection of his newspaper columns so I enjoyed it rather less than some of his other works which hang together better. The columns start to follow a set formula after a while - probably as you would expect - and I found the little quirky twist at
Show More
the end REALLY started to annoy me!
Show Less
LibraryThing member SimonW11
A collection of Bryson's newspaper columns is a joy to read. Bryson is, like Keith Waterhouse, one of nature's columnists.
LibraryThing member stargirl
Nice to read in snippets. I wouldn't sit down with it for a long time though.
Everyone loves America beating, don't they?
LibraryThing member MissMea
Hilarious, passionate, enticing, mind-boggling, and thought-provoking stuff! Love the short but thorough pieces in the novel. Bryson is a knockout travel writer and this book definitely shows the reader the ever-busy brain of that writer!
LibraryThing member Oreillynsf
Bryson's weakest book, but that is a fairly high standard so you'll probably like it if you enjoy his sense of humor. This one is a collection of essays to British readers about his experiences returning to live in the US with his family. The anti-everything-American thing gets a bit tiring.
LibraryThing member amaraduende
This is a collection of Bryson's newspaper columns, read aloud by the man himself. Always delightfully full of sarcastic observations, but adding a bit less snark and a bit more love here, Bryson is my constant audio car companion. The columns range in subject from the insanity of trying to rent a
Show More
car to the humiliation of having to call your computer helpline. The short 10-15 chunks make excellent audio car ride material.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Pferdina
I thought this book was very funny. None of the columns is terribly long, but all of them show the ridiculous side of modern life in the United States. I especially enjoyed Bryson's attempts to explain baseball.




0767903811 / 9780767903813
Page: 0.1593 seconds