Shelf Control #276: A trio of Bill Bryson books

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

For this week’s Shelf Control post, I thought I’d focus on an author, rather than one particular title. It turns out that I have several unread books on my shelves by Bill Bryson. What am I going to do about that?

Title: In a Sunburned Country
Published: 2000

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the WoodsIn A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity.

Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide

Title: The Body: An Occupant’s Guide
Published: 2019

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In the bestselling, prize-winning A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson achieved the seemingly impossible by making the science of our world both understandable and entertaining to millions of people around the globe.

Now he turns his attention inwards to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.

A wonderful successor to A Short History of Nearly Everything, this book will have you marvelling at the form you occupy, and celebrating the genius of your existence, time and time again.

Title: Notes From A Small Island
Published: 1995

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

“Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it.”

After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson – bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. (“I had recently read,” Bryson writes, “that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.”) But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie’s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.

How and when I got them:

I bought The Body when there was a Kindle deal, but the other two are paperbacks I picked up at library sales over the years.

Why I want to read these books:

I constantly struggle with making myself read the non-fiction books on my shelves. I’ve always heard that this author’s books are fun, engaging reads, with plenty of humor as well as great descriptions and adventures. I love the sound of the topics, and know that if I ever break out of my non-stop fiction reading, I’ll enjoy them.

So… this post is a reminder to myself to read non-fiction every so often — especially these books, which I’ve been interested in for a long time, and have a feeling will really appeal to me.

Have you read any of these or other Bill Bryson books? Any you’d particularly recommend?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Title: My Italian Bulldozer
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Abacus
Publication date: April 4, 2017
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series returns with an irresistible new novel about one man’s adventures in the Italian countryside.

Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected.

A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start. 

Once again, a book group selection is responsible for me reading a charming book that I probably never would have encountered otherwise. Yay, book group!

In My Italian Bulldozer, writer Paul Stuart heads to Tuscany for a few weeks of rest and relaxation while finishing his newest foodie book. His girlfriend of four years has just dumped him, and he’s in need of a change of scenery, so what better choice than to head to the site of the delicious food and wine he’s writing about?

The trip does not go as planned. Immediately upon arrival, he has some rather comical mishaps with the rental car company. When no cars are available, a new acquaintance connects him with a commercial vehicle rental agency, which is able to offer him the only rental they have: a bulldozer. With no other option, Paul sets off on the road to Montalcino, the rural hilltop village where he’ll be staying, enjoying the vantage point of his rather odd ride.

Once settled in Montalcino, Paul begins to meet the locals, who seem to take a shine to him right away. He quickly becomes a regular at the coffee houses and restaurants, and also meets an American woman who sparks his interest. Picnics, meals, and all sorts of outings via bulldozer make up his days, and he also makes great progress with his book.

My Italian Bulldozer isn’t exactly a plot-heavy book. It’s a peaceful, calming story about a man’s encounter with a quieter way of life, giving him time to think and reflect on what really matters and what he wants. It’s sweet, charming, and quirky, a quick read, and altogether a very good book for the holiday season.

Describing a book as “nice” doesn’t really sound like great praise, but this book really and truly is nice. The people are sympathetic and likable, the setting is lovely, the food and wine sound delicious, and the adventure is on the mild side. I had a nice time reading My Italian Bulldozer. It didn’t make me work hard to enjoy it, it went by fast, and was enjoyable all the way through.

Perhaps not (definitely not) the most exciting book I’ve read all year, but I’m glad I read it, especially as a way to cleanse my palate after some heavier, less pleasant reading. I’d recommend My Italian Bulldozer as a sweet diversion for when you’re looking for a pick-me-up.

Shelf Control #247: Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Author: Gary Kamiya
Published: 2013
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land’s End.

This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco’s sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world’s most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.

This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author’s 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps of the 49 locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White’s Here is New York, Jose Saramago’s Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy last year.

Why I want to read it:

I came to San Francisco in my 20s, and while I love my adopted city, I always feel like there’s more for me to learn and explore. I’ve been familiar with this author for a while now, thanks to the weekly column he writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, Portals to the Past, in which he highlights different stories from SF’s history. They’re always surprising, sometimes very funny and/or weird, and never fail to entertain.

I first heard of this book a few years ago, and I finally decided to treat myself to a copy last year, but sadly, haven’t actually taken it off the shelf to read yet. I think this is one that could be read in small bites, maybe just a chapter here and there in between other books.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!