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

Version: Abridged
Author: Bill Bryson
Narrator: Bill Bryson
Genres: Biography & Memoir, Travel
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published In: May 1999
# of Units: 5 CDs
Length: 6 hours
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The master humorist and bestselling author of A Walk in the Woods now guides us on an affectionate, hysterically funny tour of America's most outrageous absurdities.

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 three 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. From motels ("one of those things--airline food is another--that I get excited about and should know better") to careless barbers ("in the mirror I am confronted with an image that brings to mind a lemon meringue pie with ears"), I'm a Stranger Here Myself chronicles the quirkiest aspects of life in America, right down to our hardware-store lingo, tax-return instructions, and vulnerability to home injury ("statistically in New Hampshire I am far more likely to be hurt by my ceiling or underpants than by a stranger").

Along the way Bill Bryson also reveals his rules for life (#1: It is not permitted to be both slow and stupid. You must choose one or the other); delivers the commencement address to a local high school ("I've learned that if you touch a surface to see if it's hot, it will be"); and manages to make friends with a skunk. 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 away.

Reviews (13)

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Written by Rick Spiegle from Englewood, CO on October 7th, 2014

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Bill Bryson is my favorite writer. He has a fabulous sense of humor and puts words together in the most artistic manner. I rarely laugh out loud alone in my car. This book often had me laughing to and from work. I rented it and I had to buy it to share with friends.


Written by Anonymous on August 29th, 2011

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I love Bryson's writing and I love his narration. Funny, sweet, interesting. Delightful audio!

I'm a Stranger her myself

Written by tonywony on November 3rd, 2009

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Bill Bryson is always a funny writer. I enjoyed this book. He has other books that I liked better.

Too much rant

Written by Steve Y on June 19th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 2/5

In the past, I've enjoyed Bryson. But, this one was appropriately described by his wife as "bitch, bitch, bitch." It gets old, especially when he is trashing our (and his) country and in particular his disparaging remark concerning one of our greatest presidents. And he compares us to Great Britian?...where you have to have a license for a TV set---please. His Darwinist, liberal agenda becomes more and more pronounced with each selection. I understand he moved back to England. Good.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Written by wlh2040 from Miami, FL on July 10th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This was classic Bill Bryson! I'd love to have this guy as my next-door neighbor! Sometimes, he just points out the obvious, or asks questions about things that people just generally never consider asking. His humor is droll, but in a good way. Some of the other reviews observed that toward the end he tended to complain a bit. While this is true, I cannot imagine having to author a newspaper column for three years about the differences between these United States and Britain. Eventually, you are forced to conclude there simply aren't that many differences (not three years worth, anyway). If you have read any of his other books, you will love this one as well. Occasionally, he does tend to insert his politically left-leaning viewpoints on things, but then the poor soul did live in a much more socialist country for 20 years...


Written by Alison Kaplan on June 7th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I hadn't read or heard of Bryson before this and wasn't sure what to expect. At times his storytelling was laugh out loud funny and for the most part I enjoyed his point of view. I lived in England for a year, so I could relate, but ultimately I think this is best listened to in small doses. I found that after an hour his attitude started to wear on me. Although I enjoy a sense of humor that is on the dry and sarcastic side, his attitude also started to take on a negativity and curmudgeonly tone that bothered me at points.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Written by Charles Black from Austell, GA on May 26th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Bryson has a dry sense of humor that I find entertaining. This is a good look at ourselves. After I heard this book I started back on A Walk in the Woods, and am enjoying it this time.

This Guy is Sick............and I Just Can't Get Enough of Him

Written by Tonytoga from Houston, TX on February 7th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 3/5

By 'sick' of course, I mean his has a twisted since of humor and if I could buy his illness with money, I'd take out a loan if I had to to get it. Bill Bryson peers out at the world through a differently cut glass than the rest of us and this, his 'coming home' tone is vintage Bryson. I loved the way he always refers to his wife as "Mrs. Bryson." It's a British thing I'm sure. This isn't his best work in my opinion (hard to be beat "In a Sunburned Country") but it's cleaverly written and is, I think, a good reflection of our Mr. Bryson arriving at a more mature age.

A distant third in Bryson books I've listened to

Written by Anonymous on July 22nd, 2005

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I would rank this as a distant third behind "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and "A Walk in the Woods". Some of the insights are funny but many are kind of dated and cliche. The self described (or more accurately wife described) "bitching" gets pretty old towards the end of the book. Still probably worth a listen but not nearly as good as the first two books I mentioned.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Written by Anonymous from Franconia, NH on July 21st, 2005

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This was a great book, if you have read anything else by Bill Bryson it is one of his good ones, although all of his are good ones in my book. He makes you think, laugh, cry. A great book, I would recommend it to anyone, easy to listen to.

Author Details

Author Details

Bryson, Bill

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of William and Mary Bryson. He has an older brother, Michael, and a sister, Mary Elizabeth.

Bryson was educated at Drake University but dropped out in 1972, deciding to backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with his high-school friend, the pseudonymous Stephen Katz. Some of his experiences from this trip are relived as flashbacks in Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, which documents a similar journey Bryson made twenty years later.

Bryson first visited the United Kingdom in 1973 during a tour of Europe, and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital - the now defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. It was there that he met a nurse named Cynthia, whom he eventually married. The couple returned to the USA in 1975 so Bryson could complete his college degree, after which, in 1977, they settled in England, where they remained until 1995. Living in North Yorkshire and mainly working as a journalist, Bryson eventually became chief sub editor of the business section of The Times, and then deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent. He left journalism in 1987, three years after the birth of his third child. Still living in Yorkshire, Bryson started writing independently and in 1990 their fourth and final child, Sam, was born.

In 1995, Bryson returned to the United States to live in Hanover, New Hampshire for some years, the stories of which feature in his book I'm A Stranger Here Myself, alternatively titled Notes from a Big Country in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 2003, however, the Brysons and their four children returned to England, and now live near Wymondham, Norfolk.

Also in 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, voters in the United Kingdom chose Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island as that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation.[1] In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.

In 2004, Bryson won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book with A Short History of Nearly Everything.[2] This 500-page popular literature piece explores not only the histories and current statuses of the sciences, but also reveals their humble and often humorous beginnings. Although one "top scientist" is alleged to have jokingly described the book as "annoyingly free of mistakes",[3] Bryson himself makes no such claim, and a list of seven reported errors in the book is available online, identifying the chapter in which each appears but with no page or line references. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.[2]

Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language — Mother Tongue and Made in America — and, more recently, an update of his guide to usage, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (published in its first edition as The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words in 1983). These books were popularly acclaimed and well-reviewed, though they received criticism from academics in the field, who claimed they contained factual errors, urban myths, and folk etymologies. Though Bryson has no formal linguistics qualifications, he is generally a well-regarded writer on the subject of languages.

In 2005, Bryson was appointed Chancellor of Durham University,[3] succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov, and has been particularly active with student activities, even appearing in a Durham student film: the sequel to The Assassinator and promoting litter picks in the city[4]. He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities.

In 2006, Bryson ran (as part of a celebrity relay team) in the Tresco marathon, the Scillian equivalent of the London marathon. The same year, Frank Cownie, the mayor of Des Moines, awarded Bryson the key to the city and announced that October 21, 2006 would be known as, Bill Bryson - "The Thunderbolt Kid" day.[5]

In November 2006, Bryson interviewed Prime Minister Tony Blair on the state of science and education.[6]

On December 13, 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to literature.[7] The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.

In January 2007, Bryson was the Schwartz Visiting Fellow of the Pomfret School in Connecticut.[8]

In May 2007, he became the President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.[9][10] His first area focus in this role was the establishment of an anti-littering campaign across England. He discussed the future of the countryside with Richard Mabey, Sue Clifford, Nicholas Crane and Richard Girling at CPRE's Volunteer Conference in November 2007.