I recently read Bill Bryson’s book, I’m a Stranger Here Myself (check your local independent bookstore). I always learn a lot from Bryson’s books, and his style of humor really appeals to me. This book, however, goes somewhat further than others of his I’ve read.
I’m a Stranger Here Myself collects columns Bryson wrote for a British publication in which he, as a former U.S. ex pat living in England, attempts to explain his native country to his former hosts. He covers consumerism, food, holidays, computers, and many other aspects of American life that bear consideration and satire, if not ridicule.
Some of the humor in Bryson’s book is unintentional. As an Alaskan, I couldn’t help finding his description of the vast, unknown forests of New Hampshire (“a state as big as Wales!”) and his accounts of life “in the north country” amusing. This often happens when people fail to include Alaska in their descriptions of the United States. I’ve learned to expect it, but I never appreciate it.
Nevertheless, for me, this book provides a laundry list of reasons why my family and I live as we do. He criticizes almost every topic he addresses through a point of view very similar to our own.
For Bryson, like us, a lot of “normal” American life makes little or no sense—at least to my family’s desires, aspirations, and values. I found it very affirming. His essays are far better written, better researched, and a good deal more entertaining than my occasional attempts to make these very same points.
Ironically, since I tried to explain why we do what we do in my book, Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm, I must recommend I’m a Stranger Here Myself to anyone interested in learning the mind set that led us to our current lifestyle from a better known, more articulate, funnier source. Or, better yet, start with Bryson’s book to get you in the mood, then try mine?