In A Sunburned Country by Bill BrysonIn A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

In A Sunburned Country

byBill Bryson

Paperback | June 12, 2001

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Deliciously funny, fact-filled and adventurous, In a Sunburned Country takes us on a grand tour of Australia. It's a place where interesting things happen all the time, from a Prime Minister lost — yes, lost — while swimming at sea, to Japanese cult members who may (entirely unnoticed) have set off an atomic bomb on their 500,000 acre property in the great western desert.

Australia is the only island that is also a continent, and the only continent that is also a country. Its aboriginal people, a remote and mysterious race with a tragic history, have made it their home for millennia. And despite the fact that it is the most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all inhabited continents, it teems with life. In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else: sharks, crocodiles, the planet's ten most deadly poisonous snakes, fluffy yet toxic caterpillars, sea shells that actually attack you, and the unbelievable box jellyfish (don't ask). The dangerous riptides of the sea and the sun-baked wastes of the outback both lie in wait for the unwary.

Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide. In a Sunburned Country offers the best of all possible introductions to what may well be the best of all possible nations. Even with those jellyfish.
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He lived in England for almost two decades, and now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and four children.
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Title:In A Sunburned CountryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 7.73 × 4.98 × 0.99 inPublished:June 12, 2001Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385259417

ISBN - 13:9780385259415

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Laugh out loud funny! I read this book before travelling to Australia and so glad I did. Not only is it hilarious but it's full of great travel information and insights into the Australian people. Highly recommend even if you never plan on visiting Australia.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Funny Very entertaining and funny, with a good story account telling.
Date published: 2018-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In a sunburned Country - Bill Bryson LOVED THIS BOOK! If you've ever been intrigued by Australia you should read this book. It was fascinating and I burst out laughing occasionally.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic read A must read for anyone who wants to travel down under and discover the real country and not the tourist hot spots. A lot of insight to the history and modern Australia in a unique perspective.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hilarious I read this book years ago when I was a kid because I was obsessed with all things Australia (thank you Steve Irwin). This book only enhanced my desire to go there. Bill Bryson has a fantastic and quirky sense of humour, and his descriptions of his experiences are simultaneously entertaining and enchanting. A year ago I left home to study in Sydney. I re-read this book before I left and it was just as fun as I remembered. I certainly recommend this book but be warned, you will have a strong urge to drop everything and fly to Australia.
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Hoot And a Half A must read for anyone who is either planning on or who have been down under. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi,, Oi Oi
Date published: 2017-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from On the short list of go-to writers I love Bill Bryson. Bryson could write a book about the history of the individual rooms within the typical house and I would love it (he did and I did)! So, when I discovered he'd written about his experiences while traveling Australia, I knew I'd found my next good read! Lot's of laughs and entertainment the whole way through. A must read if you have travelled to Aus or are planning to.. maybe even a good one to read WHILE traveling there!!
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So many laughs! This was my first introduction to Bill Bryson's hilarious yet well-researched style of writing - it left me laughing out loud and made me want to pack my bags immediately and book a flight to Sydney. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love Love Love! I've always wanted to travel to Australia and now that bucket list trip can't get here soon enough! Bryson was able to create a visual for me in every nook and cranny he traveled to on this continent. I wanted more! Laughed out loud many times!!! Just preparing to read two more of his books :)
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sunburned Country Kind of long winded at times. Funny, as everyone says, but not very engrossing.
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In a Sun Burned Country Bryson again so informative and funny at the same time.
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! I love all of his books, they are great and funny and very interesting!
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sunburned Is Right If you have ever been to Australia, this book my be a struggle for you. If you haven't been to Australia.... well this book again might be a struggle. The author has written about his trek across this gorgeous land, but bear in mind it is written about essentially a road trip. While I enjoyed a few notes on the areas that I had been, a lot of his writing left me wondering... why would I really want to go all that way? The author has a quirky sense of humour, which I think brought the book together in the end as I did thoroughly enjoy the little sides he puts in. However, if you don't pay attention, you could miss them all together. While I have to say that most of it was not that interesting, he did provide a deep knowledge to the reader about Australia's past and obviously took the time to research every aspect of what he wrote. I certainly appreciated the depth of what he wrote and from what he wrote, I think it would take quite awhile for anyone to really culminate the historical aspect of Australia as he has done here. He has written an expansive and historical feature.
Date published: 2011-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic book! Bryson's great love of the Australian continent and its people is captured on paper and is a delight to read. Hilarious, yet deeply informative from cover to cover, this book disclosed some of the unsung wonders of Australia and the pleasure he found meeting its people. Excellent reading abounds.
Date published: 2008-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Australian Adventure! This is a must-read book for anyone who has ever had any interest in Australia. Bill Bryson takes you on a journey not only into the big cities and major attractions but through the outback as well, finding the most amazing sights and detailing everything hilariously. I couldn't put this book down, every page left me wondering where he was going to take me next.
Date published: 2006-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Supremely educational and hilarious! Bryson knows how and what to write about to entertain and enlighten his readers. In a Sunburned Country is absolutely amongst the top 3 books I have EVER read. If you want to learn more about Australia in a fun and comical way - pick up this book! Bound to get you smiling and learning.
Date published: 2005-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED IT! Bill Bryson is hilarious. He's a fantastic writer. I was laughing out loud the entire time I read the book. If you want to visit Australia, read this - you will want to visit even more.
Date published: 2004-11-09

Read from the Book

Flying into Australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is. I am forever doing this with the Australian prime minister—committing the name to memory, forgetting it (generally more or less instantly), then feeling terribly guilty. My thinking is that there ought to be one person outside Australia who knows.But then Australia is such a difficult country to keep track of. On my first visit, some years ago, I passed the time on the long flight reading a history of Australian politics in the twentieth century, wherein I encountered the startling fact that in 1967 the prime minister, Harold Holt, was strolling along a beach in Victoria when he plunged into the surf and vanished. No trace of the poor man was ever seen again. This seemed doubly astounding to me—first that Australia could just lose a prime minister (I mean, come on) and second that news of this had never reached me.The fact is, of course, we pay shamefully scant attention to our dear cousins Down Under—not entirely without reason, of course. Australia is after all mostly empty and a long way away. Its population, just over 18 million, is small by world standards—China grows by a larger amount each year—and its place in the world economy is consequently peripheral; as an economic entity, it ranks about level with Illinois. Its sports are of little interest to us and the last television series it made that we watched with avidity was Skippy. From time to time it sends us useful things—opals, merino wool, Errol Flynn, the boomerang—but nothing we can't actually do without. Above all, Australia doesn't misbehave. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn't have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner.But even allowing for all this, our neglect of Australian affairs is curious. Just before I set off on this trip I went to my local library in New Hampshire and looked Australia up in the New York Times Index to see how much it had engaged our attention in recent years. I began with the 1997 volume for no other reason than that it was open on the table. In that year across the full range of possible interests—politics, sports, travel, the coming Olympics in Sydney, food and wine, the arts, obituaries, and so on—the Times ran 20 articles that were predominantly on or about Australian affairs. In the same period, for purposes of comparison, the Times ran 120 articles on Peru, 150 or so on Albania and a similar number on Cambodia, more than 300 on each of the Koreas, and well over 500 on Israel. As a place that caught our interest Australia ranked about level with Belarus and Burundi. Among the general subjects that outstripped it were balloons and balloonists, the Church of Scientology, dogs (though not dog sledding), Barneys, Inc., and Pamela Harriman, the former ambassador and socialite who died in February 1997, a misfortune that evidently required recording 22 times in the Times. Put in the crudest terms, Australia was slightly more important to us in 1997 than bananas, but not nearly as important as ice cream.As it turns out, 1997 was actually quite a good year for Australian news. In 1996 the country was the subject of just nine news reports and in 1998 a mere six. Australians can't bear it that we pay so little attention to them, and I don't blame them. This is a country where interesting things happen, and all the time.Consider just one of those stories that did make it into the Times in 1997, though buried away in the odd-sock drawer of Section C. In January of that year, according to a report written in America by a Times reporter, scientists were seriously investigating the possibility that a mysterious seismic disturbance in the remote Australian outback almost four years earlier had been a nuclear explosion set off by members of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo.It happens that at 11:03 p.m. local time on May 28, 1993, seismograph needles all over the Pacific region twitched and scribbled in response to a very large-scale disturbance near a place called Banjawarn Station in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia. Some long-distance truckers and prospectors, virtually the only people out in that lonely expanse, reported seeing a sudden flash in the sky and hearing or feeling the boom of a mighty but far-off explosion. One reported that a can of beer had danced off the table in his tent.The problem was that there was no obvious explanation. The seismograph traces didn't fit the profile for an earthquake or mining explosion, and anyway the blast was 170 times more powerful than the most powerful mining explosion ever recorded in Western Australia. The shock was consistent with a large meteorite strike, but the impact would have blown a crater hundreds of feet in circumference, and no such crater could be found. The upshot is that scientists puzzled over the incident for a day or two, then filed it away as an unexplained curiosity—the sort of thing that presumably happens from time to time.Then in 1995 Aum Shinrikyo gained sudden notoriety when it released extravagant quantities of the nerve gas sarin into the Tokyo subway system, killing twelve people. In the investigations that followed, it emerged that Aum's substantial holdings included a 500,000-acre desert property in Western Australia very near the site of the mystery event. There, authorities found a laboratory of unusual sophistication and focus, and evidence that cult members had been mining uranium. It separately emerged that Aum had recruited into its ranks two nuclear engineers from the former Soviet Union. The group's avowed aim was the destruction of the world, and it appears that the event in the desert may have been a dry run for blowing up Tokyo.You take my point, of course. This is a country that loses a prime minister and that is so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world's first nongovernmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed.* Clearly this is a place worth getting to know.And so, because we know so little about it, perhaps a few facts would be in order:Australia is the world's sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent, and the only continent that is also a country. It was the first continent conquered from the sea, and the last. It is the only nation that began as a prison.It is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures—the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too wont to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy but exceedingly venomous. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It's a tough place.And it is old. For 60 million years since the formation of the Great Dividing Range, the low but deeply fetching mountains that run down its eastern flank, Australia has been all but silent geologically. In consequence, things, once created, have tended just to lie there. So many of the oldest objects ever found on earth— the most ancient rocks and fossils, the earliest animal tracks and riverbeds, the first faint signs of life itself—have come from Australia.At some undetermined point in the great immensity of its past—perhaps 45,000 years ago, perhaps 60,000, but certainly before there were modern humans in the Americas or Europe—it was quietly invaded by a deeply inscrutable people, the Aborigines, who have no clearly evident racial or linguistic kinship to their neighbors in the region, and whose presence in Australia can only be explained by positing that they invented and mastered ocean- going craft at least 30,000 years in advance of anyone else, in order to undertake an exodus, then forgot or abandoned nearly all that they had learned and scarcely ever bothered with the open sea again.It is an accomplishment so singular and extraordinary, so uncomfortable with scrutiny, that most histories breeze over it in a paragraph or two, then move on to the second, more explicable invasion—the one that begins with the arrival of Captain James Cook and his doughty little ship HMS Endeavour in Botany Bay in 1770. Never mind that Captain Cook didn't discover Australia and that he wasn't even yet a captain at the time of his visit. For most people, including most Australians, this is where the story begins.The world those first Englishmen found was famously inverted— its seasons back to front, its constellations upside down—and unlike anything any of them had seen before even in the near latitudes of the Pacific. Its creatures seemed to have evolved as if they had misread the manual. The most characteristic of them didn't run or lope or canter, but bounced across the landscape, like dropped balls. The continent teemed with unlikely life. It contained a fish that could climb trees; a fox that flew (it was actually a very large bat); crustaceans so large that a grown man could climb inside their shells.In short, there was no place in the world like it. There still isn't. Eighty percent of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else. More than this, it exists in an abundance that seems incompatible with the harshness of the environment. Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile, and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents. (Only Antarctica is more hostile to life.) This is a place so inert that even the soil is, technically speaking, a fossil. And yet it teems with life in numbers uncounted. For insects alone, scientists haven't the faintest idea whether the total number of species is 100,000 or more than twice that. As many as a third of those species remain entirely unknown to science. For spiders, the proportion rises to 80 percent. I mention insects in particular because I have a story about a little bug called Nothomyrmecia macrops that I think illustrates perfectly, if a bit obliquely, what an exceptional country this is. It's a slightly involved tale but a good one, so bear with me, please.In 1931 on the Cape Arid peninsula in Western Australia, some amateur naturalists were poking about in the scrubby wastes when they found an insect none had seen before. It looked vaguely like an ant, but was an unusual pale yellow and had strange, staring, distinctly unsettling eyes. Some specimens were collected and these found their way to the desk of an expert at the National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne, who identified the insect at once as Nothomyrmecia. The discovery caused great excitement because, as far as anyone knew, nothing like it had existed on earth for a hundred million years. Nothomyrmecia was a proto-ant, a living relic from a time when ants were evolving from wasps.In entomological terms, it was as extraordinary as if someone had found a herd of triceratops grazing on some distant grassy plain.An expedition was organized at once, but despite the most scrupulous searching, no one could find the Cape Arid colony. Subsequent searches came up equally empty-handed. Almost half a century later, when word got out that a team of American scientists was planning to search for the ant, almost certainly with the kind of high-tech gadgetry that would make the Australians look amateurish and underorganized, government scientists in Canberra decided to make one final, preemptive effort to find the ants alive. So a party of them set off in convoy across the country.On the second day out, while driving across the South Australia desert, one of their vehicles began to smoke and sputter, and they were forced to make an unscheduled overnight stop at a lonely pause in the highway called Poochera. During the evening one of the scientists, a man named Bob Taylor, stepped out for a breath of air and idly played his flashlight over the surrounding terrain. You may imagine his astonishment when he discovered, crawling over the trunk of a eucalyptus beside their campsite, a thriving colony of none other than Nothomyrmecia.Now consider the probabilities. Taylor and his colleagues were eight hundred miles from their intended search site. In the almost 3 million square miles of emptiness that is Australia, one of the handful of people able to identify it had just found one of the rarest, most sought-after insects on earth—an insect seen alive just once, almost half a century earlier—and all because their van had broken down where it did. Nothomyrmecia, incidentally, has still never been found at its original site. You take my point again, I'm sure. This is a country that is at once staggeringly empty and yet packed with stuff. Interesting stuff, ancient stuff, stuff not readily explained. Stuff yet to be found.Trust me, this is an interesting place.

Editorial Reviews

"Bill Bryson is...an artist who needs a big canvas. Australia has provided this. He's painted a masterpiece in travel literature." — The Globe and Mail