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Notes from a Small Island

Narrated by: Bill Bryson
Length: 5 hrs and 39 mins
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a while but before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells, people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and Gardeners' Question Time.

©2004 Bill Bryson (P)2004 Random House Audiobooks

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Short and charming

Would you consider the audio edition of Notes from a Small Island to be better than the print version?

About the same -- though Bill Bryson's reading is quite lovely.

Would you be willing to try another book from Bill Bryson? Why or why not?

Yes, as he is prone to take notice of all sorts of interesting details.

What does Bill Bryson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The almost-deadpan delivery -- which is oddly enjoyable.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Andre
  • 15-02-2016

pleasantville

A languid, amiable account of BB's travels to the UK, which at times had me chortling, but I enjoyed most of his other books more.

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  • Rachel
  • 03-08-2015

Bryson does it again!

Bryson turns one man's travels through England to a masterclass in intelligent commentary, exquisitely crafted story, and humorous tales. Would definitely recommend to all.

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  • udidit
  • 07-10-2012

Disappointing !

I was a fan of Bill Bryson until this book, which I was really looking forward to listening to.
We all have bad days and he, at least, admits to having several whilst journeying through Britain. Unfortunately he comes over as being or trying to be funny and cynical at the same time and does not pull it off 99% of the time, making the listener yawn and hope that the weather and story will improve, but sadly for him at least, neither seem to and the reader/listener is left wishing the agony would stop! Its basically very boring.
I was so glad that he decided later in his life to return to his native country because having personally lived in both countries myself, I truly believe that the "chip" he carried around on his shoulder whilst trying to write this book would have lightened as soon as he was amongst his own again in Iowa and I mean this kindly having also lived in Iowa!
I really enjoyed other books that he has written and will try to lighten up regarding this one but to date have not changed my initial reaction.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • DR
  • 17-09-2016

Wonderful!

Really fantastic, this is a must listen! ... only small gripe is the bizarre music which appeared a 2 or 3 times and almost obscured the speech. Fortunately it only lasts a minute or so each time so doesn't cause a problem overall, but was an odd production choice which I can't fathom!

Don't let that put you off though, I'm really writing it for the production company to see ... I still recommend without hesitation!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Letty
  • 11-09-2015

Love this book

This is such a good book which I read years ago. It's funny, quirky and gently mocks the British way of doing things.
I like Bill Brysons narration of his own books very much.

The book was great apart from very odd music suddenly drowning out much of the narration when Bill Bryson reached John O Groats. It was most peculiar and unnecessary....I didn't know where the music was coming from initially and then it swelled louder and louder until I wondered whether to turn off the book! Luckily it only lasted a few minutes but I do wonder what it was for and how it was supposed to enhance the recording.
Apart from that I thought it a good recording and would recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chris
  • 10-02-2013

Love The Narration

I have listen to Bill Bryson books narrated by BIll himself, and by William Roberts (The Lost Continent). Having originally listened to the Roberts narration, I thought I liked it, however, I then moved on to this book narrated by Bill himself. The difference is amazing. Roberts is a more polished audiobook reader, but he also makes the book sound somehow detached from what is going on. Bill, although more gentle in tone, is simply delightful when he comes across a particularly fond memory, and it feels as though you can hear him smile as he reads it back to himself, forgetting he is even being recorded.



This quirk in the reading is so endearing that I now cannot go back and listen to William Roberts who obviously cannot relate to the material in the same way. These books are after all a personal tale of adventure and experiences.



I do not think there is anything wrong with the Roberts narration, but I can only recommend you listen to all the books narrated by him BEFORE listening to one narrated by Bill Bryson himself. Only you have heard the difference, you cannot go back. I only wish Bill had narrated all of his books on Audible.



This book itself is great, and I chuckle to myself in public often at the observations about British life going on around me. Recommended.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • flora
  • 11-07-2019

fantastic book

Bill Bryson is perfect for narrating his own books and this is no different, very funny. but really hated those weird ridiculous musical interludes, that are so loud they drown out the speech! not sure why they are there? very irritating!

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  • Andrew King
  • 28-05-2019

Enjoyable and informative

Loved listening to the book - makes me want to explore my home country. The humour is likely my favourite aspect of this listen.

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  • Jim Gibson
  • 25-05-2019

Edited version

This is a very short version of the great book. Still enjoyable but the 10 hour version is the whole book. Not worth a whole credit.

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  • Michelle
  • 12-05-2019

Love this book!

Having read the book a number of times it was a delight to listen to Bill Bryson deliver this in his calm, gentle style.
One question - why has Mrs Smegma been changed to Mrs Gubbins?!

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  • Mrs C
  • 03-12-2018

Through different eyes

Good narration. Interesting perspective. Future visits to Milton Keynes will be seen through different eyes.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 07-08-2018

Bryson at his best!

I'm a lifelong fan of Bill Bryson & own all of his books. I have read all of them countless times & never tire of his dry humour & his bewildered take on the world around him. To me, this book is still his finest moment & to hear the man himself narrating it is a delight beyond words. You can hear the joy in his voice when he describes something he loves & his exasperation when he finds something disagreeable or confusing. The market is saturated with humorous travel books, but Bryson is the unquestionable king of the genre & I am looking forward to hearing many more of his books narrated by the man himself.

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  • Fanoamazon
  • 24-06-2018

Dull & depressing

Most things are wrong in some way for Bill; it makes for a dull, dreary book