Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself – Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years is a collection of short articles he wrote for a British newspaper about many different aspects of modern American life. The articles are typical Bryson, in that they are funny but can also be downright serious at the same time.
In the more serious articles, Bryson laments things that he sees are contributing to the downside of modern American life. In “The Great Indoors” and “Why No One Walks” he laments how Americans have replaced Nature with an indoor world that is both highly artificial and often extremely ugly. The parking lots needed to transport people from one indoor world to another are especially ugly, so they get a special dose of his wrath here and in his other books like A Walk in the Woods.
Many of the funnier articles have to do with food. My favorite is “Junk Food Heaven,” where he decides to get an up-close and personal look (and taste) of a variety of junk food at his local grocery store. His conclusion about that experience is classic Bryson. In a similar article, “The Fat of the Land” he laments about how hard it is to diet when we are constantly bombarded with images of food in its more tasty but very unhealthy forms.
This book, with 70 short chapters, is an easy and very enjoyable book to read. If you have read any of his other books, you will happily find that Bryson continues to explore many of the same themes here.