The Info List - Bill Bryson

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William McGuire Bryson OBE HonFRS (/ˈbraɪsən/; born 8 December 1951) is an Anglo-American author of books on travel, the English language, science, and other non-fiction topics. Born in the United States, he has been a resident of Britain for most of his adult life, returning to the United States between 1995 and 2003. He served as the chancellor of Durham University
Durham University
from 2005 to 2011.[1][2][3][4] Bryson came to prominence in the United Kingdom with the publication of Notes from a Small Island
Notes from a Small Island
(1995), an exploration of Britain, and its accompanying television series. He received widespread recognition again with the publication of A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), a book widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.


1 Early life 2 Move to the United Kingdom 3 Writings 4 Litigation 5 Awards, positions and honours

5.1 Honorary doctorates

6 Books 7 References 8 External links

Early life[edit] Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of Agnes Mary (née McGuire) and sports journalist Bill Bryson Sr. His mother was of Irish descent.[5] He had an older brother, Michael (1942–2012), and a sister, Mary Jane Elizabeth. In 2006 Bryson published The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a humorous account of his childhood years in Des Moines. Bryson attended Drake University
Drake University
for two years before dropping out in 1972, deciding instead to backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with a high-school friend, Matt Angerer (the pseudonymous Stephen Katz).[6] Bryson wrote about some of his experiences from this trip in his book Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe. Move to the United Kingdom[edit]

Bryson speaking in New York, 2013

Bryson first visited Britain in 1973 during his tour of Europe[7] and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital[8]—the now-defunct Holloway Sanatorium
Holloway Sanatorium
in Virginia Water, Surrey. He met a nurse there named Cynthia Billen, whom he married in 1975.[8] They moved to Bryson's hometown of Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
in 1975 so that Bryson could complete his college degree at Drake University. In 1977 they settled in Britain.[9] He worked as a journalist, first for the Bournemouth Evening Echo and eventually became chief copy 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. Bryson started writing independently and in 1990 their fourth child, Samuel, was born. He has moved around the UK and lived in Virginia Water
Virginia Water
(Surrey), Purewell (Dorset), Burton (Dorset), Kirkby Malham
Kirkby Malham
(North Yorkshire, in the 1980s and '90s), and the Old Rectory in Wramplingham, Norfolk (2003–2013).[10] He currently lives in rural Hampshire
and maintains a small flat in South Kensington, London.[8] From 1995 to 2003 he lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.[11] Although able to apply for British citizenship, Bryson said in 2010 that he had declined a citizenship test, declaring himself "too cowardly" to take it.[12] However, in 2014, he said that he was preparing to take it[13] and in the prologue to his 2015 book The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island he describes doing so, in Eastleigh. His citizenship ceremony took place in Winchester and he now holds dual nationality.[8] Writings[edit] While living in the US in the 1990s Bryson wrote a column for a British newspaper for several years, reflecting on humorous aspects of his repatriation in the United States. These columns were selected and adapted to become his book I'm a Stranger Here Myself, alternatively titled Notes from a Big Country
Notes from a Big Country
in Britain, Canada, and Australia. During his time in the United States, Bryson decided to walk the Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail
with his friend Stephen Katz (a pseudonym), about which he wrote the book A Walk in the Woods. In the 2015 film adaptation of A Walk in the Woods, Bryson is portrayed by Academy Award winner Robert Redford
Robert Redford
and Katz is portrayed by Nick Nolte (Bryson is portrayed as being much older than he was at the time of his actual walk).[14] In 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, British voters chose Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island
Notes from a Small Island
as that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation.[15] In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage. His popular science book, A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything
is 500 pages long and 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",[16] Bryson himself makes no such claim and a list of some reported errors in the book is available online.[17] In November 2006, Bryson interviewed the then British prime minister, Tony Blair, on the state of science and education.[18] Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language — The 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). Litigation[edit] In 2012 Bryson sued his agent, Jed Mattes Inc., in New York County Supreme Court, claiming they had "failed to perform some of the most fundamental duties of an agent".[19] The case was settled out of court, with part of the settlement being that Bryson not discuss it.[20] Awards, positions and honours[edit]

Bryson in the regalia of Chancellor of Durham University, with Durham Cathedral in the background

In 2005 Bryson was appointed chancellor of Durham University,[16] succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov, and became more active with student activities than is common for holders of that post, even appearing in a Durham student film and promoting litter picks in the city.[21] He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. In October 2010, it was announced that Bryson would step down at the end of 2011.[22] In May 2007, he became the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.[23][24] His first area of 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.[25] Bryson has received numerous awards for his ability to communicate science with passion and enthusiasm. In 2004, he won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book that year, with A Short History of Nearly Everything.[26] In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.[26] In 2005 he received the President's Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry
Royal Society of Chemistry
for advancing the cause of the chemical sciences. In 2007, he won the Bradford Washburn Award from the Museum of Science
in Boston, MA for contributions to the popularization of science. In 2012, he received the Kenneth B. Myer Award from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience in Melbourne, Australia. With the Royal Society of Chemistry
Royal Society of Chemistry
the Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
prize for Science Communication was established in 2005. [27] The competition engages students from around the world in explaining science to non-experts. He was awarded an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contribution to literature on 13 December 2006.[28] The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin. After he received British citizenship his OBE was made substantive. In 2011 he won the Golden Eagle Award from the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.[29] On 22 November 2012, Durham University officially renamed the Main Library the Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Library for his contributions as the university's 11th chancellor (2005–11).[30][31] Bryson was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society
Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society
(FRS) in 2013,[32] becoming the first non-Briton upon whom this honour has been conferred.[33][34] His biography at the Society reads: " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
is a popular author who is driven by a deep curiosity for the world we live in. Bill's books and lectures demonstrate an abiding love for science and an appreciation for its social importance. His international bestseller, A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything
(2003), is widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science and has since been adapted for children." In 2006 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".[35] In January 2007, he was the Schwartz Visiting Fellow at the Pomfret School in Connecticut.[36] Honorary doctorates[edit]

Honorary Doctorate, The Open University, 2002.[37] Honorary Doctor of Civil Law, Durham University, 2004. Honorary Doctorate, Bournemouth University, 2005.[38] Honorary Doctorate, University of St. Andrews, 2005.[39] DLitt, University of Leeds, 2005. Honorary Doctorate, University of Leicester, 2009.[40] Doctor of Humane Letters, Drake University, 2009.[41] Honorary doctorate, King's College London, November 13, 2012. According to King's site, the award was relating to: " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
OBE: the UK's highest-selling author of non-fiction, acclaimed as a science communicator, historian and man of letters."[42]


Honorary Doctorate, University of Westminster, 2015.[43] Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Iowa, May 2016.[44] Honorary Doctorate for services to literature, University of Winchester, October 2016. [45]

Books[edit] Bryson has written the following books:

Title Publication Date Genre Notes

The Palace under the Alps and Over 200 Other Unusual, Unspoiled and Infrequently Visited Spots in 16 European Countries[46] 1985-01-? Travel

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America 1989-08-? Travel

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way (U.S.) / Mother Tongue: The English Language (UK) 1990-06-01 Language Adapted for Journeys in English in 2004 for BBC Radio 4.

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe 1992-02-01 Travel Featuring Stephen Katz

Made in America (UK) / Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States (U.S.) 1994-07-04 Language

Notes from a Small Island 1996-05-16 Travel Adapted for television by Carlton Television
Carlton Television
in 1998.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail 1998-05-04 Travel Featuring Stephen Katz

Notes from a Big Country
Notes from a Big Country
(UK) / I'm a Stranger Here Myself (U.S.) 1999-01-01 Travel

Down Under (UK) / In a Sunburned Country (U.S.) 2000-06-06 Travel

Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words 2002-09-17 Language

Walk About 2002-10-01 Travel Single volume containing Down Under and A Walk in the Woods.

Bill Bryson's African Diary 2002-12-03 Travel Travels in Africa
for CARE International.

A Short History of Nearly Everything 2003-05-06 Science

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid 2006-10-17 Memoir

Shakespeare: The World as Stage 2007-01-01 Biography

Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors 2008-05-20 Language

Icons of England 2008-09-09 Travel A collection of essays from various contributors, edited by Bryson

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything 2009-10-27 Science

At Home: A Short History of Private Life 2010-12-05 History

One Summer: America, 1927 2013-10-01 History

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island 2015-10-08 Travel


^ Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Profile at Durham University ^ Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
on IMDb ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
collected news and commentary". The Guardian.  ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
collected news and commentary". The New York Times.  ^ The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, p121. ^ https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2015/09/01/bill-brysons-stephen-katz/71494350/ ^ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/14/bill-bryson-books-interview-follow-up-notes-from-a-small-island ^ a b c d Stephenson, Hannah (24 October 2015). "Bill Bryson: 'I'm American, but I cheer for England now in the World Cup until they get kicked out'". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 12 February 2018.  ^ Longden, Tom. "Famous Iowans: Bill Bryson". Des Moines Register.  ^ Bryson. B. 2016. The Road to Little Dribbling. London: Black Swan. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/bryson-stranger.html ^ Barkham, Patrick (2010-05-29). "Bill Bryson: I'll cheer for England, but I won't risk citizenship test". The Guardian. London.  ^ http://www.nursinginpractice.com/article/interview-bill-bryson ^ Gleick, Elizabeth (May 30, 1999). "Notes from a huge landmass".  Missing or empty url= (help) ^ "Bryson tops 'England' poll". BBC News. 2003-03-06. Retrieved 2008-08-05.  ^ a b Crace, John (2005-11-15). "Bill Bryson: The accidental chancellor". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-26.  ^ "Errata and corrigenda: "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson".  ^ "PM in conversation with Bill Bryson", The official site of the Prime Minister's Office (published 2006-11-30), 2006-11-29, archived from the original on 2007-10-27, retrieved 2009-04-10  ^ "Author Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Takes Agent to Court". Courthouse News Service. Pasadena, California. December 4, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2016.  ^ The Road to Little Dribbling. ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Litter Pick". durham21. 2008-03-01. Retrieved 2011-09-17.  ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
stepping down as Chancellor". Durham University. 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2011-07-04.  ^ "Bryson to head litterbug campaign". BBC News. 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2008-08-05.  ^ "Contact Us - Campaign to Protect Rural England".  ^ https://www.nytimes.com/books/99/05/30/reviews/990530.30gleickt.html ^ a b Pauli, Michelle (2005-12-07). "Bryson wins Descartes prize for his guide to science". The Guardian. London.  ^ "Westminster setting for Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
award", 31 October 2005, accessed 21 November 2010. ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
made an honorary OBE". BBC News. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2008.  ^ http://www.owpg.org.uk/2011/08/bill-bryson-wins-prestigious-golden-eagle-award/ ^ "The Main Library is being renamed 'The Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Library'!". Durham University. 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2012-11-27.  ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Library renaming event, Tuesday 27 November 2012". Durham University. 2012-11-22.  access-date= requires url= (help) ^ "Mr Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
OBE HonFRS Honorary Fellow". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-10-05.  biographical text reproduced here was originally published by the Royal Society
Royal Society
under a creative commons license ^ "New Fellows 2013". Royal Society. 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2012-05-03.  ^ "Honorary Fellows of the Royal Society". Royal Society. 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2013-11-24.  ^ The City of Des Moines Proclamation of October 21, 2006 as "The Thunderbird Kid" Day at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
(archived June 25, 2008) (archived from the original on 2008-06-25) ^ Pomfret Swartz Fellows Archived October 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
visits his utopia (May 7, 2002), The Independent. ^ http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/newsandevents/News/2008/april08/bryson_takes_to_streets_of_bournemouth.html ^ https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2005/title,42970,en.php ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9XPx3VUr3s ^ http://www.drake.edu/president/historicalresources/honorarydegreesawardedbydrakeuniversity/ ^ " Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
receives honorary doctorate". King's College London. 2012-11-14.  access-date= requires url= (help) ^ http://universitybusiness.co.uk/Article/bill-bryson-receives-honorary-doctorate ^ Iowa Now, "Author Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
to receive honorary degree from UI," May 12, 2016, URL=http://now.uiowa.edu/2016/05/author-bill-bryson-receive-honorary-degree-ui ^ http://www.winchester.ac.uk/newsandevents/Pages/University-of-Winchester-honours-prominent-figures-at-Graduation-2016.aspx ^ http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/articles/interviews/bill-bryson-interview-author

External links[edit]

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Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
at Random House Works at Open Library Article archive at Journalisted Appearances on C-SPAN Review 'A Walk in the Woods' (June 30, 1998) on Charlie Rose Bill Bryson — A short history of nearly everything presentation at the Royal Society A brief excerpt from The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
(archived October 15, 2007) (archived from the original on 2007-10-05) The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid Reviews at the Wayback Machine (archived April 30, 2008) at Metacritic
(archived from the original on 2008-04-30) BBC Wear - Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
loves Durham Interview with Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
about organ donation BBC Radio Five Live interview with Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
about the British countryside CPRE interview on the proposed South Downs National Park at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
(archived February 17, 2008) (archived from the original) Interview with Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
about his career in travel writing. At Home: A History of Private Life by Bill Bryson: A review, James Walton, The Telegraph, 19 June 2010 Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
interviewed by Sophie Elmhirst on New Statesman, 14 October 2010. Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
interview on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
Desert Island Discs, February 5, 1999

book Mother Tongue:The English Language corrections

Academic offices

Preceded by Sir Peter Ustinov Chancellor of the University of Durham 2005–2012 Succeeded by Sir Thomas Allen

Preceded by Sir Max Hastings President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England 2007–2012 Succeeded by Sir Andrew Motion

v t e

Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
- selected bibliography


The Lost Continent Neither Here nor There Notes from a Small Island A Walk in the Woods Notes from a Big Country Down Under African Diary The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island


The Mother Tongue Made in America Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors


A Short History of Nearly Everything


The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid


Shakespeare: The World as Stage


At Home: A Short History of Private Life One Summer: America, 1927

Template:HonFRS 2013

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 59134159 LCCN: n80112664 ISNI: 0000 0001 2134 9197 GND: 120662515 SELIBR: 243714 SUDOC: 030883938 BNF: cb12221058r (data) BIBSYS: 90175480 ULAN: 500293064 MusicBrainz: 19727b98-33ea-4971-9de2-e181c7ca34ff NDL: 00463936 ICCU: ITICCULO1V13