Finally O finally, I managed to complete this book. I dont know if it was me or if it was the book or it was just the way it was meant to be - but i ended up dozing off more often with this book than I did with my CFA books!
Bill Bryson talks about the road trip he undertakes across the American continent touching all except for 10 states. The book had a promising start. He starts of by saying "I come from Des Moine- somebody had to". He has a sarcastic wit which is entertaining - but gets tedious as you get deeper into the book. I can understand his disappointment that the small town America he knew no longer existed, nevertheless, his comments that the every town had mindlessly let malls and McDonalds take over becomes repitive when he describes about 85% of the towns that way. Halfway down the book I was reminded of the narrative style of J.D.Salinger's in 'Catcher in the Rye'. In my honourable opinion, it would have been nicer if he had not taken the pains to explain the drawbacks of every motel he had stayed in. And he had dropped his cynism levels a tad bit.
But truth be said, I agreed with him on some things, though these could be true for any country and not just America. Many small towns lack individuality - but probably to be expected given the continents size and unfortunately, limited number of phyical features available to land. I also disliked the tourist crowds in Yosemite and Niagara (though Niagara doesnt star in this book). A number of "spots" are more about the advertisement - 'a tourist trap' he calls them. Lastly, if America stopped spending, the rest of us would definitely be in trouble :).
The good parts - I like the sections where he enjoys the place. I like his discovery of lesser populated places such as the appalachians, the region around the great lakes. In fact, Lake Erie is on my must see list, if and when I ever go back. He also flavors his writing with a lot of titbits on people, their origin, accents etc. As he drives through the appalachians, he describes this tribe which has features such as eye color etc like the whites, but has a dark skin tone. Quite interesting. He also reminisces a lot about "his days" and how America has changed since then.
Overall - do not be dissuaded by my initial comments. Bill Bryson is supposed to be a well liked and appreciated author...!