“In a Sunburned Country” is Bryson’s (a travel writer) collection of facts, anecdotes, and personal experiences regarding Australia. Australia has to be one of my top 10 most-desirable places to visit. The fact that I really want to visit Australia certainly helps make the book interesting, but it’s so funny and engaging that you would enjoy it even if Australia looked completely boring to you. OK, here’s the promised excerpt, which takes place while Bryson is in the Australian Museum…
As you can imagine, I was particularly attracted to all those things that might hurt me, which in an Australian context is practically everything. It really is the most extraordinarily lethal country. Naturally they play down the fact that every time you set your feet on the floor something is likely to jump out and seize an ankle. Thus, my guidebook blandly observed that “only” fourteen species of Australian snakes are seriously lethal, among them the western brown, desert death adder, tiger snake, taipan, and yellow-bellied sea snake. The taipan is the one to watch out for. It is the most poisonous snake on earth, with a lunge so swift and a venom so potent that your last mortal utterance is likely to be: “I say, is that a sn……”
Even from across the room you could see at once which was the display case containing the stuffed taipan, for it had around it a clutch of small boys held in rapt silence by the frozen gaze of its beady, lazily hateful eyes. You can kill it and stuff it and put it in a case, but you can’t take away the menace. According to the label, the taipan carries a venom fifty times more deadly than that of the cobra, its next nearest challenger. Amazingly, just one fatal attack is on record, at Mildura in 1989. But we know the real story, my attentive little friends and I – that once you leave this building the taipans aren’t stuffed and behind glass.
The whole book is full of stuff like this. I particularly recommend the parts where he describes falling asleep in a publisher’s car, or the time he was chased by dogs, had to scale a 6 foot wall, and ended up scaring some poor woman half to death when he fell into her yard. You should read this book. It’s engaging, informative, entertaining, and you’ll laugh a lot.
I think that this post is long enough for now. I do want to share about his other book, “A Walk in the Woods”, but I’ll save that for another day. That one is, I think, even funnier than “In a Sunburned Country” 🙂