I rarely laugh out loud when I read, but this book had me giggling on public transportation. It was my first introduction to Bill Bryson and I carried the hardcover book all the way to Australia and back even though it was a library book. This book recounts a trip Bryson took to Australia before the Sydney Olympics. As he travels over on the plane it occurs to him that he has no idea of the Prime Minister’s name and uses this as a metaphor throughout the book about all the things we don’t know about Australia. That, and how many things here can kill you.
A lot of the things we don’t know about Australia, according to Bryson, are weird trivia bits. Australia has the only wild herd of single humped camels in the world. It also has penguins. An Australian Prime Minister once disappeared off the coast while swimming. His body was never found. Bryson goes overland to many places that many short-term visitors to Australia will only dream about. He drives out to Uluru and back in a day because he forgot to make hotel reservations in advance. He takes long drives into the desert and relates what he is seeing out the window at the same time as he is telling stories of people who wandered out into the Outback and died there. He talks about wildlife, sports, drinking with the locals and the weird little attractions that just barely make the pages of the tour guides. I felt, after reading this book, that I was coming to Australia with at least some advance knowledge of where I was going, and why people were there, which was very helpful.