For other people named Bill Bryson, see Bill Bryson (disambiguation).
William McGuire BrysonOBEHonFRS (; 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 from 2005 to 2011.
Bryson came to prominence in the United Kingdom with the publication of 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.
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. 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 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). 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
Bryson first visited Britain in 1973 during his tour of Europe and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital—the now-defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. He met a nurse there named Cynthia Billen, whom he married in 1975. They moved to Bryson's hometown of Des Moines, Iowa in 1975 so that Bryson could complete his college degree at Drake University. In 1977 they settled in Britain.
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 (Surrey), Purewell (Dorset), Burton (Dorset), Kirkby Malham (North Yorkshire, in the 1980s and '90s), and the Old Rectory in Wramplingham, Norfolk (2003–2013). He currently lives in rural Hampshire and maintains a small flat in South Kensington, London. From 1995 to 2003 he lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.
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. However, in 2014, he said that he was preparing to take it 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.
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 in Britain, Canada, and Australia. During his time in the United States, Bryson decided to walk the 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 and Katz is portrayed by Nick Nolte (Bryson is portrayed as being much older than he was at the time of his actual walk).
In 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, British voters chose Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island as that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation. In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.
His popular science book, 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", Bryson himself makes no such claim and a list of some reported errors in the book is available online.
In November 2006, Bryson interviewed the then British prime minister, Tony Blair, on the state of science and education.
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).
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". The case was settled out of court, with part of the settlement being that Bryson not discuss it.
Awards, positions and honours
In 2005 Bryson was appointed chancellor of Durham University, 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. 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.
In May 2007, he became the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. 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.
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. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication. In 2005 he received the President's Award from the 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 the Bill Bryson prize for Science Communication was established in 2005.  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. 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. On 22 November 2012, Durham University officially renamed the Main Library the Bill Bryson Library for his contributions as the university's 11th chancellor (2005–11).
Bryson was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2013, becoming the first non-Briton upon whom this honour has been conferred. His biography at the Society reads: "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 (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".
In January 2007, he was the Schwartz Visiting Fellow at the Pomfret School in Connecticut.
- Honorary Doctorate, The Open University, 2002.
- Honorary Doctor of Civil Law, Durham University, 2004.
- Honorary Doctorate, Bournemouth University, 2005.
- Honorary Doctorate, University of St. Andrews, 2005.
- DLitt, University of Leeds, 2005.
- Honorary Doctorate, University of Leicester, 2009.
- Doctor of Humane Letters, Drake University, 2009.
- Honorary doctorate, King's College London, November 13, 2012. According to King's site, the award was relating to: "Bill Bryson OBE: the UK's highest-selling author of non-fiction, acclaimed as a science communicator, historian and man of letters."
Bryson has written the following books:
- ^Bill Bryson Profile at Durham University
- ^Bill Bryson on IMDb
- ^"Bill Bryson collected news and commentary". The Guardian.
- ^"Bill Bryson collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- ^The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, p121.
- ^ abcdStephenson, 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.
- ^Barkham, Patrick (2010-05-29). "Bill Bryson: I'll cheer for England, but I won't risk citizenship test". The Guardian. London.
- ^Gleick, Elizabeth (May 30, 1999). "Notes from a huge landmass".
- ^"Bryson tops 'England' poll". BBC News. 2003-03-06. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- ^ abCrace, 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 Takes Agent to Court". Courthouse News Service. Pasadena, California. December 4, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
- ^The Road to Little Dribbling.
- ^"Bill Bryson Litter Pick". durham21. 2008-03-01. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- ^"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".
- ^ abPauli, Michelle (2005-12-07). "Bryson wins Descartes prize for his guide to science". The Guardian. London.
- ^"Westminster setting for Bill Bryson award", 31 October 2005, accessed 21 November 2010.
- ^"Bill Bryson made an honorary OBE". BBC News. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- ^"The Main Library is being renamed 'The Bill Bryson Library'!". Durham University. 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
- ^"Bill Bryson Library renaming event, Tuesday 27 November 2012". Durham University. 2012-11-22.
- ^"Mr 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 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 (archived June 25, 2008) (archived from the original on 2008-06-25)
- ^Pomfret Swartz FellowsArchived October 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- ^Bill Bryson visits his utopia (May 7, 2002), The Independent.
- ^"Bill Bryson receives honorary doctorate". King's College London. 2012-11-14.
- ^Iowa Now, "Author 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
- 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 at the 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 loves Durham
- Interview with Bill Bryson about organ donation
- BBC Radio Five Live interview with Bill Bryson about the British countryside
- CPRE interview on the proposed South Downs National Park at the Wayback Machine (archived February 17, 2008) (archived from the original)
- Interview with 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 interviewed by Sophie Elmhirst on New Statesman, 14 October 2010.
- Bill Bryson interview on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs, February 5, 1999
William 'Bill' McGuire Bryson (born December 8, 1951) is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and on scientific subjects.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, he was educated at Drake University but dropped out in 1972 after deciding to backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with his high-school friend, Stephen Katz (which, it transpires, is not his real name). Some of his experiences from this trip are re-lived as flashbacks in Neither Here Nor There, which documents a similar journey Bryson made twenty years later.
In the mid-1970s, Bryson began working in a psychiatric hospital in Virginia Water, Surrey. There he met and soon married his English wife, Cynthia, a hospital nurse. Together they returned to the USA in order for Bryson to complete his college degree, after which they settled in England in 1977, remaining there until 1995. Living in North Yorkshire and mainly working as a journalist, he 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.
In 1995, Bryson returned to live in the United States (more specifically Hanover, New Hampshire) for some years. In 2003, however, Bryson and his family returned to England, and are now living in Wymondham, Norfolk.
Also in 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, voters in Great Britain chose Bryson's book Notes From a Small Island as the book that best sums up British identity and the state of the nation. In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.
In 2004, Bryson won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general-science book with A Short History Of Nearly Everything. This concise and engaging piece of literature explores not only the histories and current status' of the sciences, but also reveals their humble and often humorous beginnings. One "top scientist" is alleged to have jokingly described the book as "annoyingly free of mistakes".
Bryson has also written two works on the history of the English language- The Penguin Dictionary Of Troublesome Words in 1983). These books were popularly acclaimed and well-reviewed, though they received criticism from academics in the field, who claimed they contained factual errors, urban myths, and folk etymologies. Though Bryson has no formal linguistics qualifications, he is a popular and generally well-regarded writer on the subject of languages.
In 2005, Bryson was appointed Chancellor of Durham University, a city he had praised as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities.
His next book project is a memoir about growing up in America in the 1950s called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Bill Bryson books
- A Really Short History Of Nearly Everything
- A Short History 1st
- A Short History Of Nearly Everything
- A Walk In the Woods
- A Walk In the Woods Rediscovering America On the Appalachian Trail
- A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson, Publisher - Random 9780767902526
- African Diary
- At Home
- At Home a Short History Of Private Life
- Best American Travel Writing 2000
- Bill Bryson
- Bill Bryson African Diary
- Bill Bryson Box Set
- Bill Bryson Collector's Edition
- Bill Bryson the Complete Notes
- Bill Bryson's African Diary
- Bizarre World
- Breve Storia Di
- Bryson's Dictionary
- Bryson's Dictionary For Writers
- Bryson's Dictionary For Writers and Editors
- Bryson's Dictionary Of Troublesome Words
- Dictionary For Writers and Editors, the Penguin
- Dictionary Of Troublesome Words, the Penguin
- Down Under
- Eine Kurze Geschichte Der AlltGlichen Dinge
- Eine Kurze Geschichte Von Fast Allem
- FrHstCk Mit KNgurus
- Heat Treatment, Selection, and Application Of Tool Steels
- I'm a Stranger Here Myself
- I'm a Stranger Here Myself Notes On Returning To America After Twenty Years Away
- Icons Of England
- In a Sunburned Country
- In a Sunburned Country By Bryson, Bill
- Made In America
- Made In America, an Informal History Of the English Language In the United States
- Mein Amerika
- Mother Tongue English How It Got That Way
- Mother Tongue the English Language
- Neither Here Nor There
- Neither Here Nor There Travels In Europe
- Notes From a Big Country
- Notes From a Small Island
- One Summer
- One Summer America, 1927
- Picknick Mit BRen
- Reif FR Die Insel
- Seeing Further
- Shakespeare the World As Stage
- Streiflichter Aus Amerika
- Streiflichter Aus Amerika Die Usa FR AnfNger Und Fortgeschrittene
- Streiflichter Aus Amerika, 3 Audio-Cds
- The Best American Travel Writing
- The Complete Notes
- The English Landscape
- The Facts On File Dictionary Of Troublesome Words
- The Life and Times Of the Thunderbolt Kid
- The Life and Times Of the Thunderbolt Kid On Playaway
- The Life and Times Of the Thunderbolt Kid, a Memoir
- The Lost Continent
- The Lost Continent and Neither Here Nor There
- The Lost Continent Travels In Small Town America
- The Mother Tongue
- The Palace Under the Alps
- The Penguin Dictionary For Writers and Editors
- The Penguin Dictionary Of Troublesome Words
- Troublesome Words
- Una Breve Historia De Casi Todo
- Una Breve Historia De Casi Todo a Short History Of Nearly Everything
- Una Muy Breve Historia De Casi Todo a Very Short History Of Nearly Everything
- Walk About
- Wo Bitte Geht's Nach Domodossola Ein Amerikaner Entdeckt Europa