Bill Bryson’s African Diary

African DiaryBryson, Bill. Bill Bryson’s African Diary. New York, Broadway Books, 2002.

I added this to the December list when I read a review describing it as “short.” It’s much shorter than I thought – only 49 pages of “diary” and a few more pages of statistical information. So short that I was able to read it over a lunch break. I’m glad it was a quick read because I couldn’t put it down. I’m a sucker for charitable tactics, especially unique ones, and this book definitely qualifies. CARE International (a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting global poverty) funded Bill Bryson’s trip to Nairobi, Africa with the request that he write about his eight day adventure. Bryson is known for his travel literature, his humor, and his expressive way of describing life around him. He would certainly be able to describe the poverty, the landscape, and best of all, the people of Africa. Many reviewers called this book a charity puff-piece, a lengthy advertisement for the work of CARE, and were bitter about the $12 price tag. What they missed out on was the stunning photography, the wry humor and the painless way to do good (all royalties and profit from the sale of the book went to CARE International).
Speaking of humor, here are a few of my favorite lines: “…tireless commitment to mediocrity” (p 2), “you had to be really unlucky to be shot and stabbed” (p 4), “Kenyan Railways has something of a tradition of killing its passengers” (p 21) and, “Watamu was tranquil to the point of being comatose” (25). There are other funny moments: “flying toilets,” and flying for real, to name two.

For more information on CARE, International go here.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter “Bill Bryson: Too Good to Miss” (p 36). This being my first introduction to Bryson I am looking forward to more.

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