Welcome, Bill Bryson, to Salut!s unashamed tendency to write about books when it comes across them, not necessarily when they first come out ...
Bill Bryson, on his own candid admission, is something of a curmudgeon. That is not all we have in common. We both worked for newspapers, local and national, and became rather pedantic about aspects of our trade. We enjoy the English countryside, beer (though, being American, he is more of a lager fan than I could ever be), Indian food and sport (he'd say sports).
There our similarities more or less end. Although we both write for a living, he does so with huge and deserved success, and I do not.
His 1996 book, Notes from a Small Island, describing his introduction to the UK as a young American backpacker starting inauspiciously in Dover, was and remains a bestseller. Other books have followed, as well as television programmes, lecture tours and a university chancellorship (in blessed Durham). He no longer needs to work for newspapers. I, meanwhile, struggle to complete my first book, a proper one as opposed to the single chapters contributed to a couple of compilations; I still file copy diligently to newspapers long after I ceased to be in their actual employment and the highest academic honour in County Durham that I can claim was being asked by my great friend Pete Sixsmith to talk to his sixth form liberal studies group about journalism.