Sunday, January 6, 2008

Made in America - Bill Bryson (1996)

For those of you who have not read books by Bill Bryson before, be prepared for a blast. These books are non-fiction, but are incredibly funny. There has been many a time when I have had to go back and read a section that I just read since it made me laugh (and I wanted to laugh again). Some of the other great books of Bill Bryson that you should read are a 'A Lost continent', 'A walk in the woods', 'A short history of nearly everything', 'Down Under', and so on (you get the picture - I have yet to read a Bill Bryson book that did not appeal).
This book is about the development of English language down the ages, so you will find a lot of detail about how words came to be added to the English used in the United States, such as derived from the American Indians who were living there when the settlers first went in, from various languages (or rather from the immigrants of various countries such Germany, French, Irish, British, and so on,) and from whom many words of the language came to be derived, though many times these were twisted and turned in a way that the original speaker would not have realized.

Made in America - Bill Bryson (1996)
But is this just a scholarly exposition of the development of the English language used in the United States ? That would be downright boring. To everyone's relief, such is not the case. The book delves into the history of the United States and presents a great many facts while reliving the story, at the same time, debunking many myths that we have. The book is a great read for anyone who wants to read about the history of the United states through its culture, not through politics or war. From the starting, the book is a wonder of facts and learning:
- Giving a lot more detail about the original settlers and whether there were people before them
- About the way that the original settlers almost got wiped out, but survived due to the help of the native Indians nearby
- About the nature of the apparently frigid puritans and the easy prevalence of sex before marriage as a way to measure compatibility and how many marriage were formalized after a baby had been conceived
- A great many myths around the American revolution including heroic words and actions ascribed to people who apparently did no such thing
- The womanizing nature of Benjamin Franklin
- The great debates and concerns around having the different time zones and even more so, the concept of daylight savings time
- A lot of description of the many inventions and the different nature of the investors (their human traits as compared to the noble myths around them)
and so on
Too many to tell, it is better read from the book which is a very enthralling reading.

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