Book Review: In A Sunburned Country


I travel a lot for both work and leisure, and its often only when on a long flight or relaxing on vacation that I am able to spend much time reading.  I read various things, but on occasion, I like books about travel.  I recently finished “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson.  This one is about his travels throughout Australia.  My introduction to Bryson was his stories from hiking the Appalachian Trail, called A Walk in the Woods.  He does a good job of injecting lots of humor into his travelogues.  His takes on travel are detailed like a guide book, with a healthy dose of jokes.     

I have spent a little time in Australia, and it is one of my favorite destinations.  One of the themes of the book is the massive expanse of the country, and how vastly undiscovered it still is.  In my 2 trips to Australia, I have only spent any significant times on the east coast; on the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, and in Sydney and Melbourne.  Not that I needed any more reason to return, but in Bryson’s travels, he traverses many more parts of the country that I have seen, and makes it sound so enjoyable, I'm ready to go back.


Here are some quotes that I particularly enjoyed on various topics.  

Bryson has ongoing themes of how extreme the climate and natural habitat is:

“Eighty percent of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else.”


“Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile, and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents.  (Only Antarctica is more hostile to life)”


“It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else.  Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian.  Five of its creatures—the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world.”

I learned about Charles Kingsford Smith, for whom the Sydney airport is named:

Kingsford Smith was the the first to cross the Pacific in an airplane just a year after Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic.  This was in a wood and cloth covered 1920’s era Fokker. 

“He also became the first to fly the Atlantic from east to west, first to fly from Australia to New Zealand and back, and the first to cross the Pacific in the other direction.”

Sydney Airport

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport

image from Flickr

Travel tips:

"I did not want to dine in my own hotel.  It is such a tame and lonely thing to do--an admission that one has no life.  As it happened, I had no life, but that wasn't quite the point."  

Commentary on the country itself:

"But that is of course the thing about Australia--that there is such a lot to find in it, but such a lot of it to find it in.  You could never see the half of it."   


"...the following are all real places: Wee Waa, Poowon, Burrumbuttock, Suggan Buggan, Boomahnoomoonaj, Waaia, Mullumbimby, Ewlyamartup, Jiggalong, and the supremely satisfying Tittybong."


"Australia is mostly empty and a long way away.  Its population is small and its role in the world consequently peripheral" 

Bryson tours various parts of the country by car, train, airplane, and in some cases by foot.   He tells of the people he meets and the sights he sees along the way

Overall, I enjoyed Bryson’s humorous takes on his experiences while touring Australia.  Although this book is a little bit dated, (Published in 2000), I would recommend this to anyone interested in visiting Australia, or really anyone who would like some light reading that is highly entertaining.  

Amazon link to purchase In a Sunburned Country.