Bill Bryson

«As we parted at the Natural History Museum in London, I asked Richard Fortey how science ensures that when one person goes there's someone ready to take his place.»

Bill Bryson


«Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By most astounding stroke of luck and infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.»

Bill Bryson


«Portability also explains why many old chests and trunks had domed lids- to throw off water during travel. The great drawback of trunks, of course, is that everything has to be lifted at to get things at the bottom. It took a remarkably long time- till the 1600s- before it occurred to anyone to put drawers in and thus convert trunks into chests of drawers.»

Bill Bryson


«Looking for a supernova, therefore, was a little like standing on the observation platform of the Empire State Building with a telescope and searching windows around Manhattan in the hope of finding, let us say, someone lighting a twenty-first birthday cake.»

Bill Bryson


«Just a month after the completion of the Declaration of Independence, at a time when he delegates might have been expected to occupy themselves with more pressing concerns -like how they were going to win the war and escape hanging- Congress quite extraordinarily found time to debate business for a motto for the new nation. (Their choice, E Pluribus Unum, "One from Many", was taken from, of all places, a recipe for salad in an early poem by Virgil.)»

Bill Bryson


«There are three stages in scientific discovery. First, people deny that it is true, then they deny that it is important; finally they credit the wrong person.»

Bill Bryson


«Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.»

Bill Bryson


«I became quietly seized with that nostalgia that overcomes you when you have reached the middle of your life and your father has recently died and it dawns on you that when he went he took some of you with him.»

Bill Bryson


«They were Republicans, Nixon Republicans, and so didn't subscribe to the notion that laws are supposed to apply to all people equally.»

Bill Bryson


«The whole system was based upon getting kids to a certain standard and packing their minds with information so they could go on to a good university ... The great failure in education, much of the time, is a lack of excitement and stimulus.»

Bill Bryson


«It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect.»

Bill Bryson


«It's an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe's supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.»

Bill Bryson


«From that original colony sprang seven names that still feature on the landscape: Roanoke (which has the distinction of being the first Indian word borrowed by English settlers), Cape Fear, Cape Hatteras, the Chowan and Neuse Rivers, Chesapeake, and Virginia. (Previously, Virginia had been called Windgancon, meaning "what gay clothes you wear" - apparently what the locals had replied when an early reconnoitering party had asked the place's name.)»

Bill Bryson


«Even though sugar was very expensive, people consumed it till their teeth turned black, and if their teeth didn't turn black naturally, they blackened them artificially to show how wealthy and marvelously self-indulgent they were.»

Bill Bryson


«Thoreau was an idiot.»

Bill Bryson


«The romance of travel wasn't always terribly evident to those who were actually experiencing it.»

Bill Bryson


«One consequential change is that people used to get most of their calories at breakfast and midday, with only the evening top-up at suppertime. Now those intakes are almost exactly reversed. Most of us consume the bulk--a sadly appropriate word here--of our calories in the evening and take them to bed with us, a practice that doesn't do any good at all.»

Bill Bryson


«Nothing - really, absolutely nothing - says more about Victorian Britain and its capacity for brilliance than that the century's most daring and iconic building was entrusted to a gardener.»

Bill Bryson


«If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here-and by 'we' I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.»

Bill Bryson


«If we should be worrying about anything to do with the future of English, it should not be that the various strands will drift apart but that they will grow indistinguishable. And what a sad, sad loss that would be.»

Bill Bryson


«In France, a chemist named Pilatre de Rozier tested the flammability of hydrogen by gulping a mouthful and blowing across an open flame, proving at a stroke that hydrogen is indeed explosively combustible and that eyebrows are not necessarily a permanent feature of one's face.»

Bill Bryson


«Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.»

Bill Bryson


«Just because a word or expression has an antiquity or was once widely used does not confer on it some special immunity»

Bill Bryson


«But don't worry," she continued. "Most snakes don't want to hurt you. If you're out in the bush and a snake comes along, just stop dead and let it slide over your shoes."»

Bill Bryson


«Perhaps it’s my natural pessimism, but it seems that an awfully large part of travel these days is to see things while you still can.»

Bill Bryson


«It was an odd situation. For a century and a half, men got rid of their own hair, which was perfectly comfortable, and instead covered their heads with something foreign and uncomfortable. Very often it was actually their own hair made into a wig. People who couldn't afford wigs tried to make their hair look like a wig.»

Bill Bryson


«The real significance of Magellan's voyage was not that it was the first to circumnavigate the planet, but that it was the first to realize just how big that planet was.»

Bill Bryson


«It is a slightly arresting notion that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.»

Bill Bryson


«Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.»

Bill Bryson


«This is a world where things move at their own pace, including a tiny lift Fortey and I shared with a scholarly looking elderly man with whom Fortey chatted genially and familiarly as we proceeded upwards at about the rate that sediments are laid down.»

Bill Bryson