The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

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A loving and hilarious—if occasionally spiky—valentine to Bill Bryson’s adopted country, Great Britain. Prepare for total joy and multiple episodes of unseemly laughter.

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to discover and celebrate that green and pleasant land. The result was Notes from a Small Island, a true classic and one of the bestselling travel books ever written. Now he has traveled about Britain again, by bus and train and rental car and on foot, to see what has changed—and what hasn’t.

Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, by way of places few travelers ever get to at all, Bryson rediscovers the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly singular country that he both celebrates and, when called for, twits. With his matchless instinct for the funniest and quirkiest and his unerring eye for the idiotic, the bewildering, the appealing, and the ridiculous, he offers acute and perceptive insights into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

Nothing is more entertaining than Bill Bryson on the road—and on a tear. The Road to Little Dribbling reaffirms his stature as a master of the travel narrative—and a really, really funny guy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780147526878
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/19/2016
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Bill Bryson’s bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods (now a major motion picture starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte), Notes from a Small Island, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, At Home, and One Summer. He lives in England with his wife.


Hanover, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Des Moines, Iowa


B.A., Drake University, 1977

Read an Excerpt


My plan, after Bognor, was to take a bus along the coast to Brighton, and I was quietly excited about this. I had never experienced this stretch of coastline and had great hopes for it. I had printed out a timetable and carefully selected the 12.19 as the best bus for my purposes, but as I ambled to the bus stop now, thinking I had minutes to spare, I watched in mild dismay as my bus departed just ahead of a cloud of black smoke. It took me a minute to work out that my watch was not right, that the battery was evidently dying. With a half-hour to kill till the next bus, I went into a jeweller’s shop, where a cheerless man looked at the watch and told me that a replacement battery would be £30.

‘But I barely paid that for the watch,’ I sputtered.

‘That may explain why it’s not working,’ he said and handed it back with a look of majestic indifference.

I waited to see if he had anything more to say, if there existed within him the faintest flicker of interest in helping me to get the right time on my wrist and possibly in the process keep his business going. It appeared not.

‘Well, I’ll leave it for now,’ I said. ‘I can see you are very busy.’ If he had any appreciation for my instinct for mirth, he failed to show it. He gave a shrug and that was the end of our relationship.

I was hungry, but now had only twenty minutes before the next bus, so I went into a McDonald’s for the sake of haste. I should have known better. I have a little personal history with McDonald’s, you see. Once a few years ago after a big family day out we stopped at a McDonald’s in response to cries from a back-seatful of grandchildren pleading for an unhealthy meal, and I was put in charge of placing the order. I carefully interviewed everyone in the party – about ten of us, from two cars – collated the order on to the back of an old envelope and approached the counter.

‘OK,’ I said decisively to the youthful attendant when my turn came, ‘I would like five Big Macs, four quarter-pound cheese- burgers, two chocolate milkshakes—’

At this point someone stepped up to tell me that one of the children wanted chicken nuggets instead of a Big Mac.

‘Sorry,’ I said and then resumed. ‘Make that four Big Macs, four quarter-pound cheeseburgers, two chocolate milkshakes—’

At this point, some small person tugging on my sleeve informed me that he wanted a strawberry milkshake, not a chocolate one. ‘Right,’ I said, returning to the young attendant, ‘make that four Big Macs, four quarter-pound cheeseburgers, one chocolate milkshake, one strawberry milkshake, three chicken nuggets . . .’

And so it went on as I worked my way through and from time to time adjusted the group’s long and complicated order.

When the food came, the young man produced about eleven trays with thirty or forty bags of food on them.

‘What’s this?’ I said.

‘Your order,’ he replied and read my order back to me off the till: ‘Thirty-four Big Macs, twenty quarter-pound cheeseburgers, twelve chocolate shakes . . .’ It turned out that instead of adjusting my order each time I restarted, he had just added to it.

‘I didn’t ask for twenty quarter-pound cheeseburgers, I asked for four quarter-pound cheeseburgers five times.’

‘Same thing,’ he said.

‘It’s not the same thing at all. You can’t be this stupid.’

Two of the people waiting behind me in the queue sided with the young attendant.

‘You did ask for all that stuff,’ one of them said.

The duty manager came over and looked at the till. ‘It says twenty quarter-pound cheeseburgers here,’ he said as if it were a gun with my fingerprints on it.

‘I know what it says there, but that isn’t what I asked for.’

One of my grown children came over to find out what was going on. I explained to him what had happened and he weighed the matter judiciously and decided that, taken all in all, it was my fault.

‘I can’t believe you are all this stupid,’ I said to an audience that consisted now of about sixteen people, some of them newly arrived but already taking against me. Eventually my wife came over and led me away by the elbow, the way I used to watch her lead jabbering psychiatric patients off to a quiet room. She sorted the mess out amicably with the manager and attendant, brought two trays of food to the table in about thirty seconds, and informed me that I was never again to venture into a McDonald’s whether alone or under supervision.

And now here I was in McDonald’s again for the first time since my earlier fracas. I vowed to behave myself, but McDonald’s is just too much for me. I ordered a chicken sandwich and a Diet Coke.

‘Do you want fries with that?’ the young man serving me asked. I hesitated for a moment, and in a pained but patient tone said:

‘No. That’s why I didn’t ask for fries, you see.’

‘We’re just told to ask like,’ he said.

‘When I want fries, generally I say something like, “I would like some fries, too, please.” That’s the system I use.’

‘We’re just told to ask like,’ he repeated.

‘Do you need to know the other things I don’t want? It is quite a long list. In fact, it is everything you serve except for the two things I asked for.’

‘We’re just told to ask like,’ he repeated yet again, but in a darker voice, and deposited my two items on a tray and urged me, without the least hint of sincerity, to have a nice day. I realized that I probably wasn’t quite ready for McDonald’s yet.


Excerpted from "The Road to Little Dribbling"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Bill Bryson.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Bugger Bognor! 15

2 Seven Sisters 31

3 Dover 40

4 London 50

5 Motopia 66

6 A Great Park 75

7 Into the Forest 89

8 Beside the Seaside 107

9 Day Trips 121

10 To the West 140

11 Devon 153

12 Cornwall 167

13 Ancient Britain 186

14 East Anglia 196

15 Cambridge 214

16 Oxford and About 224

17 The Midlands 239

18 It's So Bracing! 251

19 The Peak District 264

20 Wales 279

21 The North 295

22 Lancashire 311

23 The Lakes 324

24 Yorkshire 339

25 Durham and the Northeast 348

26 To Cape Wrath (and Considerably Beyond) 361

Afterword and Acknowledgments 379

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The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Bill Bryson's writing style: descriptive, humorous, and honest. I admit I might have appreciated this book because I lived in England for a time; those not familiar might give it a star less but still enjoy the tales - every chapter had at least one good laugh at human nature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Clever, observant and easy to read as Bryson's books always are. But with all of his reflections about being "in my dotage," I'm assuming Little Dribbling is more than an expression of fondness for the quaint British place-names. It seems it is also a sly reference to the state of aging. He is a bit more of a crumudgeon here than usual, but he is such an engaging writer that I'm thinking about taking a trip overseas to follow the Bryson Line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fond and funny travel around Britain. I learnt so much and appreciated the measured pace of quiet exploration. I'm sad that I've finished the book already. Thank you for introducing me to many of the delights of my home country.
DianaH-Maine More than 1 year ago
Bill Bryson’s latest book, THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING: ADVENTURES OF AN AMERICAN IN BRITAIN, is a delight to read. On a cold, gray, wintry day in New England, I can’t think of another book I would rather sit next to the woodstove with. If I’m not quietly chuckling, I am shouting out, “I know. I hate that, too!” or “What a great idea!” or “What were they thinking!” Mr. Bryson is ‘spot on’ with his musings and observations. He loves his adopted country and travels extensively throughout its borders. I like his idea of visiting places along the ‘Bryson Line’ which runs from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath. The ‘Bryson Line’ is the longest distance you can travel in Britain in a straight line. I highlighted numerous passages, intending to repeat them here, but I realized I would be copying almost the entire book! Let me repeat just a few notes. “Almost 40% of London is green space.” London is arguably the biggest city in the world - “in terms of density and complexity and depth of history.” “That is the most extraordinary fact about Britain. It wants to be a garden.” I do like the closing of the book when Bill muses about his reasons for loving Britain as he does. As he travels to the White Horse of Uffington, just beneath the ancient track known as the Ridgeway, he says that, “There isn’t a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in than the countryside of Great Britain. It is the world’s largest park, its most perfect accidental garden. I think it may be the British nation’s most glorious achievement. All Britain has to do now is look after it. I hope that’s not too much to ask.” Thank you, Bill, for another great book. I quite enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't enjoy this as much as some of his previous books. The book has its moments of humor , nice descriptions of towns but I kept putting it down and even thought of not reading to the end. It didn't work for me and I spent to much money on it. Oh well!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Bryson as curmudgeon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got the feeling the author was nostalgic for the way things were in the 1970"s when he first came to England. It seems where ever he goes, what he was looking for is either gone or under threat of being developed. Or he got confused and is in the wrong spot. To me, it got to be depressing. He does give a history of the places he visits along the way, and that can be interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laugh out loud funny. I read this on a plane and worried somewhat that fellow passengers would think I had lost my mind because I couldn't stop laughing. This is an excellent read while traveling.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Traveling is not an option for me so I do so through Bill Bryson's descriptions and thoughts. I have walked the Appalachian Trail, Australia and many parts of Europe and have thoroughly enjoyed it all. Mr. Bryson, thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a American who lived in and visited Britain many times, I found Bryson’s observations spot on. He may be an ex-pat Yank from Iowa, but his wit and writing style are thoroughly British. He made me ache to return to Britain and engage in my own search for Little Dribbling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny book but not one of his best. Interesting at times but plodding at others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson and I enjoy his sense of humor. Can't wait for the next road trip!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read everything that Mr. Bryson has written. He has lost his sense of humor. He is very critical and judgemental on every subject that he comes up with. He has made the mistake of believing his thoughts on the political climate and recent voting of the UK to be of some sort of value. Celebrities in the US have made this same mistake recently. Well, Mr. Bill, opinions are like anuses. Everyone has ilone, but not everyine insists on showing their off. No more Bill Bryson for me. And that is a shame.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Informative and hilarious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laugh out loud funny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Certainly there are parts that you will turn the page quickly, but be careful not to miss laugh out loud moments. He writes what you think and feel.
ASouthernGirlReads More than 1 year ago
I confess….The Road to Little Dribbling is the first of Bill Bryson’s books that I have read, and I have mixed feelings. I am sad (and a little ashamed) it took me so long to discover his books. But I am thrilled to have so many of his books to look forward to reading. Bryson is an American ex-patriot living in the United Kingdom. Before moving back to the United States in 1995, he traveled around the UK on a farewell tour. He wrote a widely acclaimed book about his adventures titled Notes from a Small Island. He moved back to the UK in 2004. And now, 20 years after the original trek and book, he took another trip around his adopted home and chronicles the experience in The Road to Little Dribbling. Our family has traveled to the UK on several occasions. It’s one of our favorite places to visit. I can geek out over all the museums and castles, my menfolk can attend hours and hours of soccer matches, we all can feast on the best Indian food ever, and the British can wonder (and most likely laugh at) our Southern accents and our confusion over all the coins in their monetary system. The Road to Little Dribbling is not a guidebook and it will not help you navigate your travels around the UK. But, it serves as a wonderful companion and an ode to all the things unique to traveling around this wonderful island. Some of things are positive (the many accessible walking trails) and others are most decidedly not (the vagaries of the National Rail Service). The book also highlights how things have changed (for better and worse) in the UK during the 20 years since Bryson’s original trip. Except for an excursion to Stonehenge, Bryson’s travels take him off the beaten path. He does not repeat any of the destinations he traveled to in the first book. You will not find him roaming the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey. However, he does describe many lovely, quaint sites and villages that you will want to visit. I found myself highlighting many places to visit on our next trip. I especially liked his description of many the walking trails scattered across the countryside. He recounts his travels like your lovable, but cranky grandfather. He is easily irritated and set in his ways, but despite this, you love him and your time spent with him. He has no filter and says exactly what he thinks. I honestly found myself laughing out loud during almost every chapter. So now I have read another book that has added to my ever-growing TBR. I just added Bryson’s entire backlist. And, I have already started an itinerary for our next visit to the UK. Can’t wait!
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
Original review @ Oh Bill Bryson, I haven’t read one of your books in years, but The Road to Little Dribbling brought me right back. My sister is the person who originally introduced me to Bryson back in the early 2000’s withIn A Sunburned Country. I followed that with A Walk in the Woods and of course Notes From a Small Island. The Road to Little Dribbling is the follow up to Notes From a Small Island written twenty years later. I enjoy Bryson’s mix of anecdotes and historical facts. It is a true talent to be able to a make a story about museum exhibits and pay toilets synch up and be entertaining. In The Road to Little Dribbling Bryson returns to a few of the same locals he previously visited, as well as new locations. Bryson is able to wrap the mundane in such interesting turns of phrase that catching trains and sitting on bus benches are a delight. At times the history inserted is a little dry, but the mundane is always quickly abandoned for the quirky. Bryson epitomizes the peak of travel writing and each chapter and location delight the mind. I highly recommend The Road to Little Dribblingas a way to take a great mental vacation. Bill Bryson never fails to entertain and I am glad I was able to enter his world once again. I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review
Bellas-Gran More than 1 year ago
I looked forward to reading this book having enjoyed Notes From A Small Island. I was very disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not awful. It's also not good. Bryson has written several of my favorate travel books; this is a huge disapointment.