Friday, January 11, 2013

Bill Bryson's African Diary


Why did I read it? I've read a whole mess of Bryson books. Going for the full sweep.

Summary: A fundraiser for CARE, detailing the author's visit to the Dark Continent.

My Thoughts: It's not easy to write a book with a blatant agenda and still make it enjoyable. The book is intended to be a hook that catches you and reels you in to donating to CARE. To that end it's short, gets quickly to the point, and utilizes one of the world's most prominent travel writers to tell you why it's important we act quickly to help the people of Africa.

Bryson has made a living out of grousing and cantankerousness, and I often wondered when I perused his titles what he would have to say about the African people. But he also has a way of positively judging communities and populations when they claw their way up to his standards; I mean, he's not a total bastard. With as much bleakness as comes from that continent (note to Americans: for information on anything that happens outside of the continental United States at any time, please refer to BBC News), war, starvation, plague, etc., it seemed it would be the one section of the world unworthy of a Bryson book.

Bryson, though, agenda and all, tells it like it is, the scary transportation infrastructure (bitching about the horrors of missed plane connections, trains running off-schedule, etc., is practically a British genre), fears of violence, etc. But he also tells us about the amazing things that both CARE and the people of Africa do in the face of overwhelming odds. In the end, he makes you care.

And, if you bought the book, you've already donated, as Bryson and his publishers made it a 100% donation to CARE. That is, unless you bought it second hand. Like me.

Oops. Where do I send that check?

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