Bill Bryson Biography & Facts
William McGuire Bryson (; born 8 December 1951) is an American–British author of books on travel, the English language, science, and other nonfiction topics. Born in the United States, he has been a resident of Britain for most of his adult life, returning to the U.S. between 1995 and 2003, and holds dual American and British citizenship. He served as the chancellor of Durham University from 2005 to 2011.Bryson came to prominence in the United Kingdom with the publication of Notes from a Small Island (1995), an exploration of Britain, and its accompanying television series. He received widespread recognition again with the publication of A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), a book widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.
Bryson was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of Bill Bryson Sr., a sports journalist who worked for 50 years at the Des Moines Register, and Agnes Mary (née McGuire), the home furnishings editor at the same newspaper. His mother was of Irish descent. He had an older brother, Michael (1942–2012), and a sister, Mary Jane Elizabeth. In 2006, Bryson published The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a humorous account of his childhood years in Des Moines.Bryson attended Drake University for two years before dropping out in 1972, deciding instead to backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with a high school friend, Matt Angerer (the pseudonymous Stephen Katz). Bryson wrote about some of his experiences from the trip in his book Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.
Move to the United Kingdom
Bryson first visited Britain in 1973 during his tour of Europe and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital, the now-defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. He met a nurse there, Cynthia Billen, whom he married in 1975. They moved to Bryson's hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, in 1975 so Bryson could complete his degree at Drake University. In 1977 they settled in Britain.He worked as a journalist, first for the Bournemouth Evening Echo, eventually becoming chief copy editor of the business section of The Times and deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent.
The Brysons have moved around the UK, living in Virginia Water (Surrey), Purewell (Dorset), Burton (Dorset), Kirkby Malham (North Yorkshire, in the 1980s and '90s), and the Old Rectory in Wramplingham, Norfolk (2003–2013). They currently live in rural Hampshire and maintain a small flat in South Kensington, London. From 1995 to 2003 they lived in Hanover, New Hampshire.Although able to apply for British citizenship, Bryson said in 2010 that he had declined a citizenship test, declaring himself "too cowardly" to take it. However, in 2014, he said that he was preparing to take it and in the prologue to his 2015 book The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island he describes doing so, in Eastleigh. His citizenship ceremony took place in Winchester and he now holds dual citizenship.
While living in the US in the 1990s Bryson wrote a column for a British newspaper for several years, reflecting on humorous aspects of his repatriation in the United States. These columns were selected and adapted to become his book I'm a Stranger Here Myself, alternatively titled Notes from a Big Country in Britain, Canada, and Australia. During his time in the US, Bryson decided to walk the Appalachian Trail with his friend Stephen Katz (a pseudonym), about which he wrote the book A Walk in the Woods. In the 2015 film adaptation of A Walk in the Woods, Bryson is portrayed by Academy Award winner Robert Redford, and Katz by Nick Nolte.In 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, British voters chose Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island as that which best summed up British identity and the state of the nation. The same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.
His popular science book, the 500-page A Short History of Nearly Everything, explores not only the histories and current statuses of the sciences, but also their humble and often humorous beginnings. Although one "top scientist" is alleged to have jokingly described the book as "annoyingly free of mistakes," Bryson himself makes no such claim, and a list of some of its reported errors is available online.In November 2006, Bryson interviewed then British prime minister Tony Blair on the state of science and education.Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language, The Mother Tongue and Made in America—and, more recently, an update of his guide to usage, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (first published as The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words in 1983).
In October 2020 he announced that he had "retired" from writing books.
In 2012 Bryson sued his agent, Jed Mattes Inc., in New York County Supreme Court, claiming it had "failed to perform some of the most fundamental duties of an agent." The case was settled out of court, with part of the settlement being that Bryson may not discuss it.
In 2013 Bryson claimed copyright on an interview he had given nearly 20 years previously, after the interviewer republished it as an 8000-word e-book. Amazon removed the e-book from publication.
Awards, positions and honours
In 2005, Bryson was appointed chancellor of Durham University, succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov, and became more active with student activities than is common for holders of that post, appearing in a Durham student film and promoting litter-collection in the city. He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. In October 2010, it was announced that Bryson would step down at the end of 2011.In May 2007, he became the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. His first focus in this role was the establishment of an anti-littering campaign across England. He discussed the future of the countryside with Richard Mabey, Sue Clifford, Nicholas Crane, and Richard Girling at CPRE's Volunteer Conference in November 2007.Bryson has received numerous awards for his ability to communicate science with passion and enthusiasm. In 2004, he won the Aventis Prize for best general science book that year, with A Short History of Nearly Everything. In 2005, the book won the European Union's Descartes Prize for science communication. In 2005, he received the President's Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry for advancing the cause of the chemical sciences. In 2007, he won the Bradford Washburn Award, from the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts, for contributions to the popularization of science. In 2012, he received the Kenneth B. Myer Award, from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience, in Melbourne, Australia.
With the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Bill Bryson prize for Science Communication was established in 2005. The competition engages students from around t.... Discover the Bill Bryson popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Bill Bryson books.