Narrator: Bill Bryson
Length: 3 hrs 3 mins
Publisher: Audible Studios
The one thing to be said for Bill Bryson is that when it comes to penning a lively, engaging spot of writing he seems able to turn his hand to almost any subject. I’ve never come across anything so mundane as ‘A History of the Paperclip’, but I’m sure that if Bryson wrote one it would have me laughing long before the end. I have enjoyed all of his books and columns over the years, and his take on Christmas is no exception.
My only problem, and it is a personal one, is that when I first started listening to his work all of the books were read by William Roberts. Whenever I hear Bryson narrate his own work I can’t stop wondering who the strange bloke is pretending to be Bill. I’m not saying that the narration was anything less than excellent, it’s just that Roberts’s voice will forever be synonymous with Bill Bryson in my head. These things really stick!
The book is short, but packed with fascinating facts weaved together with amazing stories that amply demonstrate how the Christmas we think we know is not at all the ancient celebration we all take it for. Santa Clause, turkey, carrots, and even the date we celebrate are little more than a few generations old.
It’s fascinating to learn how it all came around — or at least how we think it all came around. We can’t know for certain because the past is a mysterious place. I never come away from one of Bryson’s historical discussions without feeling how true that is. So much of what we think we know turns out not to be true after all, or at least to be ambiguous in surprising and interesting ways. And the whole thing is presented in light, funny, easy-to-read prose that anyone could follow. Bryson makes writing look easy in a way that, even from simply knocking out this blog post, I know it isn’t.
Merry Christmas Bill. I look forward to your next offering, even if it is on the subject of paperclips.