01/11/2012 08:01 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2012

Vitamin D in a Book: Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country

Actually, what vitamin is generated from hysterical, uncontrollable laughter? Vitamin H for Happiness? I have read thousands of books in my life and I have never laughed so hard, so often, and so deeply (yes, that was the sound of my lungs squeegeeing). I actually had a woman on a plane turn to me and ask me, "What on earth are you reading?" The woman on my previous flight had the decency not to ask, since I am sure she couldn't tell if I was sobbing uncontrollably or laughing hysterically, or just insane. Or all of the above. Tears definitely came out of my eyes.

What's so funny about In a Sunburned Country? Well, it's a book about Australia, and while the Australians are funny in general and also very happy-go-lucky, the funny bits are really more about Bill Bryson, an American who writes like a Brit, describing his antics in a country that feeds into his deep curiosity and sense of adventure. I am reluctant to share any of them because I don't want to ruin the surprise or set up expectations. It's possible it was only that funny to me. Although, I was telling a friend about my laughing/crying fit on the plane and he asked if I had gotten to the part about the dogs in the park yet, and actually, that was the part that had sent me over the edge.

Australia is a fascinating country that I long to visit one day, so it really helped flesh out the reality of what is out there and worth seeing and what to expect, and all those sorts of things one gets from a travel book. It's such a large country that planning a visit can be overwhelming, so this book definitely helps one to prioritize things. Plus, some of my favorite famous people come from Australia: Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. Baz Luhrman. (None of whom is mentioned.) But that's not why I read it.

I picked it up because--as I've blogged about before--I'd read Bill Bryson's book At Home, which was fascinating but not necessarily funny, and I was surprised how many people told me that Bryson was really a very funny writer, so I went in search of some of his other books. This one proved to be the perfect book to read as we head into the long dark winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, where we can dream about the land Down Under where the sun always shines (or mostly, except when it's very, very foggy or, sometimes, very, very rainy) and where people seem to have their priorities straight and their "humour" intact.


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