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Ranking Author Bill Bryson’s Best Books (A Bibliography Countdown)

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“What are Bill Bryson Best Books?” We looked at all of Bryson’s authored bibliography and ranked them against one another to answer that very question!

We took all of the books written by Bill Bryson and looked at his Goodreads, Amazon, and LibraryThing scores, ranking them against one another to see which books came out on top. The books are ranked in our list below based on which titles have the highest overall score between all 3 review sites in comparison with all of the other books by the same author. The process isn’t super scientific and in reality, most books aren’t “better” than other books as much as they are just different. That being said, we do enjoy seeing where our favorites landed, and if you aren’t familiar with the author at all, the rankings can help you see what books might be best to start with.

The full ranking chart is also included below the countdown on the bottom of the page. We will update the article if/when a new book by Bill Bryson is released. Although it probably won’t be immediate so the scores on each site have time to settle and aren’t overly influenced by the early, usually much more opinionated, users.

Happy Scrolling!



The Top Book’s Of Bill Bryson



19 ) Bill Bryson’s African Diary

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 19
  • Amazon: 19
  • LibraryThing: 19

“Bill Bryson travels to Kenya in support of CARE International. All royalties and profits go to CARE International.

Bryson visits Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to eradicating poverty. Kenya is a land of contrasts, with famous game reserves and a vibrant culture. It also provides plenty to worry a traveller like Bill Bryson, fixated as he is on the dangers posed by snakes, insects and large predators. It is also a country with many serious problems: refugees, AIDS, drought, and grinding poverty. The resultant diary, though short in length, contains the trademark Bryson stamp of wry observation and curious insight.”

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18 ) Icons of England

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 18
  • Amazon: 16
  • LibraryThing: 18

This celebration of the English countryside does not only focus on the rolling green landscapes and magnificent monuments that set England apart from the rest of the world. Many of the contributors bring their own special touch, presenting a refreshingly eclectic variety of personal icons, from pub signs to seaside piers, from cattle grids to canal boats, and from village cricket to nimbies.

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17 ) The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 15
  • Amazon: 20
  • LibraryThing: 16

Following an urge to rediscover his youth (he should know better), the author leaves his native Des Moines, Iowa, in a journey that takes him across 38 states. Lucky for us, he brought a notebook. With a razor wit and a kind heart, Bryson serves up a colorful tale of boredom, kitsch, and beauty when you least expect it. Gentler elements aside, The Lost Continent is an amusing book. Here’s Bryson on the women of his native state: “I will say this, however–and it’s a strange, strange thing–the teenaged daughters of these fat women are always utterly delectable … I don’t know what it is that happens to them, but it must be awful to marry one of those nubile cuties knowing that there is a time bomb ticking away in her that will at some unknown date make her bloat out into something huge and grotesque, presumably all of a sudden and without much notice, like a self-inflating raft from which the pin has been yanked.” Yes, Bill, but be honest: what do you really think?

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16 ) The Road to Little Dribbling

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 17
  • Amazon: 16
  • LibraryThing: 15

“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.”

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15 ) Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 13
  • Amazon: 15
  • LibraryThing: 14

In the early seventies, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe—in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. He was accompanied by an unforgettable sidekick named Stephen Katz (who will be gloriously familiar to readers of Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods). Twenty years later, he decided to retrace his journey. The result is the affectionate and riotously funny Neither Here Nor There.

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14 ) Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 14
  • Amazon: 18
  • LibraryThing: 9

What is the difference between “immanent” and “imminent”? What is the singular form of graffiti? What is the difference between “acute” and “chronic”? What is the former name of “Moldova”? What is the difference between a cardinal number and an ordinal number? One of the English language’s most skilled writers answers these and many other questions and guides us all toward precise, mistake-free usage. Covering spelling, capitalization, plurals, hyphens, abbreviations, and foreign names and phrases, Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors will be an indispensable companion for all who care enough about our language not to maul, misuse, or contort it.

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13 ) The Palace Under the Alps

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 20
  • Amazon: 3
  • LibraryThing: 17

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12 ) I’m a Stranger Here Myself

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 11
  • Amazon: 11
  • LibraryThing: 13

After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly 3 million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens—as he later put it, “”it was clear my people needed me””). They were greeted by a new and improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item.

Delivering the brilliant comic musings that are a Bryson hallmark, I’m a Stranger Here Myself recounts his sometimes disconcerting reunion with the land of his birth. The result is a book filled with hysterical scenes of one man’s attempt to reacquaint himself with his own country, but it is also an extended if at times bemused love letter to the homeland he has returned to after twenty years away.”

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11 ) Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 16
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 10

William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself. Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, from today’s most respected academics to eccentrics like Delia Bacon, an American who developed a firm but unsubstantiated conviction that her namesake, Francis Bacon, was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. Emulating the style of his famous travelogues, Bryson records episodes in his research, including a visit to a bunkerlike room in Washington, D.C., where the world’s largest collection of First Folios is housed. Bryson celebrates Shakespeare as a writer of unimaginable talent and enormous inventiveness, a coiner of phrases (“vanish into thin air,” “foregone conclusion,” “one fell swoop”) that even today have common currency. His Shakespeare is like no one else’s—the beneficiary of Bryson’s genial nature, his engaging skepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivaled in our time.

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10 ) Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 10
  • Amazon: 11
  • LibraryThing: 11

Travel writer Bill Bryson looks at the language of America and explains the history behind it, including the origins of phrases such as “The real McCoy” and the “G-string”; why two humble bicycle repairmen from Ohio succeeded in mastering manned flight when the world’s greatest engineers couldn’t get a model aircraft off the ground; why the assassination of President Garfield led to the invention of air conditioning; and how a lonesome hamburger stand at the end of Route 66 provided the inspiration for “McDonald’s”.

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9 ) The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 7
  • Amazon: 11
  • LibraryThing: 8

Who would have thought that a book about English would be so entertaining? Certainly not this grammar-allergic reviewer, but The Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson–a zealot–is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodize about “the colorless murmur of the schwa” with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every sentence, that carries the book. Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and this inevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about a subject, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well as tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: “This product will self-destruct in Mother Earth.”), Bryson frequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and always shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English.

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8 ) Notes from a Small Island

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 9
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 4

After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a few years, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him. But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation’s public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said ‘Mustn’t grumble’, and Gardeners’ Question Time.

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7 ) The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 8
  • Amazon: 3
  • LibraryThing: 7

“Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as “”The Thunderbolt Kid.””

Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and OF his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson’s earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends.”

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3 ) A Walk in the Woods

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 5
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 3

“Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes—and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.”

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3 ) In a Sunburned Country

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 4
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 4

“His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiousity.

Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book.

Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.”

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3 ) At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 6
  • Amazon: 3
  • LibraryThing: 6

In these pages, the beloved Bill Bryson gives us a fascinating history of the modern home, taking us on a room-by-room tour through his own house and using each room to explore the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted. As he takes us through the history of our modern comforts, Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home, in the paint, the pipes, the pillows, and every item of furniture. Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and his sheer prose fluency makes At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.

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3 ) A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 1
  • Amazon: 3
  • LibraryThing: 11

Bill’s storytelling skill makes the “How?” and, just as importantly, the “Who?” of scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for all ages. He covers the wonder and mystery of time and space, the frequently bizarre and often obsessive scientists and the methods they used, and the mind-boggling fact that, somehow, the universe exists and against all odds, life came to be on this wondrous planet we call home

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2 ) One Summer: America, 1927

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 3
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 2

” The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.
All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.”

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1 ) A Short History of Nearly Everything

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 2
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 1

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail—well, most of it. In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

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Bill Bryson’s Best Books



Bill Bryson Review Website Bibliography Rankings

BookGoodreadsAmazonLibraryThingOveral Rank
A Short History of Nearly Everything 211 1
One Summer: America, 1927 312 2
A Walk in the Woods 573 3
In a Sunburned Country 474 3
At Home: A Short History of Private Life 636 3
A Really Short History of Nearly Everything 1311 3
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid 837 7
Notes from a Small Island 974 8
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way 7118 9
Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language 101111 10
Shakespeare: The World as Stage 16710 11
I’m a Stranger Here Myself 111113 12
The Palace Under the Alps 20317 13
Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors 14189 14
Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe 131514 15
The Road to Little Dribbling 171615 16
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America 152016 17
Icons of England 181618 18
Bill Bryson’s African Diary 19191919