• Birth—December 8 1951
• Where—Des Moines, Iowa, USA
• Education—B.A., Drake University
• Awards—(see below)
• Currently—lives in Norfolk, England, UK
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and on science. Born an American, he was a resident of North Yorkshire, UK, for most of his professional life before moving back to the US in 1995. In 2003 Bryson moved back to the UK, living in Norfolk, and was appointed Chancellor of Durham University.
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of William and Mary Bryson. He has an older brother, Michael, and a sister, Mary Jane Elizabeth.
He was educated at Drake University but dropped out in 1972, deciding to instead backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with a high school friend, the pseudonymous Stephen Katz (who later appears in Bryson's A Walk in the Woods). Some of Bryson's experiences from this European trip are included as flashbacks in a book about a similar excursion written 20 years later, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe.
Staying in the UK, Bryson landed a job working in a psychiatric hospital—the now defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water in Surrey. There he met his wife Cynthia, a nurse. After marring, the couple moved to the US, in 1975, so Bryson could complete his college degree. In 1977 they moved back to the UK where they remained until 1995.
Living in North Yorkshire and working primarily as a journalist, Bryson eventually became chief copy editor of the business section of The Times, and then deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent.
He left journalism in 1987, three years after the birth of his third child. Still living in Kirkby Malham, North Yorkshire, Bryson started writing independently, and in 1990 their fourth and final child, Sam, was born.
Bryson came to prominence in the UK with his 1995 publication of Notes from a Small Island, an exploration of Britain. Eight years later, as part of the 2003 World Book Day, Notes was voted by UK readers as the best summing up of British identity and the state of the nation. (The same year, 2003, saw Bryson appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.)
In 1995, Bryson and his family returned to the US, living in Hanover, New Hampshire for the next eight years. His time there is recounted in the 1999 story collection, I'm A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to American After 20 Years Away (known as Notes from a Big Country in the UK, Canada and Australia).
It was during this time that Bryson decided to walk the Appalachian Trail with his friend Stephen Katz. The resulting book is the 1998 A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. The book became one of Bryson's all-time bestsellers and was adapted to film in 2015, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.
In 2003, the Brysons and their four children returned to the UK. They now live in Norfolk.
That same year, Bryson published A Short History of Nearly Everything, a 500-page exploration, in nonscientific terms, of the history of some of our scientific knowledge. The book reveals the often humble, even humorous, beginnings of some of the discoveries which we now take for granted.
The book won Bryson the prestigious 2004 Aventis Prize for best general science book and the 2005 EU Descartes Prize for science communication. Although one scientist is alleged to have jokingly described A Brief History as "annoyingly free of mistakes," Bryson himself makes no such claim, and a list of nine reported errors in the book is available online.
Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language—Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way (1990) and Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States (1994). He also updated of his 1983 guide to usage, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words. These books were popularly acclaimed and well-reviewed, despite occasional criticism of factual errors, urban myths, and folk etymologies.
In 2016, Bryson published The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in England, a sequel to his Notes from a Small Island.
In 2005, Bryson was appointed Chancellor of Durham University, succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov, and has been particularly active with student activities, even appearing in a Durham student film (the sequel to The Assassinator) and promoting litter picks in the city. He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities, including Bournemouth University and in April 2002 the Open University.
In 2006, Frank Cownie, the mayor of Des Moines, awarded Bryson the key to the city and announced that 21 October 2006 would be known as "Bill Bryson, The Thunderbolt Kid, Day."
In November 2006, Bryson interviewed the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair on the state of science and education.
On 13 December 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to literature. The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.
In January 2007, Bryson was the Schwartz Visiting Fellow of the Pomfret School in Connecticut.
In May 2007, he became the President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. His first area 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. (From Wikipedia. Adapted 2/1/2016.)
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