To think, I almost didn’t even buy it. I came across Bill Bryson’s “Neither Here Nor There” by chance while perusing the travel section in Barnes & Noble this past summer and nearly passed it over for another book, the title of which I now can’t even remember. But thank goodness I didn’t. “Neither Here Nor There,” the tale of Bryson’s second trek across Europe from Hammerfest to Istanbul, is, to put it simply, uproariously hysterical due to the honest, direct, sarcastic tone that he carries with him throughout the book. It is not necessarily that he always puts himself in genuinely funny situations, but instead the ridiculous way he reacts to and comments on the most mundane of occurrences that will have you snickering away without a care for what others may think of your supposed sanity. One of my personal favorites is Bryson’s disdain for asking directions.
“I hate asking directions,” he says. “I am always afraid that the person I approach will step back and say, ‘You want to go where? The center of Brussels? Boy, are you lost. This is Lille, you dumb shit.’ So I trudged on.”
Despite its comical appeal though, “Neither Here Nor There” is extraordinarily well-researched. Bryson never goes to a new location blind and always seems to be an encyclopedia of trivia. Who knew that it is against the law for a bartender to serve customers a new drink until they have finished their first in Norway? Bryson sure did.
So if you can’t fund that trip to Europe quite yet or even if you can, be sure not to skip over “Neither Here Nor There” — you’ll have a rip-roaring good time and gain some nuggets of information along the way that, if not useful, are sure to be intriguing.