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In a sunburned country Discussion Guide: In a sunburned country by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

Information about the author and his work is available at http://www.billbryson.co.uk/


Other Works by Malcolm Gladwell

Box Jellyfish/Sea Wasp

The venom of the sea wasp is the second most powerful of any animal (the geographic sea cone is first) and the sting can on occasion prove fatal. It is estimated that each animal contains enough venom to kill 60 adult humans. In extreme cases death by cardiac arrest has occurred in less than five minutes after being stung.

TMS Summer Series: Bill Bryson - Australia

Interview with Malcolm Gladwell

Discussion Questions

1. Did Bill introduce you to an Australia that was different from your mental image of the place? What was unexpected in his account of the land and people?
2. What was your favorite geographic region in Australia? Were you surprised to find there were so many different ecosystems there?
3. Did Bill succeed in describing people and places such that you could picture them in your mind? For example, could you 'see' Uluru in your mind?
4. Did some aspects of Australia remind you of your own cross-country travels in America? Did his humorous accounts of giant fake lobsters and oranges remind you of our own odd local landmarks (the big fiberglass fish in Hayward, WI, for example)?
5. Did you find a paradox in the laid-back style of the people of Australia, given that they live in a country with vast empty deserts, stinging plants and jellyfish, and killer sharks? Why do you suppose Australians are so famously mellow, as Bill himself confirmed?
6. Did you get as much information about the Aborigines as you wanted? Did you expect a book on Australia to spend more time on that?
7. Australia is home to the oldest continuous culture on earth. Does Bill's exploration of the earliest arrivals by humans to the continent intrigue you? Bill indicates that the age of human bones found in Australia are in conflict with what we believe we know about early human ocean travel and watercraft construction. What do you think about this?

Possible topics of discussion

Discuss the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. How has the Olympics affected this rivalry?

Small town Australia seems stuck in the 1950s. Give examples of this phenomenon from Bryson's travels.

Give some examples of Australia's toxic fauna. Discuss the irony with which Australians deal with their many potentially lethal critters.

Discuss the plight of the Aborigines. Give examples from other parts of the world where indigenous peoples came into conflict with colonizers. How is the plight of the Aborigine similar to these examples? How is it different?

Bryson relates the stories of multiple expeditions to find a convenient path through the country's interior. Discuss these missions, their successes and failures.

Does Bill Bryson's sarcastic humor undermine his sense of awe? Does his self-deprecation help to mitigate this?

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Suggestions for further reading

Great White Shark

The great whites are mostly in south, west and mid-east Australia.