I purchased this Bill Bryson book at the Big Bad Wolf book sale last month. BBW is an annual event in Kuala Lumpur where publishers dispose of print overruns or remaindered books at heavily discounted prices.
I like Bill Bryson. His writing produces in me many a wry smile, one or two titters and even an occasional guffaw. I hadn’t seen In A Sunburned Country before so I assumed it must be a new title.
As you might have guessed from the cover, it’s about Australia. I’ve just finished reading it and while putting it away in my bookcase I noticed that I had another Bryson book, Down Under. Flicking through the pages I could see that it is exactly the same book, only under a different title.
Two thoughts sprang to mind:
1. It’s a bit sneaky of Mr. Bryson to bring out the same book twice under different titles, tricking suckers like me to part with twelve Ringgit. Perhaps he’ll release the book again in a few years time and call it something like The Parched Continent and I’ll buy it for a third time.
2. More worryingly, why did I have zero recollection of ever having read Down Under? I read all the way to the end of In a Sunburned Country without once having déjà vu, or thinking ‘that seems familiar’. I know I must have read Down Under because I have read all the books in my bookcase, probably about 17 years ago judging by the published date and its tatty, tropicalised condition. Either Bill Bryson’s books, though very entertaining, are not particularly memorable or, more likely, this is a sign that I’m getting old and forgetful.
Looking on the bright side, if my memory is getting frail, there is no need for me to buy books anymore. I can just re-read my old ones, as if for the very first time.