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Two Bill Bryson books
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Excerpt:
Notes from a Small Island

"The Llandudno train was gratifyingly empty, so I took a seat at a table for four, and contented myself with the thought that I would soon be in a nice hotel or guesthouse where I could have a hot bath followed by a generously apportioned dinner. I spent a little time watching the scenery, then pulled out my copy of The Kingdom by the Sea to see if Paul Theroux had said anything about the vicinity that I could steal or modify to my own purposes. As always, I was amazed to find that as he rattled along these very tracks he had been immersed in a lively conversation with his fellow passengers. How does he do it? Quite apart from the consideration that my carriage was nearly empty, I don't know how you you strike up conversations with strangers in Britain. In America, of course, it's easy. You just offer a hand and say, "My name's Bryson. How much money did you make last year?" and the conversation never looks back from there.

"But in England--or in this instance Wales--it's so hard, or at least it is for me. I've never had a train conversation that wasn't disastrous or at least regretted. ... Over a long period of time it gradually dawned on me that the sort of person who will talk to you on a train is almost by definition the sort of person you don't want to talk to on a train, so these days I mostly keep my myself and rely for conversational entertainment on books by more loquacious types like Jan Morris and Paul Theroux."

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