There was a time in my life when I wanted to be Bill Bryson, when I thought, If this is what a writer does, I want to be a writer. He has an uncanny knack for unearthing the hilarity in the most mundane and shoving it in your face, for meeting the most insufferable, strange, and fascinating people, for doling out the perfect amount of bitter sarcasm, and for otherwise educating readers in an incredibly entertaining way. He's the guy you want at your dinner party, who you'd trust as your precious phone-a-friend. I was in college the first time I stumbled upon the writer. I wandered into a small bookshop one sunny afternoon to kill some time. A Walk in the Woods was propped up in the travel writing section with a staff recommendation card that had "one of my ALL TIME faves" scrawled on it in thick black Sharpie ink. I half-wondered how a book with what I considered to be an unimpressive cover could be an ALL TIME fave, so I flipped to a random page and started reading. It's safe to say that within seconds I was smiling one of those broad, dopey smiles, and within minutes, giggling stupidly to myself. I'm pretty sure that I actually started to work up a sweat, as I stood there in the now deafeningly silent shop, reading in my overly warm university hoodie, suppressing my would-be shrieks. I've learned since then that Bryson should be read in the privacy of one's own home. Where one can feel free to snort, chuckle, guffaw, and otherwise revel in a cathartic case of the giggles. I used to read passages of Bryson out loud to a roommate of mine and can recall one particular scene from Notes From a Small Island that left us both short of breath for minutes. But it was with Bryson's 1998 bestseller that I had my first affair, and which has become, albeit very unoriginally, one of my all time faves.