Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors. He is able to draw vivid images of times past and present by picking up on the smallest details, ones that most people ignore. He sees each pixel and the big picture that they make up at the same time. The reading experience translates somewhat to those hidden images in drawings where you can't see the image until someone points it out to you and then you see it and have really been seeing it all along!
Am reading Notes from a Small Island, which is about his travels around Britain. Here is a bit of Bryson gem I loved:
"To an American, the whole purpose of living, the one constant confirmation of continued existence, is to cram as much sensual pleasure as possible into on one's mouth, more or less continnuously. Gratification, instant and lavish, is a birthright. You might as well say, "Oh I shouldn't really" as if someone tells you not to take a deep breath.
I used to be puzzled by the curious British attitude to pleasure and that tireless, dogged optimism of theirs that allowed them to attach an upbeat turn of phrase to the direst inadequacies - 'well, it makes a change', 'musn't grumble', 'you could do worse', 'it's not much but it's cheap and cheerful', ' it was quite nice really' - but gradually I've come round to their way of thinking and my life has never been happier. I remember finding myself sitting in damp clothes in a cold safe on a dreary seaside promenade and being presented with a cup of tea and a teacake and going, 'Ooh, lovely!' and I knew then that the process had started. Before long I came to regard all kinds of activities - asking for more toast in a hotel, buying wool-rich socks at Marks and Spences, getting two pairs of trousers when I only really needed one - as something daring, very nearly illicit. My life became immensely richer."
After reading this, I discovered I'm a bit British, I am.