Last month in my review of Nathan Wolfe’s The Viral Storm, I mentioned that I had discovered the book thanks to an interview on the NPR program Fresh Air. The subject of this book review I also discovered thanks to its author being interviewed on NPR. Back in 2008, New York Times London correspondent Sarah Lyall spoke with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer about her recently released book The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British. After listening to the author talk at length about such examples British life such as the easy access to alcohol within the Houses of Parliament (and the obvious impact this has had on the temper of parliamentary debate) and the lively and colorful nature of the nation’s newspapers (not just the Sun with its bare-breasted page three girl) I knew I needed to read Lyall’s book. So, like many other promising books that I hear about and vow to someday read, I quickly included on my Goodreads list of book to read. Then, just as I always do, completely forgot about it. Until one afternoon when I happened to spot it on the shelf at my local public library. Remembering back almost five years ago to Lyall’s humorous interview, I happily grabbed The Anglo Files and vowed to finally read it. So I did. And enjoyed it.
With several of my favorite book bloggers Brits and several more members of the Commonwealth, it’s tough for me to admit that I enjoyed Lyall’s book. While I don’t think she maliciously pokes fun at the Brits, she definitely has fun at their expense. Judging by her take on the more outlandish and comical aspects of British life it’s obvious it was written for an American audience. Her chapters devoted to drinking, the press and dental care (or lack there of) were probably my favorites. The chapter on hedgehogs I thought could have been left out. While I enjoyed the chapter which dealt with the sport of cricket, even after reading Lyall’s explanation of the game I’m still confused. (But after reading her descriptions of a match she attended one nice day somewhere in England I must admit it did sound rather charming and enjoyable.)
By no means would I consider The Anglo Files to be the definitive field guide to the British. I would however call it entertaining, opinionated and funny. I might also be bold enough to say that it contains no small amount of truth. And something tells me that more than one Brit would probably agree with me.