I had the privilege of going to high school with his son David, a sweet quiet boy who spoke in a low voice and a British accent. I didn't know anything about Bill Bryson until he spoke at my brother's graduation, and was very funny. Even then, I didn't connect him with David (who was in my home room for four years) until he mentioned his son in the speech. So I knew he was an author, and a funny, friendly man. Then I came to Britain.
I was AMAZED when I arrived and found that whole sections of stores were devoted to the books of this man I'd met so unassumingly. I've even read a couple by now, and I concur - he's funny, irreverent, intelligent, and researches his books tirelessly. I approve.
Still, I do get laughs from time to time about him. I was seated next to a man on a train to London once, who, like GMT's holidayer, laughed constantly. Eventually he put the book down, and we got to talking. I asked him about the book, and he delightedly told me all about this "little college town in New England" that Bryson lived in, and how he wrote all about it. The town was Hanover NH, where I went to high school, and very much my 'hometown.' I told the man this, and he looked at me as if I had just walked out of a storybook and was telling him about Robin Hood. It was hysterical.