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So you want to go to Australia? Inspired by the Olympics in Sydney or just have a yearning to explore this far-flung island?

Whatever your reason, before you board the plane on the long haul to this vast continent pick up a copy of Bill Bryson's latest book "In a Sunburned Country". It's a great combination of historical fact, practical travel information and anecdotal accounts of the people and wildlife that make this country the fascinating and unique place that the author has fallen in love with.

Mr. Bryson explores all the major cities with his characteristic, almost childlike enthusiasm and curiosity for new sights and experiences. Undeterred by the rather disturbing knowledge that " Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else," he goes native and attempts to boogie board in a shark infested ocean and to snorkel (albeit unsuccessfully) amidst the amazing landscape of the Great Barrier Reef. He braves the outback and explores the infamous bush country to give the reader a better understanding of this most "desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all inhabited continents."

The distances between major cities in Australia are large, even by American standards, making overnight stops in the smaller backwater places a necessity. As well as gleaning an insight into life in these remotest of remote of regions, this information also serves to evoke the sense of space and emptiness that exists in this vast sunburned country.

You might think that the road trip through this often unchanging landscape would make for dull reading-but this is never the case. His musings and comments on the way of life, any small change in the horizon, the radio and any topic that comes to his mind make for some of the funniest sections of the book. His account of radio cricket is quite hilarious and is one of his many deliberations that will force the reader to belly laugh out loud-so beware of reading this book in very public places where this kind of outburst is not condoned.

The book is littered with quite an amazing amount of well-researched information yet the reader never believes that he's engrossed in anything other than a witty, well-written travel adventure. If you can't get to Australia, read the book instead and be an armchair traveler. It won't be a substitute for the real thing but you may feel you've been -and you won't have had to endure the jetlag and toxic wildlife.