Rating:

being british book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

Where to start, where to begin? I will say at the outset that I did not “bond” with the author of Being British. The book is neither witty, nor funny, but rather a probably accurate statement on what it is really like to be British, and that is, I admit, the entire point of the book, isn’t it?

The book reviews British culture and has 14 chapters that cover the history of Britain, downsides of British culture and its current evolution, perceptions of the British Empire and its supposed decline, national identity and patriotism, British people’s love of nature as well as the future of Britain. 

The author discusses British culture with facts, history and a British perspective–but I was unable to latch on. I think the author wanted to show the “living story” of being British and he does succeed in showing the country’s people and their lean towards pessimism. From how the author pans the U.S. Declaration of Independence (because he says it neglected to give a shout out to slaves or Native Americans), to the British collective consciousness and its small army (which is actually the same size as the army of the King of Sardinia), to the self-confidence (read: arrogance) of the Brits (the author gave up his U.S. green card to move back home), to the dry humor of the Brits, and on to the unlimited creativity of the British people, the book certainly has a lot to say on being British.

There are several places in the book where the history of an aspect of British culture is a bit dry…like the toast–it had to be said. The author does report equitably on heroism, patriotic sacrifice, and the global green movement, and for that I will say that he does understand realism and how things really work. He has personally given up owning a car and supports green initiatives whenever he can, and some people will admire him for this.

After reading the book, I have a slightly better idea about what it means to be British but I could have gained the same perspective from continuing to watch good British comedies. I had wanted to read Being British and have a good chuckle now and again at what was being said. Something to let me nod my head in agreement, or a way to research more into the subject, but that did not happen. It felt as if I was reading a textbook, but that may appeal to some readers. I would still recommend this book to people who appreciate a less humorous approach to explaining British mannerisms and culture.


After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Chronos Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.