CNN: How do you go about picking your subjects?
Bryson: It's always a combination of things. The basic challenge of any book is you know you're going to be working on it for three or four years or more. So you want to have a subject that will keep you engaged. But then I have to factor in practicalities -- how much travel will this involve, can I make this appeal to English-speaking audiences. These are not things you can always resolve, but you have to take them into account.
With "At Home" (Bryson's history of residences) I promised my wife I would spend my time at home. I had done a lot of traveling, and I told her I would do something where I could go to a library all day and come back for dinner every night. And it occurred to me, what if I did a history of the world but from the perspective of my own house?
This one, since I live abroad, I do get hankerings to come home sometime and reconnect with America. I like to do books in which a lot of the research and the writing and the thinking revolves around something American. So that was indulging my homesickness, and a very, very longstanding desire to write something about baseball.
CNN: Do you take the time you spend on planes and ponder the aviators you wrote about?
Bryson: It's hard not to! I urge you to go to the Smithsonian and just look at these little planes. I was standing with one of the curators and you can see that (Lindbergh's plane), the Spirit of St. Louis is just fabric. I asked how sturdy was it? Could you poke a hole in it with your finger? And he said yes. You could demolish the Spirit of St. Louis with your bare hands in about a minute and a half. It's just amazing.