Walk in the Woods

Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. New York: Broadway Books, 1998.

Bill Bryson is one of those “collectible” authors. Meaning, I know I can read anything he has written and enjoy it on some level. A Walk in the Woods was no different. One day in 1996 while walking near his Hanover, New Hampshire home Bryson gets it into his head to hike the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia and working his way, 2,100 miles later, to Maine. He brings along an old buddy, Stephen Katz, someone he hasn’t seen in years. They make an interesting pair and their relationship is one of the best parts of the book, but there is a little of everything in A Walk in the Woods. Over the course of 870 miles, Bryson has the opportunity to tackle the serious with a touch of silliness. Case in point, the bears. Bryson jokes about becoming a snack for the hungry mammals but at the same time paints a pretty scary picture of what those beasts can do. While a great deal of the book is written in a humorous tone (can you just picture the “waddlesome sloth” he mentions on page 4?), Bryson also has a sobering commentary on the history of the trail, man’s devastating logging and hunting practices, and the sociological quirks of the regions he visits. His visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania is both haunting and disturbing. From the blundering beginnings of trying to buy the correct equipment (and use it properly) to the soberly fact the Appalachian Trail is over 2,000 miles long and they will never finish it, Bryson and Katz experience the best and worst of an iconic trail. Even though they end up skipping the AT from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, the pair learn more about America (and themselves) than they bargained for. A Walk in the Woods made me want to find my own little piece of the trail and hike it, just to say I did.

Reason read: Bill Bryson was born in December. Read A Walk in the Woods in his honor.

Author fact: Bryson had moved his family to the other side of the pond. This hike was a “coming home” of sorts.

Book trivia: Supposedly, A Walk in the Woods is being made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Bill Bryson: Too Good To Miss” (p 37). I have 13 different Bryson books to read. The one I am looking forward to reading the most is Palace Under the Alps.



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