A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods:

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by

Bill BRYSON

WHY I LOVED THIS BOOK

Some months ago, my sister and niece both encouraged me to read Bryson, whom they found hilarious, even in French translation. At the time, I was busy with other things.

Recently, he was finally on my TBR list, and I happened to see that this book was among the Book Club Books of my public library; as I have been reading recently several books nature related, and that I love hiking and spending time in real nature, I chose this book as my first Bryson read. It will not be the last!

Bryson writes very well, he’s so funny and witty, while giving you great information at the same time, such as ecological, historical, and geological facts in this book. He also gave me the desire to do the Appalachian Trail one day, though I hope that by now, we no longer need to ford rivers! The book was written 12 years ago, so hopefully tings are better, though mosquitoes would probably be my major obstacle.

December 2020 update:

I was fortunate indeed to walk a bit on the Appalachian trail a few years ago, in the State of Georgia. To prepare, I relistened to parts of the book on my way to Georgia. I didn’t have to ford rivers, but some areas I had to go down on my cushioned derrière, instead of my legs and feet!!

Appalachian Trail

One of my pictures of the Trail

ABOUT THE BOOK

“Not long after I moved with my family to a small town in New Hampshire, I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town.”

So begins Bill Bryson’s hilarious book A Walk in the Woods. Following his return to America after twenty years in Britain, Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  The AT, as it’s affectionately known to thousands of hikers, offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes–and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to test his own powers of ineptitude, and to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start, there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa who accompanies the similarly unfit Bryson on the trail.  Once Bryson and Katz settle into their stride, it’s not long before they come across the fabulously annoying Mary Ellen, whose disappearance ruins a perfectly good slice of pie, a gang of Ralph Lauren-attired yuppies from whom Katz appropriates a key piece of equipment, and a security guard in Pennsylvania who, for no ascertainable reason, impounds Bryson’s car.  Mile by arduous mile these latter-day pioneers walk America, along the way surviving the threat of bear attacks, the loss of key provisions, and everything else this awe-inspiring country can throw at them.

But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike.  Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this fragile and beautiful trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness.  An adventure, a comedy, a lament, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Bryson’s bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, Neither Here Nor There, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and A Short History of Nearly Everything, the latter of which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize. Bryson lives in England with his wife and children.

REVIEWS

The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America–majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way–and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

“Short of doing it yourself, the best way of escaping into nature is to read a book like A Walk in the Woods.”–The New York Times

“Bill Bryson could write an essay about dryer lint or fever reducers and still make us laugh out loud.” –Chicago Sun-Times

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