A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
In a trek along one of America’s greatest trails, mountain man Bill Bryson provides a comedic and sometimes tart outlook on American culture.
Doesn’t that cover, with vibrant greens and a curious bear, just draw you in? Does it make you want to dive in to this written journey of the Appalachian Trail? It did for me. And after my very short experience on the trail, I was more than ready to experience the full thing (if maybe not with my own two feet just yet).
Reading about someone hiking along a 2,000 mile trail admittedly sounds like some boring reading, but Bryson makes sharp insights about culture, nature preservation, and people. It helps that Bryson’s comedic undertones, or his obvious satire , engages readers with the reading and Bryson’s rhetoric does not go unnoticed. For example, when he makes a dangerous, hilarious walk to a store for a simple purchase, Bryson makes readers very aware of the near disregard for using one’s legs as transportation, and ultimately an incline in toxic traffic.
Bryson’s partner, Stephen Katz, is wonderfully clumsy and belligerent. His sweet and sour attitude makes a peaceful walk among the trees a ruffled journey. And I can’t forget to mention the other lovely characters met along the trail – know-it-all Mary Ellen whose relentless banter earned her a reputation among hikers of the trail, and Chicken John, who was so hopelessly lost.
Unfortunately, there were no bear sightings or really much danger at all. Aside from a blizzard and Katz lost in the wilderness, the story is without much action. The plot of this memoir relies on the very comedic situations Bryson experiences along the trail and off of it. Whether he is speeding down a highway after hitching a ride with drunken strangers, arguing with Katz about cream soda, or terrified of being blown off a mountain by high speed winds, there is rarely dull moments with Bryson.
When the situations aren’t funny, they are often fascinating and just as engrossing as Bryson’s other stories. The town above an old burning mine was such an intriguing story. Much of the North East portion of the country, that is rarely glorified in fiction or non-fiction, was suddenly fascinating and I dreamed of a walk in a New Hampshire wood, which I can assure you, had never crossed my mind before.
I highly recommend this book as a solid memoir, filled with sharp insights and layers of humor for all readers. There is a fascinating history to the Appalachian Trail and America’s forest. If you appreciate nature, and you ought to, delve into Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, and see perspective on new and ancient forest, trail, and country.
I give A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson a four out of five stars.