Sunday, October 28, 2007

Review: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Summary: A humorous and well-researched account of Bryson's attempt (with and without his friend Katz) to hike the Appalachian Trail.

My thoughts:
I've always wanted to read Bill Bryson, having heard that he was very funny. But I'm not much of a non-fiction girl, so I never got around to him. But now I think I can safely say that I think Bill Bryson is an amazing author because he got me to read about (and be interested in) something that is in fact my definition of HELL.

Yes, hell. I hate camping (a fully-equipped luxury campground in an RV is about as much as I can take and even then it's way down my list) and I don't understand the appeal of hiking, particularly not for days on end in the mountains. I found myself wondering many times why he was doing it when he was so clearly miserable so much of the time and really, by his own admission, not cut out for it. I can't imagine hiking in mud, snow, sweltering heat and being miles from civilization with only open-fronted shelters to sleep in and a privy if you're lucky. Hell, I'm telling you.

I enjoyed his anecdotes about the people they met on the trail (both amazingly nice and amazingly annoying) and about the often ridiculous Katz who kept throwing equipment away because it was too heavy. Even many of the tales of the perils of the trail were amusing, particularly the many, many about bears (a running theme). I did start to glaze over during the longer passages about particular flora and fauna, but even so, I was impressed with his research about all areas of the trail. The constant reminders about how much of that flora and fauna were nearing extinction and the uselessness of the National Parks Service got a bit wearisome, but I'm sure having experienced it up close, it's very upsetting to see such an often-cavalier attitude towards nature.

I'll definitely read more Bryson and will hopefully get to Notes From a Small Island soon.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed A Walk through the Woods and then read The Lost Continent (about his travels through 30 something states, starting in his hometown in Iowa). He really tickles my funny bone!

raidergirl3 said...

We are kindred spirits when it comes to the outdoors!
Bryson is terrific, and humorous. I read his tour of Europe book, and I LOVED his Brief History of Nearly Everything.
I must try this one, because that's the only way I'll hike the Appalachian.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Stephanie - He tickles mine, too! And I'll have to try the Lost Continent, too.

Raidergirl - exactly! It was definite armchair-and-no-further travelling for me with this one. And I'm glad we're kindred outdoors (or lack of) spirits. :)

Wendy said...

So glad you enjoyed this book! Bryson always makes me laugh. I've read most of his books and hope to read the rest of them someday.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Wendy - I really did! Thanks for suggesting it and setting me on the Bryson path!