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Non-Fiction Review – A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)

The author Scott Corbett once said, “I often feel sorry for people who don’t read good books; they are missing a chance to lead an extra life.”  I love this quote, because it’s so true.  Reading books can allow you to do things and go places in a split second; books let you become immersed in other times and even in other worlds.  I find this irresistible…that’s why I love to read.

This week I want to recommend a travel book of sorts called “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson.  Reading this book has allowed me to experience hiking the Appalachian Trail from the comfort of my favorite chair.  Sometimes this is the only way I get to travel!

Bill Bryson is an experienced travel writer.  He has written for National Geographic magazine for years.  Born and raised in Des Moines, Bryson moved to England in the late 70’s.  After living there for 20 years, he decided to move back to the United States with his English wife and their four children.  And he decided that, one of the best ways to try and reconnect with the country of his birth, after being gone for so long, would be to hike one of its most beautiful nature trails.

The problem was, he didn’t want to go alone.  He managed to hook up with an old school buddy, Stephen Katz.  Bryson and Katz took a walking tour of Europe 25 years earlier, which Bryson wrote about in his book “Neither Here nor There.”  Katz assured him that he was in top physical condition and eager to hike the AT.  And so, A Walk in the Woods begins….

Bryson’s book is a memoir, a history of the Appalachian Trail and surrounding region, and a hilarious travelogue.  We discover along with Bryson that Katz has exaggerated the level of his physical fitness just a wee bit.  And Bryson has not confided to Katz his fear of bears, which borders on the pathological.  He does extended research into bear attack statistics, and finds out that only 500 people were attacked by black bears between 1960 and 1980 (he works this out to 25 attacks a year from a population of roughly half a million bears).  Bryson worries:  “…is 500 certified attacks really such a modest number, considering how few people go into the North American woods?  And how foolish must one be to be reassured by the information that no bear has killed a human in Vermont or New Hampshire in 200 years?  That’s not because the bears have signed a treaty, you know.  There’s nothing to say that they won’t start a modest rampage tomorrow.”

In spite of all this, Bryson and Katz set out on the journey of a lifetime.  Do they hike the entire 2000+ miles of the trail?  You’ll have to read this one to find out.  I’ve heard Bill Bryson described as a cross between Garrison Keillor and Dave Barry, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description.   He can be very sarcastic; if he sees something absurd or ridiculous, he doesn’t hesitate to point it out.  On the other hand, if he experiences something wonderful, he writes in such a way that you experience it too.  I love his writing!






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One Response to “Non-Fiction Review – A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson”

  1. Gail P. (TinkerPirate) Montara, CA says:

    Loved, loved, loved the book…and the movie wasn’t half bad either!

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