A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

Summary from Goodreads:

The Appalachian 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).

Bill Bryson is the bomb. I read this book when I was feeling a little down and stressed out, and it was exactly what I needed. It’s hilarious, full of weird and wonderful facts, and it did indeed make me long for the great outdoors (or at least, it made me want to read this book while sitting in a comfy chair overlooking some misty mountains with a cup of tea in hand). In short, it’s a typical Bill Bryson book in the best of ways.

My favourite thing about Bill Bryson is his ability to see the humour in every situation. I think he’s absolutely hilarious (although I am also the kind of person who laughs at dad jokes and thinks that Mr Bean is a comedic genius). I read a good portion of this book while sitting outside in the Botanical Gardens, and I could not stop cackling madly to myself. Needless to say, I got a few strange looks. His descriptions of the gratingly obnoxious Mary Ellen in particular almost had me crying with laughter.

I also really love that Bill Bryson has such a sense of adventure. Yes, he is a curmudgeonly old man, but he also has some serious guts. I mean, hiking over half of the AT at middle age with no real hiking experience for months at a time with a junk-food-obsessed travelling companion prone to tossing irreplaceable supplies is no small feat.

I also really don’t know how it’s possible to know so much about everything. Seriously, I wouldn’t want to have to face Bill Bryson in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Throughout the book, he painlessly inserts lessons of history, geology, entomology, and more. We learn about the changes acid rain has brought to the wild, and he recounts the stories of the southern pine beetle, the smoky madtom and wooly adelgids, and about Daniel Boone, Henry David Thoreau and Stonewall Jackson. Bryson delivers an extended geology lesson on the tectonic formation of the 470 million year-old Appalachian Mountains that palatably educates. As I said before, he is the king of fun facts.

Yes, I have some criticisms of this book, but I don’t really feel like dwelling on them. I read this book precisely because I didn’t want to have to think too much, and it did not disappoint. It made me laugh, it made me cry (with laughter), and it made me feel so much better about everything. Highly recommended.

Have you read A Walk in the Woods? Or any of Bill Bryson’s other books? What do you think of him? 

~Anna

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Anna

Anna. Melbourne. Bookseller. Student. Serial tsundokist.

6 thoughts on “A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson”

  1. I did The Cleveland Way in the north of England last March. Set off with a rucksack and an iPod and walked over moors, hills, coastal paths for 9 days. It nearly beat me at times but it was such an amazing experience.

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  2. This was on my TBR (the one in my head) for eons but must’ve slipped under the bed or something out of sight. I thought it sounded like great fun reading and you confirm that it is. I’m planning a big walk, also at middle age–this sounds like required reading. Good review!

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