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Title: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
This is a humorous memoir about Bill’s quest to hike the Appalachian Trail, a good portion of it with his friend Katz. Additionally, Bill shares his observations and opinions on topics which are pertinent to the story, such as, the National Parks Service, invasive species, conservation, mining, etc.
It would not be an understatement to say that I LOVED this book! It wasn’t a page-turner that I just couldn’t put down, but more like an old friend that I would return to for shared jokes and just to appreciate being together. I wanted to savor my time with this book. Bill’s wry humor really suits me and I appreciate the way he uses it to draw attention to and poke at issues he cares about. Sometimes it’s more effective to criticize something through sardonic humor than by railing against it in an angry tirade.
When I picked up the book, I didn’t really think it would be all that exciting. How can you make an exceptionally long walk entertaining? Well, Bill figured it out and delivered beautifully. His comedic timing is like strawberries and whipped cream: perfect. Let me state again that I am in love with his writing style and I look forward to reading more of his works. How can I have gone so long without reading any of his books?
The last thing I wanted to comment on was how Bill brought little nuggets of history into his story. I love history when it’s presented in an engaging manner, and Bill incorporated it seamlessly. I was particularly intrigued by the opulent hotels which once existed in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the sad history of the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania. I had previously studied Centralia when I was on a kick about ghost towns, and it is a haunting setting to be sure. If you’ve never heard of it, do a bit of research. It’s fascinating.
I recommend A Walk in the Woods to adults and mature teenagers who enjoy a humorous adventure story. If you like wry humor, you’ll especially appreciate Bryson’s writing.
A couple of favorite quotes:
“’Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.’ When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.” (p. 63-64)
“The forest we walked through now was really just a strapping adolescent. In 1890, a railroad man from Cincinnati named Henry C. Bagley came to this part of Georgia, saw the stately white pines and poplars, and was so moved by their towering majesty and abundance that he decided to chop them all down. They were worth a lot of money.” (p. 68)
- a decent amount of swearing
Rating: 5 Stars
Until next time…