A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Review: 4 of 5 stars
I had long heard great things about Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, but I had yet to read it. I had the perfect reason to finally pick up a copy when Bill Bryson came to Georgia Center for the Book to promote his new book [simpleazon-link asin=”0767919408″ locale=”us”]One Summer: America, 1927[/simpleazon-link]. I was immediately caught up in Bryson’s storytelling with his droll sense of humor and keen, witty observations. For a middle-aged man who had never so much as gone camping to suddenly decide to tackle the Appalachian Trail is, in itself, fodder for much humor. He managed to turn a trip to the camping store into a laugh-out-loud adventure. His traveling companion provided bumbling comedy himself and, from what Bill said in his talk Friday night, has achieved his own measure of fame due to the book. First published in 1998, the book remains in print and is an official guide to the Appalachian Trail (the AT). Not only does the book contain humorous misadventures, but it is also a fascinating account of the history, geology, and ecology of the AT. I was never bored. I laughed and I learned, often simultaneously. Bryson also meets an amusing cast of characters along the trail (like Chicken John who became notorious for getting lost). I was inspired and thoroughly enjoyed the account of Bryson’s journey. He proved to be the ideal guide for the trail. Now that the fall weather has come to Georgia, I’m tempted to take a walk on the trail myself. I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys travel books, hiking, or just plain entertaining storytelling.
Regarding the hike, Bryson muses: “Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really” (p.100).
An example of learning and laughter combined regarding a time in America where bounties were paid for the killing of predatory animals and wherein some became extinct or endangered as a result: “Rationality didn’t often come into it. Pennsylvania one year paid out $90,000 in bounties for the killing of 130,000 owls and hawks to save the state’s farmers a slightly less than whopping $1,875 in estimated livestock losses. (It is not very often, after all, that an owl carries off a cow.)” (p.291)
“A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old” (p. 347).