Bi-Monthly Review: A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

The Bi-Monthly Review is a twice monthly feature of whatever I happen to be reading. Highly informal. Opinions are my own. Try to enjoy.

Walk in the Woods

This book is so funny (laugh out loud funny!) and the stories so ridiculous, that it truly felt like a novel at times, but non-fiction this is. A Walk in the Woods documents Bill Bryson’s trek along the Appalachian Trail; much of it with an old acquaintance (Stephen Katz).

Bryson begins this work of travel literature by documenting all the dangers of the trail; bear attacks, blizzards, snake bites, disease, even murder. By the first chapter, I’m already pulled into what I expect to be a thorough description of Bryson’s experience thru-hiking (meaning, walking the trail from beginning to end) the 2,000+ mile trail with his companion Katz.

I quickly discovered that Bryson and Katz failed to hike the entire trail end-to-end, but what this book lacks in mile-by-mile detail, it more than makes up for in its snappy history and environmental lessons. Readers get a quick look into the origins of the trail, the damage Americans have had on our natural landscape, and even an eerie glimpse into the multiple (9 at the time the book was written) murders that have occurred along the AT.

Bryson and Katz make a hilarious duo on the trail, with the former outfitting himself in all the necessary gear at a local outdoors shop, and reading multiple books to help him prepare for the trail. Forever a planner, Bryson makes sure to have any and all items he may need on the trail, while Katz packs haphazardly, only to toss much of his belongings from his backpack mid-hike.

All in all, the stories here are funny, inspiring, and entirely unexpected. This book probably won’t serve much use in preparing a hiker for the long trek along the AT, but it is a hilarious glimpse into the journey of Bryson and his friend Katz.

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