Sometimes you get the urge to read something a bit different. For me, this often takes the form of travel writing. I love reading about and finding out about different places around the world. A Walk in the Woods fills this out perfectly, and then takes it an extra step with loads of little side stories and histories, all topped off with Bill Bryson’s signature humour and dry wit.
So what is the book all about? It chronicles the tale of Bill Bryson, a slightly podgy middle-aged man, who decides to randomly walk the length of the Appalachian Trail with an old school friend of his, Stephan Katz. The Appalachian Trail stretches for thousands of miles from the state of Georgia in the south of the USA all the way up the east of the country to New England and the state of Maine. So that is a pretty long way. In fact, I believe it is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. Throughout its thousands of miles, the trail crosses some pretty spectacular, but wild and remote, landscapes with plenty of mountains and, obviously, woods. So not exactly an easy undertaking for anyone to walk, let alone a couple of slightly-out-of-shape guys in their mid-40’s.
As I am sure you can imagine, this book is filled with adventure and Bryson and Katz meet plenty of interesting people along the way. But really what makes this book standout is the way it is written. Bryon’s (and, in all fairness, Stephen Katz’s) personality, wit and humour shine through in almost every sentence of this book – and what personalities these two have! If a large dose of dry wit and a dash of sarcasm sound like a recipe for success to you, then I imagine you’ll love this book.
Away from the humour, this book certainly has more dramatic or poignant moments as well. These include a night-time encounter with bears and Katz getting lost as he strays from the path with no water in the blazing heat of the summer, as well as some terrifying stories about murders to other hikers and grizzly encounters with bears.
Of course, as I said at the start of this review, I love learning about different parts of the world. It is why people read travel writing, surely? And this book doesn’t disappoint. It is full of facts and histories about places on the trail that are written in an extremely approachable matter for those of us who have little knowledge of geology and its scientific terms. Really, though, this shouldn’t surprise me as Bryson is an author of several highly-acclaimed non-fiction books away from travel writing as well. Though, due to the date of the book (1997) some of the facts are likely a bit out-of-date, but nothing can be done about that!
Overall, I would 100% recommend this book without a seconds pause. Well, to anyone who has the faintest interest in travel writing anyway. It is funny, informative and thoroughly entertaining all in one!