By Audrey Andrews | January 16th, 2021
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson has long sat on my to be read list. Although a hiking classic, I continued to avoid it because I often find myself much more interested in memoirs authored by women. Fortunately, my sister gifted me A Walk in the Woods for Christmas. From page one, I was entranced.
Although Bryson is an incredibly accomplished author, I had not read any of his books or articles. Thus, I was surprised to find that A Walk in the Woods is incredibly funny- like, laugh out loud hilarious. For example, while preparing to begin his journey, Bryson decides to read a series of books to educate him about the outdoors. His selection includes a book detailing the most gruesome bear attacks in recent history. For obvious reasons, this is a terrible idea, but makes for quite amusing scenarios throughout the book.
A short plot summary of A Walk in the Woods is that Bryson decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. A long-lost friend joins him, and they head to Georgia to begin their trek north. Spoiler alert: they do not complete the trail. Both hikers quickly find they hike far, far too slowly to complete the path in one season. While possibly disappointing for Bryson, all the better for the reader, as Bryson’s self-deprecating humor lends itself well to the challenge.
Instead, Bryson spends much of the year hiking sections of the trail. Along, the way, he seamlessly weaves in stories of the land and people he meets along the way. While less-skilled authors would write clunky transitions from hiking to historical, Bryson pulls readers along with ease. While “Rediscovering America” is a hyperbole, he does learn about communities along the trail in an intimate way that non-hikers would surely not encounter.
I wish I hadn’t waited years to pick up A Walk in the Woods. Sadly, I’ve passed it up in numerous bookstores and a library or two. It makes me happy to know that someone finds such joy and humor in the woods.