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Nonfiction Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Title: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Author: Bill Bryson
Year published: 2010
Category: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 464 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, VT, NH, ME)

SummaryBack in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The Appalachian Trail offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes—and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings. 
For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is a modern classic of travel literature.

Review: I haven't read a Bill Bryson book in decades, why did I wait so long?! I forgot just how clever and funny he is and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. And look at all those states that it covers!

My favorite parts were his descriptions of the Appalachian Trail, his experiences and interactions with other hikers (especially his companion "Stephen Katz"), and his ponderings on what he was doing and why. These are the sections where his dry wit comes out and I feel like we get a real feel for hiking the trail. I also enjoyed hearing about events that have happened throughout history to people who have hiked, or attempted to hike, the trail.

I'll confess that there were a few sections where I did some skimming in this book. These were the historical sections that were a bit too long for me even though I totally understand why he included them in the book. Knowing a bit about the creation of the trail, conservation in the US, and other related topics is a good balance to the personal stories. I just wish those sections were a bit shorter. However, I know a lot of people that loved that part of the book.

I am super impressed with the amount of the trail that he walked. I have a friend who hiked about 100 miles of it and I am impressed by that, too.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Literary Escapes--Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine
  • Nonfiction--Travel

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