Whenever A Walk in the Woods was open in my hands, it would not be long before I burst out laughing. But despite the fact that so many portions of the book are downright hilarious, it is not written as a humor book. It is part travel log, part U.S. history, part natural history, part biography, part a study of human nature, part adventure, part drama, and yes, part comedy. This book has something for everybody. I think that is what I like so much about it.
A Walk in the Woods is the story of Bill Bryson’s trek along the Appalachian Trail. After 20 years of living in England, he moves back to the U.S. and there, almost in his back yard, was a trail through the New Hampshire woods. Upon further investigation he discovers that it is part of the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. Seeing this as a challenge and a way to reacquaint himself with America, not to mention a source of writing material, he publically declares his intensions to hike the AT. After a little research, however, he discovers that he may be in a little over his head.
Nevertheless, he recruits a partner (his old friend Katz, who is the only one who lacks the sense to say no) and prepares for a 5 month ‘walk in the woods.’ His experience with a salesman at the hiking outfitters is priceless and the way he describes his fear of bears left me in tears and gasping for breath. Along the way he interacts with a myriad of truly unique people, encounters a vast array of wildlife, has a few adventures and narrow escapes, and discovers he is made of sterner stuff that he thought.
I have to say that A Walk in the Woods is one of, if not the funniest book I have ever read. Very few of us will ever actually hike even a part of the Appalachian Trail, but we can all read Bryson’s book and through it take that walk in the woods with Bill and Katz.