Having read many of Bryson’s other books (Made in America, I’m a Stranger Here, Myself, A Short History of Nearly Everything, &c.), I thought it a shame that I still had not read the first Bryson book recommended to me, which I had promptly forgotten about before getting around to reading it. I rediscovered Bryson when I bought a copy of Made In America for a quarter and thought it to be the most wonderful blend of humour, history, and anecdotal storytelling I had ever seen.
That is largely Bryson’s style: broach a subject with an anecdote, talk at length about it, and perhaps throw in a narration (if applicable) of his own experience. A Walk in the Woods is relatively short, at least in comparison to some of his other works, but it’s just as immensely satisfying. Bryson represents the conflicted soul in all of us: the love of creature comforts and the desire to get back to nature. For A Walk in the Woods, he decides to hike all 2’100+ miles of the Appalachian Trail with the aid of an annoying college buddy, Katz. I won’t spoil the story for you, but the narration is traditional Bryson, and at some points, he had zingers in there that made me giggle ceaselessly for minutes at a time.
What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties—I daresay it would even give a merry toot—and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.
Or, when Katz asks him if a certain female hiker is ugly, Bryson responds, “Well, only compared with other women.”
Perhaps I’m a rarity, but I just eat this sort of humourous, anecdotal travelogue writing up, and identify with Bryson in many respects except the gumption to actually go out and do things. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, however ill-advised for a couple of novices like Bryson and Katz, is precisely that sort of gumption.
I heartily suggest this book: it’s entertaining, informative, and flies by.