Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1997
Number of pages: 350
ISBN: 0552997021

Started: 30 November 2007
Finished: 6 December 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

The longest continuous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail stretches along the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine, through some of the most arresting and celebrated landscapes in America.

At the age of forty-four, in the company of his friend Stephen Katz (last seen in the bestselling Neither Here Nor There, Bill Bryson sets off to hike through the vast tangled woods which have been frightening sensible people for three hundred years. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing ticks, the occasional chuckling murderer and - perhaps most alarming of all - people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.

Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors.

I started this book a couple of weeks after finishing Jack Kerouac's The Town and the City. That book fired up in me a big desire to visit the US, and this book has made it even worse! Despite the dangers that Bryson gleefully points out, he paints an irresistible picture of the Appalachian Trail and surrounding countryside.

As someone who has done a bit of bushwalking, I could empathise with the difficulties faced by Bryson and Katz, particularly at the beginning of their trip. I couldn't resist reading a couple of passages out to my Dad to show him that we haven't been alone in our difficulties. The comparisons ended there though; whereas my bushwalking experiences have been limited to a couple of days, Bryson and Katz went on for weeks. How they did it I'll never know, but I know that I would love to give just a small section of this track a go. It sounds incredible.

Once again, Bill Bryson has written a hugely entertaining travel book and A Walk in the Woods is now one of my favourites of his. My only gripe is that I always seemed to reach the funniest sections of this book while reading on the train during my daily commute. When will I learn not to read Bryson in public? It's just too hard and embarrassing trying to contain the laughter.

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