Thursday, April 10, 2014

Snapshot Book Review: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian TrailA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I badly want to give this book five stars, because I think it does what Bryson set out to do: it gives an accurate and entertaining depiction of his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail, and it educates the reader along the way about the trail in its current state along with copious historical context. However, Bryson is just so funny when he wants to be, with his fantastically dry wit and spot-on descriptions of both the mundane and the extraordinary, that once I got a taste, I wanted more. I wanted to be entertained. I wanted to keep laughing, to keep spending time with the people he encountered along the trail, to revel in his unique perspective on the whole experience.

But this book admittedly wasn't meant to be about the people Bryson met on his journey. He didn't intend to keep me laughing throughout. He was going to educate me, whether I liked it or not, and so I found myself about two-thirds of the way through the book, slogging through pages and pages of history that, frankly, I didn't want to read. That's a risk you take when you embark upon a journey with a non-fiction writer.

Because I can't help myself, I want to give you just a taste of the writing that kept me plowing through this book, looking for more. Here are a few excerpts:

"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."

"Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wiley and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old."

This is my second Bryson book (my first was I'm a Stranger Here Myself, which I read when I returned from studying abroad in England and adored), and I will undoubtedly read more. He is an excellent writer, and I love a good humorist. However, I'll probably steer clear of A Short History of Nearly Everything. That sounds like it will be far more education than amusing. But if anyone who has read it can tell me otherwise, I'm happy to give it a go!

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