Hello reading buddies! I hope you’re all enjoying A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I’ve been listening to William Roberts read this chronicle of hiking the Appalachian Trail on audio, and so far, so good. Roberts reads at a steady clip with good inflection, and it’s an absorbing book. I’m smack dab in the middle, though for most of this post it won’t matter as long as you’ve gotten a little way into the book. I’ll warn of spoilers if I get too specific!
It’s been years since I’ve read anything by Bryson. In those intervening years, I’d forgotten how fantastic he is at blending science, history, pop culture, and personal experience into a hybrid of memoir and straight nonfiction. He shifts around just enough to keep me interested. I find myself learning all kinds of fascinating (if occasionally mildly outdated) things without ever getting bored. Bryson is, of course, a funny man, and I find myself snickering quite a lot, but I get the feeling that even without his keen sense of humor he’d be able to write books I’d be happy to read.
Listening to A Walk in the Woods has set straight my mental picture of what hiking the Appalachian Trail entails. For instance:
- I never really thought about just how much stuff you’d have to have to take with you for months and months of hiking. I loved the scene at the beginning of the book where Bryson is at the store trying to purchase equipment, though I was mildly appalled by how much he needed!
- I always imagined a trail through such an expanse of wilderness wilderness would be lonely and isolated, always. Granted, it is, for long stretches, but hikers seem to see one another much more often than I’d assumed.
- I was surprised by the camaraderie shared between hikers sharing shelters, camping together, or even passing one another on the trail. The shared experience of hiking the AT, I suppose, provides the groundwork for a (usually) friendly relationship.
- I had no idea there were such frequent opportunities for hikers to go into town for a bath, a nice meal, and a good night’s sleep in a real bed.
I’m pretty sure I’ll never hike the whole trail, even though several people I know are seriously interested. Maybe a day or two…maybe. Have you hiked or thought about hiking the whole or partial trail?
For those of you who are at least halfway through (kind of a SPOILER! if you haven’t): What do you think of Bryson and Katz’s decision not to hike the whole trail? I can understand why they skip parts, but I think if I was in their situation, I’d feel like I had to walk the whole thing.
If you’re reading or have read A Walk in the Woods, feel free to share your thoughts and/or pose questions for other participants here. Please be careful to warn of spoilers in your comments! I’d also love to know if you’ve discussed the book on your blog so that I can link to your post in the wrap-up post, two weeks down the line.