Here we are at the end of the first Reading Buddies book: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. If you missed the discussion post, you can find it here.
I chose to listen to the book on audio, as read by William Roberts. While Roberts’s narration was lively and well paced, I don’t think I find Bill Bryson as funny on audio as I do when reading him in print. I’ll have to test that theory with future books, but I did find myself giggling a lot more during the passages I read than the parts to which I listened.
Throughout the book I was constantly impressed by Bryson’s ability to cobble together a cohesive book out of so many random tidbits of information. Yes, A Walk in the Woods is his story of hiking the Appalachian Trail, but over the course of the book, he touches on history, culture, ecology, science, and many other topics. I was amazed by how much I learned. I don’t often read a lot of straight nonfiction, but Bryson’s memoir/nonfiction blend worked really well for me.
The non-memoir part of the book that most interested me was the story of Centralia, Pennsylvania, a coal mining town that sits on huge coal deposits. The coal was accidentally ignited and has been burning for decades, with enough fuel left for it to continue burning for many years. Some years ago, the Discovery Channel did a bit on Centralia, which I found interesting:
I do wonder how much has changed since Bryson wrote his book. It was published in 1998, a fair number of years ago in terms of technological advancement. At one point, Bryson expressed his annoyance with all the electronic gadgets finding their way onto the Appalachian Trail. I wonder now how many hikers travel with cell phones, GPS, digital cameras, and so forth and how their inclusion has affected the experience of hiking the trail. And, if hikers do carry such gadgets…how do they keep them charged?
I know several people who have seriously considered hiking the Appalachian Trail. Listening to A Walk in the Woods definitely gave me a better picture of what such an undertaking entails. It also made clear for me the fact that I am most likely not cut out for such a journey. Just the thought of fording rivers and facing the 100 mile wilderness made me glad I was snug at home and not out in the wilderness.
As I was poking around on the book’s Wikipedia page, I came across the mention of a possible movie based on A Walk in the Woods. I couldn’t find any more substantial references, and those I did find were mostly from 2008 or before, so I’m not sure if it’s still being planned. Has anyone heard about this? Now I’m curious!
I’d love to hear your reactions and impressions if you’ve read A Walk in the Woods. Anyone is welcome to leave comments here or on the discussion post. Other participants (if I missed you, let me know!):