Ron’s #22: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

I have wanted to read this book for some time, so I threw it in my backpack for our Memorial Day camping trip to Zamami Island, Okinawa. I thought I’d never have time to read it with all the snorkeling and hiking I was going to do. Since it rained miserably, I read more than I wanted to. There is something about reading a book about an arduous adventure while sitting cramped in a screen tent trying to stay dry and read.

As you probably already know, A Walk in the Woods is Bill Bryson’s account of his planned five-month hike of the 2150-mile Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, with his out-of-shape and cantankerous friend, Stephen Katz. Much of this book is laugh-out-loud funny, with descriptions of the strange people they meet along their journey (one particularly funny interaction is with the bizarrely verbose Mary Ellen from Florida). Bryson and Katz struggle through the trail, and the book captures the pain, difficulty, and joy of this trail.

Relatively early in the walk, the pair decides to skip out of the Smokey Mountains and ride to Virginia to pick up on the trail there. For me, something changed in narrative when they made this decision. The book wasn’t as funny. The humor was mostly replaced with too much history of the upkeep, the ornithological life, and the past murders on the trail. I found it interesting, but it appeared that it was the point Bryson and Katz no longer enjoyed the trail; they now just complained and looked for small-town restaurants.

I love the idea of doing something epic as portrayed in this book. I, too, would love to do something that takes all my planning, energy, and strength to accomplish. I don’t think it will be the Appalachian Trail. If anything, this book is a good apologetic why one would not want to embark on this superhike.

There must be something like that for me to try. For now, I suppose it is reading a book a week. That certainly takes much less energy, and there is no danger of bears.

About Ron 173 Articles
I teach English and government in Okinawa, Japan. I love reading theology and fiction, and helps keep me accountable. Reading with three kids under 5 is a bit of a challenge, but I keep trying to find ways to read more. My favorites writers are C. S. Lewis, Flannery O’ Connor, and Raymond Carver.

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