A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (1998)

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This week I was faced with hours of errands and chores that needed to get done now that Fall, and the start of the holiday season, has arrived: end-of-summer yard-work, basement clean outs, swapping out the summer clothes and linens for colder weather items, and so on. In order to make the process more pleasant, I decided to download an audio-book onto my phone so listen to while I worked.

At book club on Monday, we had a brief but lively discussion about humorous books and how enjoyable they are to listen to, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods was mentioned as a perennial favorite. Knowing that it would be the perfect book to listen to while I completed my chores, I downloaded it immediately.

A Walk in the Woods is a wonderfully funny book chronically the adventures of author Bill Bryson while he attempts to walk from Georgia to Maine, following the Appalachian Trail. Being out of shape and under-prepared does not daunt Bryson, who sets out with a childhood friend (who in even more out of shape and ill-prepared) in early March on Springer Mountain in Georgia, the start of the 2000+ mile long hike.

Immediately things go horribly, hysterically wrong for the two men — bears, food shortages, terrible fellow hikers, snow storms and more — but they continue on their journey, with Bryson dutifully reporting their experiences as they go. I laughed out loud constantly at the hilarious situations the men find them selves in, with the author’s wonderful writing bringing the book  alive with its attention to detail and description.

While the book is, in part, a memoir recording Bryson’s hike, it is so much more than that. Included alongside the stories of his personal experiences are fascinating lessons on history, geology, and biology of the Appalachian Trail. Bryson’s research brings to life the people who inspired the trail’s creation, the people charged with protecting it for future generations, and the people who hike along it (and sometimes those live alongside it).

Overall a gem of a book which really shines with its humor and warmth, one that lends itself perfectly to the audio-book format.

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