Review: A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson

Rating: 5 out of 5

I loved this. The Appalachian Trail is probably a hiker’s dream — not only the (undetermined) length of walking to be done, but also the variability of the terrain make it a route that most at least think about walking. As such, it was a godsend when I found Mr Bryson had written about walking it, and naturally I took it up at the first chance I had.

Firstly, to cover the basics, this sounds like a good overview of the trail. Both the logistics behind the walking and the strategy of tackling the route are covered in detail. People one can meet on the trail are also well characterised, both from the locals’ second hand comments and the descriptions of the walkers the author met on trail.

While some of the other commentators here have noted that everyone else in the world is stupid by Mr Bryson’s standards, there were tens of incidental characters who came across well. Also, the author is not reluctant to share the times he was wrong (especially as he could have obviously removed all of these sections if he truly was such a snob).

More importantly, the question of attitude towards Katz came up in the reviews here. I think both Bryson and Katz walked well together, and the quibbles, chats, and discussions that are included in the book both give it colour as well as tone. It is only natural that in all that time spent together, there were some disputes, especially if there were long periods when the two walked alone.

There were some interesting bits of information on both the Great Smokeys and Shenandoah. Perhaps my biggest regret was that so much of the trail going into northeast was skipped over in this book. However, longing for wilderness was present throughout the book, and it was clear that Mr Bryson enjoyed the AT. And I enjoyed reading about it…

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