A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Book Review)

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian TrailA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: americana, funny, humor, man-vs-nature, non-fiction, travel, survival, save-our-planet

The only thing I didn’t like was that there was no Bigfoot. Bryson’s tale of hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail is funny, self-deprecating, full of beauty and wonder, and never boring.

“But even men far tougher and more attuned to the wilderness than Thoreau were sobered by its strange and palpable menace. Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as “so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror. When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.”

I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of this book before, being a fan of A Short History of Nearly Everything, but I only picked up on it through reviewers who panned Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. (They are two different books, written from different viewpoints and for different reasons. I liked them both.)

Bryson’s look at nature and what it takes to hike the AT includes the historical and environmental, the technical, and the recklessness and ludicrousness of our treatment of our planet and its denizens. I came away with a whole new respect for salamanders and moose. Bryson’s hiking partner pretty much made the book, though, what with getting lost and throwing away valuable supplies because they were too heavy, including the coffee filters that fluttered so beautifully.

This book is a treat.

“In America, alas, beauty has become something you drive to, and nature an either/or proposition – either you ruthlessly subjugate it, as at Tocks Dam and a million other places, or you deify it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart, as along the Appalachian Trail. Seldom would it occur to anyone on either side that people and nature could coexist to their mutual benefit – that, say, a more graceful bridge across the Delaware might actually set off the grandeur around it, or that the AT might be more interesting and rewarding if it wasn’t all wilderness, if from time to time it purposely took you past grazing cows and tilled fields.”

New words:

Denier: unit of weight of silk, nylon, or rayon yarns, often used to describe hosiery thickness

Mesophytic: of of a moderately moist environment

Iapetus: proto-Atlantic Ocean, existing during the Taconic, Accadian, and Alleghenian phases of Earth’s formation (also a Titan in Greek mythology and one of Saturn’s moons)

Ineluctable: inescapable

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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