Book Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

I bought Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods in March and read it in August. The book was part of my TBR for BookTube-A-Thon 2018 and it fulfilled 2 reading challenges. One was, ‘Read a book with green on the cover.’ And the second was ‘Read a book about something you want to do.’ These were 2 of the 4.75 reading challenges of this year’s BookTube-A-Thon that I could actually finish.

I usually don’t get excited about nonfiction books. But somehow, A Walk in the Woods was somehow inexplicably pulling me towards it. Maybe because it is travel-related that I was so excited to start reading this book. It is saying something when just 2 pages in, I fell in awe with the man called Bill Bryson. In just one paragraph, he explains what the problem with the modern world is without actually putting a finger on it.

A Walk in the Woods is the author’s account of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Books like these might be a tad tedious to read, but Bill Bryson knows how to mix facts with humor and make a book appealing. I found this book hilarious in the way he pokes fun at everything in the world, including himself. At one point I was asking myself how I could be so stupid as to not have read his books before. Then again, how could I have known?

I love traveling but I’m mostly limited due to circumstances. And someday, I hope I will be able to go take a walk in the woods. But then again, I am really, really scared of animals and I’m really not sure how I’ll fare in there. Plus, reading this account of Bill Bryson’s research before he took the Appalachian Trail freaked me out a little. At the end of that little chapter, I muttered under my breath: I don’t want to walk in the woods as much now.

At least Bryson had a companion in the form of his huffing and puffing and complaining companion, Stephen Katz. I might coax a couple of people into accompanying me but I really don’t want to spoil that experience for them because I’m a jumpy little creature sometimes. 😛

Bill Bryson rattles off facts from time to time and there are so many of them that push me into a state of awe of this man. Of course, one should do their own research before starting on a journey like this. But this narrative of Bryson’s trudge through the Appalachian Trail still brings me joy, awe, and a whole gamut of emotions. It makes me feel wonderful to be just reading it. It’s as if I’m there, watching him take the trail while being absolutely exasperated with Katz.

Bryson’s exasperation spills over to me and I immediately began to dislike him immensely. It’s a whole another matter that he is an actual living person. I felt really bad for Bill Bryson because all he wanted was company and encouragement and he got Katz. Maybe his bumbling nature was all the encouragement that Bryson needed. Maybe it was what kept him going. Then again, there comes a point in the book where I started feeling bad for Katz. Maybe it is because of a highly annoying woman called Mary Ellen. Because the moment she goes out of the picture, Katz goes back to being an ass. Circumstances bring change, perhaps? 😉

Either way, Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is a funny take on trudging miles through relative wilderness with Katz on his trail (unintended). He finds humor in everything! But the best part is when he talks about Mary Ellen. It was an absolute laugh riot, those few pages that were about her.

In addition to the humor, there is beauty in his descriptions of daily events as normal as a sunrise. Here’s what he wrote: I was up before daybreak and sat by the window watching as a pale dawn grudgingly exposed the surrounding landscape. ‘Grudgingly exposed.’ I was done for by this one sentence.

But the biggest reason why I love Bill Bryson’s writing is his aversion to rain. I hate rain. I don’t have a problem with it when I’m at home or anywhere indoor. But when I want to go out or when I’m out and have to return, rain makes my blood boil. I know I cannot control it, but personal opinion, perhaps? So when Bryson nonchalantly mentioned, ‘Rain spoils everything,’ I found a better reason to love his writing! I’m going to binge-read his books someday. Of that I’m sure. 😀

Reading A Walk in the Woods reminded me of the Social Studies lessons from school. I wasn’t bad at it, but this one time, I fell asleep while studying for an exam that was scheduled for the next day. My mother kept thumping the door to get me to wake up. I had locked it from inside. Yes. Me the genius. 😛

If you are a traveler, do read this account for a different take on hiking and how it can be written in a fun, comical manner. If you are not, then give it a read to see what is going on in the world of traveling and hiking. Either way, you’re going to have fun reading about Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Amazon India.

If you’d like to buy this book after reading my review, please use my Amazon Affiliate link to buy it. Here’s the link: A Walk in the Woods.

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