By Bill Bryson
There is travelling, and there is travelling. One way of ensuring that you experience as much as possible of the journey and your surroundings when travelling, is by making the process of movement itself very noticeable: walking, carrying your gear and camping in the wild. That is what Bill Bryson did in A Walk in The Woods, facing no less than 2000 miles of hiking paths through the Appalachian mountains on the US East Coast.
Travel writer Bill Bryson should be familiar to most, with many successful titles behind him such as: Notes from a Small Island, Notes from a Big Country, The Lost Continent and Neither Here Nor There. He has also made us all a bit wiser with his popular knowledge books, including A Short History of Nearly Everything and At Home.
Bryson’s writing style is light-hearted, light-scientific, humorous and very easy to read. It’s also genuinely enjoyable, and because of his tendency to use himself a lot in his writing, you feel like you get to know him well over the course of 350 pages and hundreds of miles.
A Walk in the Woods takes us through the planning, execution and history of both the Appalachian Trail itself, and of the experience Bryson and his travel companion had of it. They travel through 14 states, and cover terrain ranging from high peaked mountains, leafy valleys and dense forests, to rivers and lakes, sprinkled with a multitude of wild beasts and wilderness.
Bryson manages to tell the story and history of the trail in a way that makes the book funny, exciting and mind-boggling, and at one stage it even has the distinct chill of a scary thriller; quite an achievement for an easily read travel book.
Mixing accounts of walking and camping with interesting facts and figures about everything from forest management to dietary habits and cultural differences between UK, US and the various states it covers, you rarely get bored, and often find yourself longing for the woods and wilderness yourself.
Bryson doesn’t hold back on his feelings about parts of the American culture that he is not impressed with, like the overarching car mentality, lack of pedestrian facilities, the view of nature as an amusement park, and particularly about government bodies who tend to ruin rather than maintain accessible and sustainable facilities.
The book in parts is quite an environmental thought provoker, it is inspirational, and at times it even reads like a suspense novel, including murder stories, getting lost in the woods and threats by a multitude of forest creatures.
And if you do decide to follow in Bryson’s considerable footsteps and set out on a hike of your own, this is by no means a poor choice of travel companion – especially if you get it in paperback.
Review by Hilde Frydnes, Skyscanner PPC Manager
_Read more _book reviews