Sometimes you walk into a book store, spot a book, read the back sleeve notes, and you'll just have to buy it. This is what happened to me in Kilkenny, Ireland, with Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods".

"A Walk in the Woods" is like an annotated diary lavishly lathered with anecdotes and research, revolving around Bryson's hike across the Appalachian Trial (with over 2000 miles the longest continuous footpath in the world, running all the way from Georgia to Maine in the eastern United States). It is a story of what happened to him and his partner (a fellow names Katz who walked along for most of the way), about the people they meet and the places they see. Bryson wouldn't be Bryson if he didn't transform this into a dramatically funny parade of fact and (I suspect a bit of) fiction. I think Bryson could do a walk through the Sahara, not seeing anything but scorching sun and unimaginable quantities of sand, and come up with a thoroughly enjoyable account of what it was like. Reading this book gave me the perfect excuse not ever to desire to walk the Appalachian trail myself; partly because I feel like I've experienced it through Bryson, and partly because now I know that the experience would not have been an unequivocally fun one.

Are you wondering which line on the back sleeve it was that caused me to buy the book? It was "Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors."

Released 1997, ISBN 0-552-99702-1



Written September 1998


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