Category: Non Fiction
So you've written a batch of books, Mr. Bryson, and now you live in New Hampshire , a state where people who decide on Presidential candidates rest from that responsibility by lacing up their hiking boots and exposing themselves to black flies. You're tired of looking out the window. One day you take a walk. And you get an idea: I'll amble the 2,100-mile length of the Appalachian Trail .
You have had zany ideas before, but you follow up on this one --- in your Christmas card, you ask many friends to walk the trail with you. Only one responds. He is Stephen Katz, a college buddy who has gone on to abuse alcohol and drugs (and is now sober, if not exactly tame). You have not seen him in a decade. The last time you did, you fought. But what the heck --- he's willing to do it, even if he is seriously weight-challenged. So, laden with candy bars and brand-new camping equipment, the two of you fly down to Georgia and start walking. (Of course, you fully expect to be re-enacting that really depressing scene from "Deliverance" within minutes of stepping into the woods.)
Face it, you are not equipped for this. (But who is? As you point out, the average American walks 350 yards a day. On the other hand, to your great pride, you and Katz cover more ground every 20 minutes than Mr. Average Joe does in a week.) But you press on. You meet silly people --- but then, who else goes for long walks in the woods on weekdays? You get lost. You fight. And, on occasion, you have the proverbial bliss that only Nature provides.
"A Walk in the Woods" is not a book to be read in bed by someone with bronchitis. Butler did, and soon he was laughing so hard he literally almost died. Bill Bryson is a funny, funny man --- and, though you don't quite realize it, he's a fabulous writer who sneaks the history of the Trail into the book so smoothly that you never feel you're in history class.
This is a book that clever children (or their clever mothers, acting on behalf of the brats) give to Dads on Father's Day, birthdays, holidays and on any warm day when the Man of the House retreats to the hammock. It's a dangerous gift --- it may inspire men to attempt to duplicate the Bryson-Katz walk. Can't happen. Not because of their fitness; many are better hikers than Katz and Bryson. But almost no one is as funny.