“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson is a nonfiction memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). Bryson is joined by a long-time friend, Stephen Katz, starting in Georgia, planning to reach Maine, over 2,000 miles away.
The book was first published in May 1998, more than 20 years ago, and it seemed dated. The references to bankrupt companies and places that are now gone were plentiful. I didn’t really connect with his “humor” sometimes making fun of other hikers, other times the backcountry rural people who accommodate them on the trail.
There are some characters they find along the way. There is some tension between Bryson and Katz that are common among friends after days, weeks, and months of long days fighting the elements, avoiding wild animals, and traversing tough terrain, mostly unmarked on maps, while at times not seeing any other hikers for miles, sometimes for days.
The hardest thing for me was Bryson’s main “attitude” throughout the book of reluctance and almost disdain of hiking. It is hard to understand a reason “why” he did it. No one was forcing him to hike (nor write a book about the experience).
I did appreciate his inclusion of the need for conservation of the delicate forests and wildlife we are endowed with here in the U.S. and the need to properly fund the people who protect those resources.
The closest that Bryson gets to “purpose” in the book is the way that Bryson and Katz connect at the end of the book, that it is really about friendship and having companions on the journey.