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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

July 15, 2012

The Appalachian trail is a wilderness hiking trail over 2,000 miles long, winding through the mountains from Georgia to Maine. Every year hundreds of people attempt to hike the entire length of it, but less than a third actually complete it. Bill Bryson’s memoir A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail documents his attempt to complete the trail one summer.

Bryson is joined on the trail by his friend Katz, who he has not seen in years. The two are out of shape, and not very experienced at hiking. Bryson relates their growing friendship with humor, and shows how much the two rely on each other, even when they are hiking in silence.

Bryson captures the feel of long-distance hiking in his book – how simple things like showers are luxuries; the way that time passes differently in the woods; and the bonds you develop with your fellow hikers. He also gets the frustration just right, as well as the griminess and soreness.

While Bryson is narrating his journey on the trail, he also includes information on the history of the trail, and the environmental changes that it has undergone over the years. It ends up being both a personal narrative and a convincing argument for maintaining the ecological diversity of the region.

Bryson combines all these threads – a travel memoir, the story of a friendship, and environmental plea – into a pleasant and engaging read.

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