Author: Bill Bryson
Source: Book Swap
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: The sense of humor in this book left me with mixed feelings, but the personal stories and fun facts were great.
This memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail is the second book I’ve read by author and novice hiker Bill Bryson. I tried his A Short History of Nearly Everything and found his dad joke-y humor wasn’t enough to carry me through a long book that rehashed natural history I’m already familiar with. This memoir, which included details of his personal experience and new-to-me info, was much more enjoyable. I’m glad I finally gave his books a second chance.
The humor in these books is one of their strong points. It reminded me of Mary Roach a bit, especially in the author’s impressive ability to constantly be funny. Unlike Roach, though, his humor was sometimes dated, including some fat-phobic jokes that should really be laid to rest. This wasn’t entirely out of line with his other humor, which sometimes felt a little cruel and at others expense. There were also a couple of graphic potty-humor moments that felt jarringly out of place. A lot of the humor was also self-deprecating though and highlighted both the fears and joys of a novice hiker, which I found very relatable. This was more common than the humor that didn’t work for me.
The author also did a great job of blending his personal experiences with entertaining anecdotes, fun facts, and sobering information about loss of natural areas in the United States. In fact, one of my main takeaways from this book was that the National Park Service seems to exist to facilitate logging more than to protect our forests. At least as of publication of this book in 1997, significantly more effort was being spent building roads than studying disappearing wildlife. I enjoyed Bryson’s outsider perspective on how Americans interact with nature and at least mostly agreed with him. His own personal growth and his relationship with hiking buddy Stephan Katz were also particularly enjoyable. Although this is a bit dated, I’d recommend it to anyone who’s willing to skim through that to enjoy a funny personal take on a beginner’s experience of the Appalachian Trail.