A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Creative non-fiction)

Writing: 4/5 Coverage: ?? My enjoyment: 2/5

Bryson’s second book. This is the story of his hike on the Appalachian Trail.

This was my first and very probably last Bryson book. I love humor and had heard his books were hysterically funny. However, I found his humor to be quite mean spirited. Whether he was gratuitously making fun of well-known individuals (“the inestimably priggish and tiresome Thoreau” or Daniel Boone who “wrestled bears and tried to date their sisters”) or lambasting entire populations (every human in the South was portrayed as a variation of absurdly stupid and / or outlandishly obnoxious) — he rarely had a nice thing to say about anybody.

His writing is top-notch and I definitely laughed out loud at several of his lines, but after a while you get tired of listening to someone rant about how stupid, incompetent, and ridiculous everyone else is. Each chapter has some bit of history or doom like predictions about the climate, species deaths, or endlessly burning coal fires, and much of it was actually interesting. However, I got the feeling that his “research” consisted of browsing through some pamphlets and newspaper headlines (in 1996 the Internet was weak and puny) because he never delved into a subject, just dropped a few facts (all depressing) without ever going into the complexities of what is behind each and every problem.

He was paid to write this book and I don’t think his heart was in it. Spoiler alert, he doesn’t even come close to finishing the trail!