by Bill Bryson
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Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes--and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature.
About the author:
Bill Bryson’s bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, Notes from a Small Island, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, A Short History of Nearly Everything, which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize, and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Bryson lives in England with
his wife and children.
Excerpts from www.billbrysonbooks.com
- One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the unlikely friendship between Bryson and Katz. What is the relationship based on? Consider, especially, the episode in Maine when Katz gets lost: somehow the friendship is altered. How does Bryson's attitude toward Katz change over the course of the book? How does Katz himself change? Or does he? What was Katz's motivation, anyway, to walk the AT?
- The book offers an excellent microscope through which to examine the meaning of friendship—our own friendships. Do the two men remind you of friends who tested your patience, but who exhibited intense loyalty?
- In fiction a journey usually symbolizes a journey of self-discovery—at the end the protagonist comes to learn something about him/herself. Although A Walk isn't a novel, do either of the men come to greater self-awareness by the end of their journey?
- The tone of the book veers back and forth between humor and seriousness, even anger. In fact, the book is a sort of jeremiad against environmental threats to the great wilderness areas of the country. Is Bryson's anger justified? He criticizes, but does he offer solutions? Are there solutions?
- Katz pokes fun at rural Southerners, which some readers find funny, others find offensive. What did you think?
- Bryson ponders the attraction of hiking: ''You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation." If you're a hiker, backpacker, camper, are your experiences similar to or different from Bryson's? For those who aren't hikers, are there other avenues to "exist in a tranquil tedium"?
- You might also talk about the numerous characters Bryson and Katz meet on the trail. Mary Ellen is one, for instance: how do you feel about their treatment of her?
Kentucky Hiking Books:
Hike the Bluegrass : your guide to hiking, walking, and strolling across Central Kentucky by Valerie L. Askren. 2011
60 hikes within 60 miles, Cincinnati : including Southwest Ohio, Southeast Indiana, and Northern Kentucky by Tamara York. 2009
Hiking Kentucky : a guide to Kentucky's greatest hiking adventures by Michael W. Brown. 2007
50 hikes in Kentucky : from the Appalachian Mountains to the land between the lakes by Hiram Rogers. 2002
Hiking Kentucky by Michael H. Brown. 2002
Hiking Kentucky by Brook Elliott, Barbara Elliott. 1998
Hiking Kentucky : scenic trails of the Bluegrass State by Darcy & Robert Folzenlogen. 1995