Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods (on CD)
Book Review by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony

This probably wouldn't be a book I'd have read by choice. I've written travel books myself, and there's just so much more I'm curious about than somebody else's trek. Yeah, I know that sounds rather hypocritical and/or self-defeating given my current audience (you). But, really, if you're a travel writer, I'd totally understand if you didn't care to read my stuff. And again, I'm not saying I don't like travel books, I'm just saying my curiosity begs for something I know less about. Secondly, a friend/editor once sent me a Bryson work called “Troublesome Words.” Of course, it's not Bill's fault that I took it as an affront to my serendipitous tendency to swap the write word for the wrong one. (Yes, I know, I did that one for effect … isn't that serendipitous?) Of course, I'm only being half serious. Grumble, grumble. I greatly appreciated the friend's gift (thank you Kenny, really!) and I'm always happy (mostly always), to be corrected when my words become troublesome (which as Kenny knows, is often enough to warrant that useful little Bryson reference book).

Speaking of serendipity, I stumbled across “A Walk in the Woods” on CD at a library clearance sale. I bought it for that friend. But, as it turns out, within a month I found myself on a 10-hour biz road trip, so I brought it along. It sure fit that need. On the 5 from LA to SanFran, the hours breezed by with Bryson. (No, I'm not being snide. I really appreciated the book.) Sitting in the comfort of an a/c cooled automobile projecting passed distance wildlife at 70 miles per hour, I followed Bill and his quirky pal (Catz, or Katz, or Cats … I don't know, I read it on CD) as they backpacked over felled trees and mossy boulders.

I'd venture to say that without the interaction of these two compelling characters, the book would have lost half its worth. But, yeah, I enjoyed getting the scoop on a hike I may never take. Even still, it made me kid myself that one day I might give it a go. That says a lot for the book, because although I love great vistas, I'm not really the ready-hiker. Katz would understand.

Bryson likes to stick to the trail with his feet, but his pen indulges in tangents. Nothing at with that. I'm a ready-tangenteer. Most of Bill's tangents can be summed up in an odd attraction to retelling morose murder stories of the past, many reminders of how human action is killing off many and varied species of plants and animals, and a complete frustration with the National Park Service's ability to do anything competently. He'll also riddle the reader with a great many related facts that may go decades back in history, most of them are interesting. Early on, Bryson takes a shot at Henry Thoreau (regarded as the quintessential American wilderness writer). The shot is deserved. Thoreau’s an interesting character, but he's really not the Daniel Boone people think he is. That said, I love Bryson's line about Boone. “If Daniel Boone says he's afraid to go to some particular woods – we'd better be pretty scared about what's in there.” (I paraphrase.)

The mortar between these elements is Bryson's almost Twainy nagging of people who don't think well, parts of the South, and again, the National Park Service.

I'd have liked him to wax more philosophic, but he really doesn't. And I challenge him to use the adjective “Patently” only once in his next book. On the whole though, I'd recommend taking the AT hike with Bill's book.

Read more Book Reviews by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 29-Feb-2012 11:22:34 PST