Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Walk in the Woods

Image sourced from here
This particular romp takes us through hiking the Appalachian Trail in the eastern most states in America, through the stereotypical storytelling, facts and ranting of Bryson. The trail starts in Georgia and works it's way along the coastal states to Maine. Bryson and his friend Katz decide to walk the whole thing, with no hiking experience, as well as being rather unfit.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I was worried it would be a bit too much about their particular hike and day to day activities. Walked, pitched tent, slept, walked, etc. But I should have known better. While there were parts that were definitely regarding them on the trail, these were tied in wonderfully to history, science, tales of environmental destruction and woe, but also the wonderful anecdotes of the other people they encounter on the trail or experiences they have.

As always, Bryson handles his stories about the environment and the amazing devastation we humans are causing, and then through our own incompetence are increasing, beautifully. He doesn't preach (possibly unlike the reviewer). He states with an air of exasperation. What troubles me is that it is nearly 20 years since the books publication. I hate to think of the state of affairs now.

My one problem with the book, is the whole thing was written in the imperial system. Which is fine, as Bryson is an American in America. But as there were so many measurements (miles hiked per day, feet of mountains, slopes rising at rates) and temperatures, it really did hurt my brain converting all the time to meters, kilometers and celsius. There were a few pages in the last third of the book which were discussing mountain heights in great detail. I couldn't keep up. The book was thrown across the room with a long and loud tirade about backwards systems.

It honestly detracted from my enjoyment of the book as I had to stop at least once a page to convert something in my head to a vague approximation. And I probably was off a lot of the time. I was more annoyed as my copy was an Australian copy. I would recommend people check if there is a metric version available if you think this would bother you too.

But it honestly is a minor quibble. It's another enjoyable, educational and very funny read.

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