Bill Bryson

It has been some months now since I joined my local book group. For a long time I had been searching for an opportunity to meet with reading enthusiasts, a place to discuss stories and the merits of the written word. My search led me to use electronic intervention and in mere minutes of searching the internet, I had found one.

The group met at a bar in my local town called ‘Taps’, a swanky shindig sitting near the Cathedral and with an undeniable aura of grace and sophistication. I entered the door and was led down a passageway into a small cellar where I found a group of people sitting round tables and chatting books. I felt as if I was going to be initiated into some secret cult of readers, an underground society in which you must vow to keep secrets or suffer the consequences.

I sat down and the book discussion commenced. I could do little to join the wave of the conversation because of my lack of knowledge of the current book in discussion. Towards the end, the Grand Magus of the cult – and by that I mean the Chairman – revealed the book set for discussion next month … ‘A Walk in The Woods’ by Bill Bryson.

I bought the book immediately and began to read its pages. Bill Bryson, the British-living American, writes about the incredible experience of attempting to travel the entire of the Appalachian Trail, the longest continual footpath in the world.

Bryson is a very humorous man. His writing is extremely down-to-earth (to the point he could be a friend talking to you at the pub) and his clever use of language, sarcasm and curiosity with the world shine through on almost every page. Most humorous of all however is the dialogue between Bryson and his walking companion, comedian, butt of most jokes and travelling partner ‘Katz’.

Katz is presented as an ex- alcoholic, overweight and clueless man brought along as a ‘friend’ in the wilderness. The rapport between the two men is one of the most entertaining elements of the book, and you get a real sense of the intricate balance between often getting on each other’s nerves, but really needing the other’s company.

The book is hilarious, fascinating, informative and very human, and therefore so easy to identify with. It is Bryson’s down-to-earth writing and average-guy-attitude that permeates the piece, mixing his adventurous recollections with the more common conversations that make us all human beings with families and bills to pay.

A book for travel-seekers, general readers, walking-enthusiasts … and those with a family and bills to pay, of course.

Book review by Edward Astill 

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