If you’ve never read a book by the masterful travel writer Bill Bryson, then I don’t even want to be friends with you, get off my blog.
The short of it is, Bill was born in the Midwest, then after a backpacking trip in his teens decided to just stay in Europe, he married an English woman, and they stayed in the UK for the next twenty or so years, coming back to the US, about fifteen years ago, and then back to the UK in the early 2000s, whew, yes I know.
Regardless, due to this back and forth, he has gained some travel experience some of us have never dreamed of, and he is very astute at noticing the quirky customs and rituals that countries and people have and writing about them. He mainly focuses on the UK, and the US, establishing the commonalities (the language) and the differences (the language) between them, so while his stories can be full of historical references, the way he writes really pulls you in. I’ve personally read many of his books, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, and Made in America.
BUT, if there were only one book you have to read by Bill Bryson it is A Walk in the Woods.
I would have trouble reading this book in public places, usually finding myself howling with laughter every few pages. You don’t need to be a hiking or nature buff to enjoy it either, the story in itself is classic enough, Bill, now well into middle age, decides one day he wants to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail, however the only person he can find to go with him is an old high school buddy Katz, probably the only person on the planet more unfit than Bill to take this journey on. And the story goes from there. From Bill:
“I was especially riveted by an amateur photograph in Herrero’s book, taken late at night by a camper with a flash at a campground out West. The photograph caught four black bears as they puzzled over a suspended food bag. The bears were clearly startled but not remotely alarmed by the flash. It was not the size or demeanor of the bears that troubled me — they looked almost comically unagressive, like four guys who had gotten a Frisbee caught up a tree — but their numbers. Up to that moment it had not occurred to me that bears might prowl in parties. What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties — I daresay it would even give a merry toot — and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.”
How do you put that down?