I Give Up Book Review: “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson (1998)

“Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail”

After reading Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, I figured I had found a friendly author who could offer me some genuine and trustworthy travel adventures from across the globe, shaded with his dark irony and humor and speckled with historical factoids that can make me a wiser person. After delving about 100 pages into A Walk in the Woods, however, I learned that Bryson isn’t so much a wizened adventure-hunter whose powerful vision and experiences are pure gold once they hit the page. In fact, he’s simply a regular, out-of-shape dude whose bitterness at his own physical exhaustion and the loss of his creature comforts comes out in vile sarcasm and hatred toward his own fellow-travelers.

The way he treats the heavy girl—as annoying as she might have been in reality—should give cause for anyone to question his amicability toward the human race. A traveler needn’t love everyone, but when he hates so mercilessly on the people about whom he’s writing, the reader has every right to toss the book away without a second thought (see, for example, Why China Will Never Rule the World by Troy Parfitt). Beyond this (and from a Christian’s point of view), Bryson’s evolutionary and environmental bent (somewhat subdued in Sunburned) takes center stage in Woods at times, giving me the insatiable urge to either skip through the pages or to put the book down altogether. I finally did, and found that I never picked it up again.

While I’ve added several more of Bryson’s books to my library (I specifically look forward to his language-related works like The Mother Tongue and Made in Americia), it will take me quite a while to get back into his writing. I’ve lost respect for him as a writer, for it’s quite clear that in this blogging age where anyone can vent as they wish, only the quality writers will offer anything that will result in the reader’s growth. Reading works by “Jerks who loves America” simply isn’t enough for me anymore.

©2014 E.T.

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