Online Book Club: “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson

Online Book Club: What is it?

Love the idea of a book club, but you don’t have time to attend meetings? No problem!

January 2020 is the first month CCPL cardholders can participate in our Online Book Club.

We won’t have meetings, but anyone who reads or listens to that month’s title can participate in our online discussion boards on Facebook and our blog posts.

If you’re busy, but love to read, this could be the perfect Book Club for you!

This month’s book is A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.

About A Walk in the Woods

The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find.

He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way—and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

About Bill Bryson

William McGuire “Bill” Bryson, OBE, FRS was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson’s hilarious first travel book, he chronicled a trip in his mother’s Chevy around small town America. It was followed by Neither Here Nor There, an account of his first trip around Europe. Other travel books include the massive bestseller Notes From a Small Island, which won the 2003 World Book Day National Poll to find the book which best represented modern England, followed by A Walk in the Woods (in which Stephen Katz, his travel companion from Neither Here Nor There, made a welcome reappearance), Notes From a Big Country and Down Under.

Bill Bryson has also written several highly praised books on the English language, including Mother Tongue and Made in America. In his last book, he turned his attention to science. A Short History of Nearly Everything was lauded with critical acclaim, and became a huge bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, before going on to win the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. His next book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, is a memoir of growing up in 1950s America, featuring another appearance from his old friend Stephen Katz. October 8 sees the publication of A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.

Readalikes for A Walk in the Woods

Consider taking a moment to read this interview with Susanna Clarke from BBC . . .

The library owns several of Ms. Clarke’s other books if you’d like to check them out as well.

Readalikes for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Discussion questions

  1. What are your thoughts around the relationship between Bryson and Katz? Can you relate to this relationship?
  2. In fiction a journey usually symbolizes a journey of self-discovery—at the end the protagonist comes to learn something about him/herself. Although A Walk isn’t a novel, do either of the men come to greater self-awareness by the end of their journey?
  3. Did you enjoy the informational tidbits/tangents on history, geology, ecology, and social customs throughout this book? Did any ignite your interest? If so, which ones and why? If not, why not?
  4. Are you a hiker? What are your hiking experiences? Could you relate to Bryson’s experiences at all? Are you interested in attempting the AT, PCT, or CDT?
  5. Did the ending of the book “feel right” to you? What do you think the author meant about it not feeling right about cutting grass after hiking the Appalachian Trail?

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