Book Aesthetic

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes.  An adventure to one may be nothing more than a day at the office to another.  I’m sure the necessary conditions of “adventure” have an element of subjectivity, but I’m also sure that for something to constitute an adventure one must abandon their comfort zone.

By this measure, a free spirited dirtbag spending a week in a business office would constitute an adventure as would a white-collared executive spending a week on the trail.  Of course, adventures can vary in degrees depending on several different factors including adaptability, risk of harm, ambition to succeed, and level of discomfort.

That being said, my latest adventure book may not have had the same level of intensity and risk as prior books in this series, but it was an adventure.  A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is essentially a story of two companions learning together what adventure means.  As they attempt to navigate the Appalachian Trail with limited experience and an abundance of resolve they pick up a thing or two about the meaning of adventure!

Bill Bryson and his travelling mate Stephen Katz must have been a sight to behold.  Not the youngest, the fittest, or most knowledgeable, but they learned along the way.  They suffered, boy did they suffer, but they never lost their sense of humor, and they never lost their sense of commitment.  My favorite part of this entire book was experiencing their transformation from suburbanites who forced themselves to adapt to the trail into hikers who needed to readapt to life off the trail.

On a side note, I have to say that this is the first book I have ever bought based on a particular one-star Amazon review. 

“Great book if you love people who love themselves to an extreme. Also a great read if you hate the United States, especially southerners. Perfect for the “open-minded, progressive” types who look down their noses at anyone who doesn’t behave and think exactly like themselves. Also, a great gift for anyone who likes books that pretend to be about people doing something, but then are really just about quitting doing that thing before they really get started.”

1 Star Amazon Review

I’m not saying this review describes my likes or interests in any way, but this is an entertaining level of disdain for a book about a couple of guys attempting to go for a hike.  It piqued my curiosity, and I’m happy that it did.


Book Aesthetic for A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson#climbing #rockclimbing #bookaesthetic #booktok #hiking

♬ Paradise – Ikson

It was nice to put together a book aesthetic that didn’t include death, disease, loss, and unimaginable suffering.  It’s a light-hearted amusing adventure that anyone could enjoy. So, whether you’re an open-minded progressive type, or a close-minded non-progressive type, there is something in this adventure for everybody!

For October we are heading to Moab for Edward Abbey’s philosophical memoir about life as a park ranger in Arches National Park. Adventure through isolation! If you feel like reading along you can find a copy of Desert Solitaire HERE.


29 Replies to “Book Aesthetic”

  1. I love this book. I just watched the movie again.

    I think it’s an illusion that an adventure has to be heading off to Patagonia in a one engine plane to climb. I think it’s partly in the approach and the quality of the “unknown” and relative, yeah. I’d be hiking in the mountains 30 miles east of San Diego with my dogs and groups of hikers would stop me and say, “Aren’t you scared to be out here alone?” I guess what I was doing would have been an adventure for them. 😀

    Then there was the day that was just so beautiful that Molly and I wanted to see ALL the places and ended up hiking 28 miles. All I can say is we were both starving at the end of that. Luckily, there was very good water on the trail and our meanderings brought us twice to the well… I dunno… Writing a book is an adventure. 💚

    I can’t wait to read your take on Desert Solitaire. I love that book; I loved teaching from it in my Critical Thinking through Nature Writing class. That book led a couple students into an Outdoor Leadership Training major.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I knew an outdoor leadership degree existed when I was in college then there might be one less “Professional Philosopher” in the world. That sounds spectacular!

      Also please tell me you posted and have a link to your syllabus from your nature writing class. If not, and you ever decide to write a post about that class and the assigned readings, then PLEASE tag me or let me know in some capacity or another. That must have been among the best classes offered.

      I wish we offered something like that at my school, I would sit in to every lecture for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If there’d been an outdoor leadership degree when I was in school, I’d never have toyed with art and the world would have been bereft an English teacher. I had TWO great opportunities in my life, but I didn’t know what they were when they appeared. One was a career at Head Ski; the other was working for Boojum Adventures (may still be around). Sometimes we’re just obtuse to our own selves.

        I think I still have a kid’s homework from that class — their journal was to spend an hour in nature every week, in the same place, so they could observe the changes and become intimate with it. It could be just their back yard.

        I’ll dig around to see if I have a syllabus. The primary text book was Vincent Ryan Ruggiero’s book, Beyond Feelings. Love that book.

        Then there was Desert Solitaire, some classic nature writing — parts of Walden and Walking, Emerson’s essay, Nature. Conversations with the Arch-Druid by John McPhee, some of Dave Quammen’s essays from Wild Thoughts from Wild Places (since we were in CA and coyotes were everywhere), We watched Into Thin Air and the Nat Geo version of that expedition in which David Breshears is critical — angry? — about the deaths — the point was to illustrate that there is such a thing as objective reality and you can’t fool Mother Nature. There were other things, changing from time to time since I subscribe(d) to Outside Magazine it was cool to bring that in, too. I’ll look. The journal had weekly focused writing which the students loved — usually just a passage from some nature writing or science at the top of the page to kind of guide them as they looked.

        Because of the class a couple of girls went up to the Laguna Mountains when it snowed. Their journals were wonderful for that — “We didn’t expect it to be so cold!” ❤

        I loved building and teaching that class. Now there are whole textbooks for Nature Writing. That's cool, but it was fun to be teaching it before it became a curriculum.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I never ever dreamed to textbooks for nature writing, or anthologies of nature writing, I may have to write some book publishers and see if they can send over a few desk copies.

        Thank you for opening my eyes to this idea. Maybe it turns into a sabbatical where I can create a new class based around this idea.

        I’m not sure it will fly, but it’s worth a try!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Give it a shot. One of my colleagues came back from the MLA conference with the idea. We wrote a proposal (he was tenured, I was not) and it was approved and it was great. Then I took it to the university and taught it there for a few years. So much of philosophy deals with nature — I’m reading Erich Fromm right now (Escape from Freedom) and while he annoys greatly and often, he write about human freedom as being partly dependent on overcoming the power of nature (which we know is fucking impossible) — right I see an essay for some class I’m not teaching, but old habits die hard. Spinoza! My god! Just flashed through my mind. I think you can definitely make a case for this — I hope you will try and let me know how it goes. 💚

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I remember reading Escape from Freedom, and agree completely, I had to force myself to finish it…your point makes sense though.

        My biggest fear is that I would just want to talk about Emerson the whole time haha!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Same as above comment. I had no idea majors such as “adventure tourism” & “outdoor leadership” existed. I can only imagine how different the past decade would have been for me had I known and explored those options.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sorry, I found the book formulaic and the movie trite. This is a pretty harsh review from someone who has actually read all of Bryson’s books, and liked most of them.

    Did something really interesting happen when this expat American copy editor decided to test himself? Is this everyone’s idea of an adventure. Anyone’s?

    The book was a best seller, but I don’t think it will very become a classic. Well written and an easy read, the book left me with the feeling I’d just watched an episode of a TV soap opera. Maybe I expected more from an author whom I like and who can be very funny.

    If you really liked it, try out Bryson’s books about walking along the coast in England or revisiting Europe in his middle age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I may have an advantage of ignorance. I’ve never read Bryson or any author who dropped bits of comedy into an adventure, so I found that pretty interesting. Every adventure book I’ve read up until this one had me on the edge of my seat hoping the protagonist would survive.

      Not sure I would feel the same way if I had more experience with Bryson or comedic styles of writing…then this could have been a totally different review.

      You have me excited to read another one of his pieces though.

      Thanks for the comment and the recommendation, I’ll be taking a look at those for sure!


  3. A Walk in the Woods was a beautiful novel about a pair of men who had one more big adventure left in their aging bodies and took it. Think of the author as Tennyson’s “Ulysses” with a splash of humor and a dose of realism. I am jealous because my own knees can barely handle a dayhike.

    It had nothing to do with the one star Amazon review which I suspect was a troll. IMHO the movie and the book were both charming though slightly different. I preferred the book, my wife preferred the movie.

    His humor is spot on because I recognize the characters he’s dealing with. I’ve dealt with them myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I ran into them once in the Lagunas. They were two days into the PCT. There was an avid 50+ hiker in front. All new gear, organized, two trekking poles, marching along. He asked if Pioneer Mail campground was ahead and I told him he had 3 miles or so go go, nice bathrooms, good water, out of the wind, etc. “You’ll see my buddies. Thanks, bye.” Off he went.

      Then the middle guy (this story IS like the three bears) He had an older pack, everything packed, less fancy shoes, one pole, struggling a little and tired, but in an OK mood. “Did you see my buddy up ahead.”

      “Yeah.” The guy shook his head. Uh-oh. He was grumpy.

      “The campground isn’t far. You’ll be there before dark.” I told him. I kept going. Near the end of my hike, where the PCT and my trail split, I ran into the third guy. Just what you’d expect. Barely closed pack, sleeping back in his hand, mattress kind of rolled up and tied down, but slipping, loose socks and old shoes. He was in the BEST mood and having the BEST time.

      “You saw my buddies?”

      “Yeah. You don’t have far.” He had five miles. He’d get there after dark. I didn’t tell him all that. I had only 1/4, beautiful afternoon, one of my favorite hikes (up Garnet Peak) and a happy dog. I laughed most of the way back to my car. I’d recently read “A Walk in the Woods” and wondered if it had inspired this venture.

      I don’t think every book has to be a great work of art. I loved the book, laughed a lot, and have seen the movie several times. Just saw it a few nights ago.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The entire section on Mary had me in stitches…I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I am mostly looking forward to how they handled that character.

      In addition to the humor and journey, I think he did a good job of exposing a lot of the problems “the woods” is facing and will continue to face as long as we humans are around.

      Great connection to Ulysses!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I just wish my first backpacking “adventure” had been as full of humor as was Bryson’s. Looking back, it was funny, but, in the moment, no. I also wish I’d been able to write about my early flounderings as well as he did. So I read, enjoyed, and kept this book simply because it was a fun read and to remind me that not everyone who goes forth gets it “right” (per the armchair critics) the first time, or the second, or the third… But at least they gave it a go…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is the theme right, just give it a go. The folks who are shitting on him for not finishing seem to be missing the point entirely.

      Awesome comment, thank you!


  5. Perhaps not the best of Bryson’s books (and I’ve read many), but I did enjoy it quite a bit. I thought the film miscast the actors, though. Bryson as Robert Redford? In his wildest dreams!!

    I agree that adventure depends on where you’re coming from. Any big city is an adventure to me, being a rural dweller. Hiking is very pleasurable, but adventure? Not usually. I am prepared for weather, have food and water, first aid, etc. Those without those things might count on an adventure, whether they wanted it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so behind on Bryson, I’m really happy that I have been introduced to him and I’m excited to read more of his books!

      I haven’t seen the movie yet, nor have I seen Bryson, but it’s good to know what to expect. Thank you Eilene!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post and comments! I was encouraged by the movie to be bolder in my own journey as an older, non-outdoors person who now travels and lives in nature! Some of us have little to no experience or physicality to be climbers or backpackers. But the benefit of spending time in nature is enormous. I tell people “it’s the tonic I didn’t know I needed.” I write to encourage people to get out there and dip their toes in these magic waters. Will definitely check out this book!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Please don’t hate us, but we couldn’t finish the book. We did watch the movie. Kudos the producer and actors/actresses. Much love for Edward Abbey and we was engrossed in every word he wrote. The Arches is on our list of amazing places to visit…and the fifty cent, 1 day tour either. We want to immerse ourselves for days and appreciate its natural beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s