Frederick Whithers is attempting to forge his way into an inheritance of £90000. The first problem is he's in jail. The second problem is the inherita...moreFrederick Whithers is attempting to forge his way into an inheritance of £90000. The first problem is he's in jail. The second problem is the inheritance must occur in a way that seems perfectly legal, even while it's not. The third problem is he's being chased by vampires who believe him to be the Great One, a vampire of unspeakable power, and he can do nothing to convince them he's not. Along the way he meets a host of literary giants -- John Keats, Mary Shelley, and more, each with foibles and quirks you didn't read about in your history books. Rollickingly good time, humor and puns galore. Could have used a smidgen more proofreading, though. :-)(less)
(Disclosure: I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2008, so I have a fair bit of direct experience with the Appalachian Trail and with thru-hiking. Bu...more(Disclosure: I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2008, so I have a fair bit of direct experience with the Appalachian Trail and with thru-hiking. But I hiked it southbound, not northbound, and the two directions have very different social characteristics. So I'm better-informed than average concerning this book's subject matter -- but I'm also missing personal experience of some of the context, and I'm relying on the words and stories of many other people along the A.T. when I hiked it to understand northbounder culture. So, caveat lector. And as a personal note, this book despite its biases probably played some part in my deciding to thru-hike the A.T. So when I think of much of the content of this book, I do so with some nostalgia.)
Bill Bryson decides to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Starting from near nil backpacking experience, he and his friend Katz stumble their way north up the trail, suffering the usual travails of such a trip: bad weather, unappetizing food, undesired company, and of course physical unpreparedness and simple exhaustion. But, it being Bill Bryson, these rather ordinary obstacles (for a thru-hiker) turn into a rollicking account of their tackling of the trail. Neither actually hikes the entire trail -- they give up on the ideal of hiking it entirely after about 200 miles as I recall -- but Bryson strings together enough sections of it in subsequent months to be able to claim to have hiked a substantial portion of it. Along the way, Bryson interweaves a discussion of the US national park and forest systems, and of Appalachian Trail history more generally. And it's all presented with his customary humor.
If you're looking for a book that talks about the thru-hiker experience -- the real thru-hiker experience, of someone who walks the entire distance (more or less) and suffers only as someone backpacking a couple thousand miles will do -- this book is not for you. Serious backpacking of the sort needed to finish a thru-hike involves a lot more application of yourself to living in the outdoors than these two clowns (stated with all love) are willing to supply. (Not that there's anything wrong with that -- no reason everybody has to be thru-hiker-crazy. :-) ) That said, an Appalachian Trail thru-hike can involve a lot of the craziness Bryson and Katz encountered along the way. Northbound hikers in particular form a pretty spirited community, consisting of the people who you wonder how they manage to hike given how hard they party along the way, the people who enjoy themselves when they can but still progress steadily, and the people who are in it to win it and hike it. (Southbounders tend to be a bit more focused, because they start with the hardest terrain of the trail, and generally they're more aware what they're getting into. Plus there are fewer of them, and fewer large gatherings of them. But this doesn't mean the bonds of community are any less tight-knit -- and perhaps they're even more tight-knit.) So this is not an entirely inaccurate portrayal of thru-hiking -- just a highly colored one that exaggerates the importance of the colorful characters and downplays the importance of the unwashed masses (pun intended) who exhibit mostly solid technique and perseverance (but still manage to have their fun along the way, too).
So then: if you're looking for a humorous, quite distorting gloss on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, this is the book for you. If you're looking for something more realistic, there are plenty of other thru-hike memoirs to read (although I can't speak to their quality, having not read any myself). And if you just want to read about trail life and you're not concerned about getting a fully-polished presentation, Trail Journals will give you access to journals of many past hikers, and realtime updates on present hikers.(less)
Catch-22 is the story of Yossarian, a member of the US air force in World War II. The story loosely chronicles his time on the base. But mostly, it's...moreCatch-22 is the story of Yossarian, a member of the US air force in World War II. The story loosely chronicles his time on the base. But mostly, it's an extended exercise in ridiculing military processes, thought, and actions, and at demonstrating just how crazy war is. The ridiculously exaggerated characters and their foibles make the story. They're so bizarre and chaotically presented as to almost make it difficult to follow -- but the humor is so excellent that it doesn't matter. It's a long book, worth the time to read.(less)
In the mood for something humorous, light, and snarky, perhaps as a palate cleanser between more serious fare? Look no further than this book.
Wikipedi...moreIn the mood for something humorous, light, and snarky, perhaps as a palate cleanser between more serious fare? Look no further than this book.
Wikipedia's incredibly useful as a way to learn about pretty much any topic you'd care to investigate. Yet because it's user-edited, it's easy to find horrible writing, obsessive attention to irrelevant details, and aspirations to authoritative style that fall flat. (Which isn't to say that user editing is bad on the whole, just that it has its demerits.) The authors link to and excerpt a couple hundred instances of Wikipedia editorial failure, offering brief comment on each. (Although, not to a particular revision containing the quoted text. Even still, I was surprised by how many of the handful of linked articles I viewed still contained the quoted text, and had not been cleaned up by subsequent user edits.)
The style of humor is classic Internet snark (not surprising as the book is a spinoff of the [Citation Needed] blog). If that appeals to you, you'll probably enjoy this for the hour or two it takes to read the entire thing. If it doesn't, get your daily dose of humor somewhere else.(less)