A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America Along the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Bryson and his friend Katz decide to hike the Appalachian trail, starting in the mountains of Georgia and ending up in Maine. The trek is long–although no one can say exactly how long–and requires a great deal of faith. Along the way, Bryson reflects on how the trail has changed since its inception and what it means for hikers today and into the future.
This was my first experience with Bryson, and I don’t think it will be my last. There’s a lot to recommend here: Bryson’s writing is engaging, funny, frequently witty, and above all else, extremely accessible. Bryson manages to weave narrative nonfiction with facts about the Applachian trail in a way that is nearly seamless. This book will appeal to all sorts of readers: those who love travel memoirs, those who love ruminations about nature and history, and those who are just looking for a fun, smart read.
Lakeside Cottage by Susan Wiggs
A fairly typical contemporary romance set in the Pacific Northwest, Susan Wiggs’s novel features Kate, a single mom, and JD, a reluctant American hero. Add in a summer lake house, a teenage runaway, and some good summer grilling, and you’ve got yourself a novel.
Any further descriptions of the plot make me feel fairly silly, but the novel itself was pleasant enough (though not so pleasant that I’ll be picking up any more of her titles). Earnest, moving, and carefully plotted, this will work for readers looking for a gentler romance (we have a fade-to-black approach to any and all sex scenes). The weirdly didactic social issues were off-putting for me but will work for readers who like a touch of reality to their romances.
State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
Olivia Paras is one of the chefs in the White House Kitchen. She’s good at her job and likes it that way. She’s also dating one of the Secret Service officers–but they keep it under wraps for a number of reasons. When she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and an assassination attempt, Olivia isn’t sure who to trust or what to believe. A White House Chef mystery, Hyzy’s novel features food, terrorism, and a tiny bit of romance. It’s closer to cozy-mystery than anything else, and it will definitely work for readers who like the food sub-genre of mysteries (who knew there was such a thing?). While it was enjoyable enough (like cotton candy without the caloric guilt), I don’t feel compelled to read the next in the series.
Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
Jack Reacher roams the country and finds himself in trouble wherever he goes. He can’t seem to help it–he’s curious, and once he’s onto the scent of something fishy, he can’t let it go until he figures it out. When he wanders into the town of Despair (no, seriously), he’s struck by how unfriendly everyone is. Why do they want him out of town so badly, and what are they hiding?
My first and hopefully last experience with Lee Child and his enigmatic hero Jack Reacher. While I certainly understand the appeal of these books (they are pure and utter escapism for the graying population), they’re way, way too ridiculous for me. If you can’t get enough of them, I’ve got good news and bad news: the good news is a movie’s in production; the bad is that Tom Cruise is playing the 6’4″ Reacher.