A prominent theme in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods centers around Bryson's relationship to the natural environment he endeavors to explore. Bryson goes back and forth between noting the beauty of the landscape and the value of experiencing the vistas for oneself, and the difficulties of a gear-laden hike and the many dangers that surround him as he travels (he seems particularly focused on bears). The natural world is both dangerous and beautiful, and this theme is the through line of the text, connecting all of Bryson’s triumphs and pitfalls.
Bryson’s dry wit permeates the text, and the tone can be described as humorous, sarcastic, candid, and, at times, poignant. The mood of the book oscillates between serious, informative prose and lighthearted humor.
The title represents the trail’s accessibility to Americans but is ultimately meant to be ironic. It is a humorous way of describing the Appalachian Trail, which is thousands of miles long, covers incredibly difficult terrain, and costs Bryson both months of his time and hundreds of dollars in gear to experience. It is certainly not a simple hike. Yet, Bryson and Katz, with virtually no experience, strike out together and achieve this “walk.”