Bill Bryson vs. Cheryl Strayed

A few weeks ago, I started A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and a just yesterday I decided to pick up Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. The obvious similarity between the works — documenting the writer’s journey along the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, respectively — but the difference in purpose and gender of the writer made me think reading Strayed would be a great companion to Bryson.

While both writers are completely unprepared for their journey, the differences in the books couldn’t be more startling.  I look forward to relaxing as I read A Walk in the Woods. Bryson’s poetic, friendly style allows me to drift smoothly into his sentences; I’m swept up into his elegant prose; I feel as though I’m right there with him. He’s funny, critical, witty, and keenly observant. In comparison, Strayed’s words clang together, some details fail to add depth to the narrative, and her observations fall flat. I notice errors in word choice, syntax, wordiness, organization, clarity, and context. My critical eye — intensified by the hours I spend grading essays — can’t close when I read Strayed.

I’ll keep plugging through Strayed, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the end.

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6 thoughts on “Bill Bryson vs. Cheryl Strayed

  1. I two have read both books. I really enjoyed Stayed’s glimpse in to her time on the trail, but part of my love may have been biased, as I am a west coast girl who was living on the east coast when I read it. The pull of home and descriptions of places I missed may have had an influencing factor.
    (Here is my review: http://insearchoftheendofthesidewalk.com/2012/04/02/wild-from-lost-to-found-on-the-pacific-crest-trail-by-cheryl-strayed/)

    I read Into the Woods several years ago and loved every minute of it. There were parts of his tale that had me laughing out loud, but his sincerity throughout was what caught my eye the most.

    Reading your blog makes me wonder how I would review each book if I had read them simultaneously. It is an interesting thought…

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