Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Things You Find on the Appalachian Trail: A Memoir of Discovery, Endurance and a Lazy Dog - by Kevin Runolfson

Bridgewater, Massachusetts' One Book One Community selection for spring 2014 is Bill Bryson's memoir of an ill-fated attempt to hike the entire Appalachian Trial.  A Walk in the Woods is a book which I found hysterically funny. There was some discussion on the One Book Steering Committee, though, about whether some might not enjoy Bryson's particular brand of humor the way that I do, and that perhaps we should suggest some alternative selections. Runolfson's book looks like it is clearly in the running. I think it will have wide appeal with a variety of populations, especially since the author's faithful dog, Rufus plays such an endearing role in the work.

Hiking the entire trail from Georgia to Maine between March and October 2001 in an effort to recover from a bad divorce Runolfson learns much about himself, and the kindness of strangers, as he also finds love on the trail.

Of course, I was thrilled to read that he stopped at several libraries during his six-month quest. He specifically mentions this for the first time as he walks through the Virginia portion of the trail. He first mentions one small library in Glasgow, which I am not sure he actually stopped in, but he is clearly happy to find a "huge library two blocks from the campsite" in Waynesboro where he can access e-mail. He also uses the public library near the end of the New York portion of the trail to use a pay phone (I wonder if those are still functional along the AT?) and to "waste the rest of the day reading". Although normally I would take issue with the using the verb "waste" in conjunction with reading and spending time in a library, I'm going to let this one slide, he did after all, have a long journey with a bit of a deadline. He also mentions visiting the library in Rutland, Vermont.

Public libraries are important institutions that serve many constituencies. It is good to know that a visitor to a town can use the public library to read, check e-mail, use the rest room, refill their water bottle, use a pay phone, or simply take a break. Supporting the library in your own town is the ultimate act of kindness to strangers. When you use the library in another town you are the beneficiary of the kindness of others. This is how a civil society functions.

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