Brother Blood: a book review

As I am about to start 48 Peaks, yet another hiking book, I find myself reflecting on the last book I *tried* to read.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it yet.

I have loved almost every hiking book that I’ve read. They all seem to have something to offer, from gear tips to information about hostels and hotels, from how to hike with other people to how to hike alone.

However, I can’t really say that about Brother Blood on the Appalachian Trail. I was looking forward to this book when I started it.  A fifty year old man (hey, I’m going to be fifty when I hike) starts hiking the AT with not a lot of hiking experience (that’s me too) and makes it all the way through.  This sounded like the perfect book to be next in my collection.

It was not.

Brother Blood has a serious case of superiority going in his book, against everyone he says is part of the “culture of fear.”   If you filter your water, you are living in the culture of fear.  If you wear long sleeved or long panted clothing to avoid ticks with Lyme disease, you live in the culture of fear.  Basically, if you use common sense at all, it’s because you are afraid.  And he is soooo much better than that.

Not only does common sense offend him, but other AT hiker/authors do too.  For example, I had just finished Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis when I started this book.  In one small town, Pharr Davis reports being made to feel uncomfortable by the townsfolk and especially by the men in a bar she stopped at to grab a meal.  Brother Blood made a point of going to the same town, the same bar and reporting that he felt right at home and couldn’t understand what her “bitching” was about.

Let’s try this.  She was a 20-something year old woman on her own in a bar full of liquored up rednecks.  You are a 50 year old liquored up redneck in a bar full of your compatriots. I wonder why you had different experiences. Yes, I’m sounding pretty judgy myself right now, but that’s how annoyed I was / am. 

Brother Blood’s account also seems to be a travelogue of how to go from one liquor store to the next on the AT. Just about every other paragraph is about him buying bottles of wine, getting drunk in the bars, drinking and not sharing his wine or beer at shelters, and how much beer can be had from trail magic providers.

I went into this book hoping for nuggets of wisdom for my own hike next year.  What I got instead was an outpouring of disdain and smugness that truly bothers me.  I am debating not finishing the book, but part of me still hopes that I will gather some nugget of gold yet. I’m afraid, though, that it will just be more of the same.

What is your least favorite hiking book so far.


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