I am a member of several online hiking groups.  We discuss places we’ve been, share photos, and talk about gear.  Every now and then someone starts the topics of books to read while on the trail, or books to read about the trail.  That’s how I came upon Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith. I immediately put in a request to my local library, without looking any further into it.  I didn’t read the book’s description or any reviews.  I assumed (we all know that’s a bad thing to do) that it was a novel, like Wild; that it simply was going to tell me a story about this couple who visited all 58 of the National Parks.

It started off that way, but it wasn’t very long before I started thinking “This book would move along much better if they’d stop interrupting the story line to spout off random, detailed facts about each park.  Some parts read more like a guidebook than a story.” My own thoughts actually stopped me in my tracks. What if…..? I looked at the book’s spine and saw that the library had categorized it as non-fiction.  I looked it up online and found one reviewer who called it “a great guidebook with personal stories thrown in.”  So , here I am, judging a book for being too informational, when other see it as a guidebook!  The authors however, deny this status in the preface, stating “This is not a guide to the national parks. It’s a series of snapshots and impressions based on our experience.”

Now in the correct mindset, I read on.  This book is full of advice, anecdotes and humor.  It’s written as a series of emails sent from either Matt or Karen, to their friends back home, as they travel around the U.S. visiting national parks.  Though the couple have clearly done a lot of hiking in their lives, there were several points in the book where I found myself laughing and shaking my head, thinking “Such city people!” like when Matt told us about Karen’s fear of squirrels, and the time they met some through-hikers on a section of the Appalachian Trail and thought the other hikers were going to mug them for their granola bars.  My favorite quote from the book is:


I do think it could use an index.  Even if the authors don’t consider it a guidebook, it would be nice to be able to look up a specific park to read about.  Have you read Dear Bob and Sue? Share your thoughts in the comments. Or tell me about your favorite book about hiking. Be sure to follow me here, and on social media (@rgseekingadventure) to see more book reviews and adventures!