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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher: Published May 4th 1999 by Broadway Books (first published 1997)
ISBN: 9780767902526
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes—and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witne Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes—and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings. For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.

30 review for A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

  1. 4 out of 5

    erin

    It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I thought I'd spent the last of my holiday indulging in a witty travelogue to set my feet itching. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong book. Years of declining the advice of the Bryson-worshipers, it seems, was not in vain. I'm halfway through, and - like the author on the daunting trail - am unsure as to whether or not I can finish my task. Bryson sounds, to put it mildly, a real jerk. He's smug and superior, and spends most of the book complaining about his co It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I thought I'd spent the last of my holiday indulging in a witty travelogue to set my feet itching. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong book. Years of declining the advice of the Bryson-worshipers, it seems, was not in vain. I'm halfway through, and - like the author on the daunting trail - am unsure as to whether or not I can finish my task. Bryson sounds, to put it mildly, a real jerk. He's smug and superior, and spends most of the book complaining about his companions on the trail. A common motif is how everyone one is but a weekend hiker, that he is a true back-to-nature type in comparison. True, some of his encounters sound less than thrilling, but even the obnoxious woman he encounters should get credit for tackling the trail by herself. Instead, she's unceremoniously ditched (in real life as well as print) by the man who couldn't stomach the thought of going alone. He enlists the companionship of a long-lost friend with whom he'd proven incompatible on a previous travel experience. Said "friend" is then derided throughout the book for his sloth, roughness in manner, and lowbrow tastes. Meanwhile, Bryson paints himself as Guardian of the Trail, criticising the Parks Service along with all who venture through her woods. I'm still waiting for even a glimpse of the much-vaunted Bryson wit and charm to show itself. At the moment, he's nothing more than the stereotypical Blue Stater - putting himself on a pedestal while looking down his nose at everyone else. It's not attractive, and it makes for a very frustrating read. I wish he'd stayed home.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I am what some might call a pussy hiker. I do genuinely enjoy a leisurely stroll in the “mountains” of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. I like the pretty views. I always bring my conveniently-sized L.L. Bean backpack ($39.95 from the Kittery Outlets) so I have a place for my camera and cell phone. But by early afternoon, I would like to be done, please. I would like to be done and sitting at a booth in a pub with my burger and beer. Camping is certainly worthy of consideration, but here I am what some might call a pussy hiker. I do genuinely enjoy a leisurely stroll in the “mountains” of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. I like the pretty views. I always bring my conveniently-sized L.L. Bean backpack ($39.95 from the Kittery Outlets) so I have a place for my camera and cell phone. But by early afternoon, I would like to be done, please. I would like to be done and sitting at a booth in a pub with my burger and beer. Camping is certainly worthy of consideration, but here’s the deal: I don’t do rain. In light of the fact that weather reports are unreliable beyond a 48-hour window (and even that is pushing it in New England), it is unlikely I would ever camp for more than a two-night stay. Oh, and if I were to camp, I would like it to be at a site that has free Wi-Fi. What this amounts to is that the Appalachian Trail, endearingly referred to by those hiking it as “the AT,” will never be anything more to me than a lovely little map. (click to enlarge) BUT. I am glad for gung-ho people like Bryson and his chubby checker friend Katz who did walk “the AT” and are kind enough to let me know what I am missing. As it turns out, I am not missing much. This is not to downplay the extraordinarity of a 2,200-mile trail of wilderness running from Georgia to Maine, a trail that takes the average thru-hiker six months to complete, but in terms of day-to-day variation, it is basically a shitload of trees followed by another shitload of trees. For me, this book makes a better argument for the day hike. There are many parts of the trail I would enjoy, including the Smoky Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Delaware Water Gap. Like Bryson, though, I am a people person, and I enjoy my simple human comforts. I would like to see these areas without having to make an extended departure from civilization. Why can’t I have both—my nature and my nurture? Fortunately for me, almost a full third of the Appalachian Trail is in New England, so maybe I can have it all—because I think if there is one thing I’ve learned from Bryson’s experience, it is that I don’t have to suffer through long days of cold rain and hungry nights to enjoy what the Appalachian Trail has to offer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I kind of surprised I liked this book at all, because: a) I read pathetically little non-fiction b) I've never read a travelogue AND c) I'm only a fan of the Great Outdoors as long as I'm safely Indoors. So, color me shocked that I not only finished this, but giggled my way through quite a bit of it! Bryson really is a pretty funny writer, and the way he captured his experience on the Appalachian Trail had me in tears a few times. His fears about getting mauled by a bear (among other things) befor I kind of surprised I liked this book at all, because: a) I read pathetically little non-fiction b) I've never read a travelogue AND c) I'm only a fan of the Great Outdoors as long as I'm safely Indoors. So, color me shocked that I not only finished this, but giggled my way through quite a bit of it! Bryson really is a pretty funny writer, and the way he captured his experience on the Appalachian Trail had me in tears a few times. His fears about getting mauled by a bear (among other things) before he started off were especially hysterical, and maybe that's because I could see a lot of myself in his initial terror of spending so much time surrounded by...NATURE! Now, there was a decent-sized chunk towards the middle of the book that I just had to grit my teeth and push on through. Bryson's friend Katz wasn't with him during this portion, and the difference in the tone of the writing is really noticeable. Lots and lots and lots of mind-numbing details about the Trail, and very little of his experiences. And while all of that sort of info is relevant to the book, it's also the main reason that I don't actively seek out non-fiction or travelogues. Eventually, Katz comes back to finish out the hike, and the story vastly improves, but it never managed to recapture the humor or spirit that it had in the beginning. But that's only MY opinion. And I really did enjoy the last bits of the book a lot. Especially the moments between Katz & Bryson there towards the end. Overall, I'd say this was a winner. And even if the whole thing wasn't to my liking, the first half was an easy 5 star read for me. In fact, it made me want to call up my BFF to see if she wanted to take the kids camping this summer so we could poop near a waterfall! You know, instead of meeting at a hotel on the beach and drinking ourselves silly while the kids play in the surf. And then I thought about that sentence. Bwahahahahahahaha! No. Just...no. See you in Florida, Jill! I'll bring the blender!

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    I wanted to like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Not sure what I was expecting from this—perhaps more about hiking on the actual AT and the reasons Bryson made this trek—but I was mostly disappointed. It read like a series of travel brochures: here’s the history of the region on this section of the trail, and now another…There was much more attention devoted to towns along the route than hiking the actual trail. It was also disappointing that Br I wanted to like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Not sure what I was expecting from this—perhaps more about hiking on the actual AT and the reasons Bryson made this trek—but I was mostly disappointed. It read like a series of travel brochures: here’s the history of the region on this section of the trail, and now another…There was much more attention devoted to towns along the route than hiking the actual trail. It was also disappointing that Bryson noted the historical stereotypes of Appalachian people and casually confirmed their stupidity without any real interaction (not once but many times). The smugness of his remarks was irritating. I still would like to hike the AT, but Bryson did little to illuminate what it’s really like to hike the trail except to offer that it’s not what most people expect.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Bill Bryson calls the Appalachian Trail "the grandaddy of long hikes," but for me, this book is the granddaddy of hiking memoirs. I first read it sometime around 1999, and I enjoyed it so much that not only have I reread this multiple times, but it also inspired me to read at least a dozen other hiking adventures. None have matched Bryson's wit. Before he started writing long books on various aspects of history, Bryson was known for his entertaining travelogues. A Walk in the Woods was his humor Bill Bryson calls the Appalachian Trail "the grandaddy of long hikes," but for me, this book is the granddaddy of hiking memoirs. I first read it sometime around 1999, and I enjoyed it so much that not only have I reread this multiple times, but it also inspired me to read at least a dozen other hiking adventures. None have matched Bryson's wit. Before he started writing long books on various aspects of history, Bryson was known for his entertaining travelogues. A Walk in the Woods was his humorous take on attempting a long-distance hike of the Appalachian Trail, which spans more than 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. Here were his reasons for trying: "It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth. It would be an interesting and reflective way to reacquaint myself with the scale and beauty of my native land after nearly twenty years of living abroad. It would be useful (I wasn't quite sure in what way, but I was sure nonetheless) to learn to fend for myself in the wilderness. When guys in camouflage pants and hunting hats sat around in the Four Aces Diner talking about fearsome things done out-of-doors, I would no longer have to feel like such a cupcake. I wanted a little of that swagger that comes with being able to gaze at a far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, manly sniff, 'Yeah, I've shit in the woods.'" And so Bryson plans his trip, gets indignant over the high cost of outdoor equipment, and recruits an old friend, Stephen Katz, to walk the trail with him. Katz, an overweight, out-of-shape, recovering alcoholic, adds much hilarity to the adventure. The first day on the trail, Katz falls behind and has a fit, throwing away a lot of supplies in an effort to lighten the load of his pack. Later he gets lost during a stretch when they were dangerously low on water. But he's so pathetic and funny that you forgive him. Meanwhile, Bryson was having his own problems that first day: "It was hell. First days on hiking trips always are. I was hopelessly out of shape -- hopelessly. The pack weighed way too much. Way too much. I had never encountered anything so hard, for which I was so ill prepared. Every step was a struggle. The hardest part was coming to terms with the constant dispiriting discovery that there is always more hill ... The elusive summit continually retreats by whatever distance you press forward, so that each time the canopy parts enough to give a view you are dismayed to see that the topmost trees are as remote, as unattainable, as before. Still you stagger on. What else can you do?" After a few days on the trail, they met another hiker named Mary Ellen, who leeched onto them. "She was from Florida, and she was, as Katz forever after termed her in a special tone of awe, a piece of work. She talked nonstop, except when she was clearing out her eustachian tubes (which she did frequently) by pinching her nose and blowing out with a series of violent and alarming snorts of a sort that would make a dog leave the sofa and get under a table in the next room. I have long known that it is part of God's plan for me to spend a little time with each of the most stupid people on earth, and Mary Ellen was proof that even in the Appalachian woods I would not be spared." I'm not going to retype entire pages, but trust me that the conversations with Mary Ellen are one of the highlights of this book. Bryson and Katz spend several weeks on the trail, hiking 500 miles in their first section. Then the two take a break and return home for a few weeks, and Bryson resumes with some shorter hikes in New England. Katz and Bryson reunite in Maine to hike a particularly daunting section of the trail called the Hundred Mile Wilderness: "The Appalachian Trail is the hardest thing I have ever done, and the Maine portion was the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail, and by a factor I couldn't begin to compute." Exhausted, filthy and hungry, the two abandon their trek in Maine and hitchhike to a small town, where they're able to make their way home again. "I have regrets, of course. I regret that I didn't do [Mount] Katahdin (though I will, I promise you, I will). I regret that I never saw a bear or wolf or followed the padding retreat of a giant hellbender salamander, never shooed away a bobcat or sidestepped a rattlesnake, never flushed a startled boar. I wish that just once I had truly stared death in the face (briefly, with a written assurance of survival). But I got a great deal else from the experience. I learned to pitch a tent and sleep beneath the stars. For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of woods. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude that I didn't know I had. I had discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists ... Best of all, these days when I see a mountain, I look at it slowly and appraisingly, with a narrow, confident gaze and eyes of chipped granite." One of the things I especially like about this book is the history that Bryson includes along the way. He shares interesting stories about the areas he's passing through and about how the trail was built. He also looks at America's unique relationship with nature, which includes some backwards policies of the U.S. Forest Service and the Parks Service. It's really a delight to read. This memoir has been criticized because Bryson doesn't hike the entire trail, but regardless of the distance, it's still a damn fine travelogue. This was his experience on the AT, which he shares with much humor and insight. I don't care that he hiked only 870 miles out of 2,100 -- the point was that he attempted it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I'm no city mouse. I'm a country mouse who lives in jeans and who often has a thick layer of soil under her nails from gardening. But, when compared to my brother, I seem like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Beyoncé. My brother is like. . . Inman, from Cold Mountain. A man who walks and walks and walks, all over Appalachia. He knows how to forage for food and how to identify what is good and what is bad, out in nature. I can point to anything within the plant kingdom, and he knows its name. He composts all of hi I'm no city mouse. I'm a country mouse who lives in jeans and who often has a thick layer of soil under her nails from gardening. But, when compared to my brother, I seem like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Beyoncé. My brother is like. . . Inman, from Cold Mountain. A man who walks and walks and walks, all over Appalachia. He knows how to forage for food and how to identify what is good and what is bad, out in nature. I can point to anything within the plant kingdom, and he knows its name. He composts all of his own waste and leaves a very fleeting footprint on our planet. He's also. . . you know, a little crazy, when it comes to the whole walking thing. My brother has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail once, in its entirety, and has section-hiked more than 900+ miles of favorite parts of it, at other times. He walks or hikes 5-25 miles a day, and he's currently on the Pacific Crest Trail, somewhere in Northern California, at the time of this writing. He's a walking fool, and even though I ALSO walk and hike, my habits apparently look like small potatoes to him. When he was here in May, at our house, preparing to head out to hike the PCT, he was nudging me, emphatically, to hike the Appalachian Trail soon. He was doing this nudging as all three of my kids were in the kitchen with me, and one of them was literally hanging on to my leg. Both dogs were starving, staring at me as we talked, our cats were walking in and out of the house, yowling for food, and my husband was outside, pulling weeds, in our full-time-type-of-a-yard. I must have looked at him like he was an idiot. I sputtered out something in annoyance, like, “I have responsibilities. Maybe someday, like, when we're retired??” (And, maybe not then, either?) The compromise we reached was that, instead of starting the AT on that day, I would commit to reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods while he was out on the PCT. Fair enough. I finished it today. And, here's what I have to say: I love Bill Bryson when he's funny, like when he's making social observations, or, in the case of this story, out hiking with his friend, Stephen Katz, and the hilarious commentary that ensues. I don't love Bill Bryson when he bores me to bits, breaking off from the funny story to describe geological phenomenons or maps or the National Park system in the United States. Be humorous OR be didactic, Bill, but please don't be both. Anyone who hikes a long trail (that involves multiple overnights in the shelters) like the AT or the PCT alone is a fool. An adventurous fool, but still a fool. Personally, I would never hike one of these trails without an entourage, pepper spray, bear spray, a billy club and/or a baseball bat and an INCREDIBLE SENSE OF HUMOR. After reading Bryson's book, I would like to hike at least part of the Appalachian Trail someday, if only to write about it. I believe that my desire to pepper spray any strange looking man on the trail, without a moment's hesitation, may make for some interesting writing. Plus, I'd be sure to scream at every snake, and I'd probably be stupid enough to play with a bear cub. They're so cute! Personally, I wanted to know a LOT more about these freaks in the shelter at night, and way more details on where and how they all went to the bathroom (shudder), and I felt completely let-down that Bryson and his companion hiked so little of the actual trail. Honestly, the book was so boring in the middle (when they gave up on the trail the first time), that I could barely summon the interest to read it again. I think I need to stop thinking of Bryson as a humorist, like Dave Barry. He does make me laugh, but he does drone on, too, about things that interest me not. I've reached a weird point with him, where I'm not sure I want to continue reading more. Four stars for some memorable descriptions of a few of the hikers and several hearty laughs. . . And fingers crossed for the safe return home of my brother!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    Undoubtedly an amusing, breezy read, full of the kind of fun and hilarity all the blurbs lead you to expect. For instance, "Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old." That had me laughing on the train. I can't say I liked this book quite as much as some of my friends seem to. On the one hand, I've had at least 1 semi-grueling backpacking experience with a companion who was wholly unprepared for a rigorous day Undoubtedly an amusing, breezy read, full of the kind of fun and hilarity all the blurbs lead you to expect. For instance, "Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old." That had me laughing on the train. I can't say I liked this book quite as much as some of my friends seem to. On the one hand, I've had at least 1 semi-grueling backpacking experience with a companion who was wholly unprepared for a rigorous day hike, let alone several of them on consecutive days, weighed down by tents, bags, and water, except my experience was less hilarious and more infuriating (even in retrospect, though there was certainly some hilarity). I also found Bryson fairly amusing, his fears and hijinks recognizable and diverting. On the other hand, he's kind of an ass. Seemed like every person he met was a subject for mockery. He also went off on these long jeremiads over the ecological devastation we've wrought on the Eastern forests, without citing any sources whatsoever, or recommending solutions. Obviously I agreed with the substance of those rants, but the dripping sarcasm in his indignation was just so annoying. Good researchers cite sources, and good crusaders at least try to find answers to the world's problems. Bryson seemed like more of a gadfly: buzzing, bothersome, but impotent. In the end, what I really wanted was just more depth. More analysis of what the trail means to Americans, what it symbolizes, a more informed (and documented) record of the Park Service's transgressions, more comparisons to similar trails in other parts of the world.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Going into this book, I really had no idea of what to expect from Bill Bryson. Even though I picked this book up based on Diane’s terrific review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I had never read the author before and let’s face it - blurbs on the cover only tell you so much. You have to read and live with an author’s prose to get a feel for it. As far as travelogues go, I don’t read many: Paul Theroux, Mark Twain and Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley are the only ones that come to min Going into this book, I really had no idea of what to expect from Bill Bryson. Even though I picked this book up based on Diane’s terrific review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I had never read the author before and let’s face it - blurbs on the cover only tell you so much. You have to read and live with an author’s prose to get a feel for it. As far as travelogues go, I don’t read many: Paul Theroux, Mark Twain and Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley are the only ones that come to mind. So I plunged in and I’m happy I did. Finding a rich source of humor (Monty Python, Archer, S.J. Pearlman, Deadpool) is always like Christmas Day. For me, humor has always been the fuel to motor through tough times and Mr. Bryson delivers it by the tank full. This book has a score of laugh out loud moments all weaved into Bryson’s cultural and historical insights. Bryson lived abroad for years and upon returning to the United States decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. The trail is over 2000 miles long and extends from Georgia into Maine. Along the way, Bryson discourses on subjects that range from the history of the Appalachian Trail, the neglect and incompetence of the Forestry and Park services, pre-Colonial botanists, the potential flame ball that is Centralia, PA, the temperature extremes of Mount Washington (NH), trees, the constant threat of getting eaten by bears or hogtied by hillbillies and, of course, the hike itself. The long, long hike. My experience with hiking and outdoorsy stuff begins and ends with the Boy Scouts. For me, it was about smoking cigarettes in the woods, being able to indiscriminately pee on the local flora, fauna and the occasional fellow scout (the latter, accidently, of course) wearing the same clothes and not bathing for three days. “You packed extra underwear and socks, Ma? I hadn’t noticed.” “The tooth brush is green because I dropped it in the creek. Don’t worry, I used it anyway.” If I were to go hiking today, I don’t think I would have picked the guy Bryson ended up with. Stephen Katz was overweight, needy, impetuous but funny. Kind of like hiking with my brother-in-law, minus the funny. The two are an unrivaled comic pair and their hiking adventures are a highly recommended read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail pressed all my favorite buttons: Humor. Adventure. Danger. Storytelling. Nature. Local/personal interest. Et cetera. I even liked that the author Bill Bryson is a American-Brit ex-pat/transplant and thus an outsider giving his opinion as a stranger in a strange land. Bryson's humorous, well-researched, yet relaxed writing is what I always hope for when embarking upon a book like this. A trek upon the Appalachian Trail is supposed A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail pressed all my favorite buttons: Humor. Adventure. Danger. Storytelling. Nature. Local/personal interest. Et cetera. I even liked that the author Bill Bryson is a American-Brit ex-pat/transplant and thus an outsider giving his opinion as a stranger in a strange land. Bryson's humorous, well-researched, yet relaxed writing is what I always hope for when embarking upon a book like this. A trek upon the Appalachian Trail is supposed to be relaxing, if strenuous, and if a bit of history and humor get mixed in then all the better. For those like myself who grew up in New England, the lure and legend of the trail was spoon-fed us from an early age, right along with Johnny Appleseed and the ride of Paul Revere. Those of us too lazy to make the actual hike can sit back and read Bryson's book while thinking about how swell a jaunt would be.                 While I enjoyed hearing about the local spots I'm familiar with like Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (a hiker from Pepperell, MA the tiny town my mom is from is even mentioned, woohoo!), it's Bryson's relationship with his friend Katz, a larger-than-life character who joined him periodically on the trail, that really ties this whole book together. The hijinks are raised when Katz enters the scene, making a normal hike in the woods into an adventure, perhaps more than it needed to be, but I'm grateful either way! Bryson's writing and the personality that comes through made more palatable his occasional soapbox tangents. The guy loves nature preservation and he's not happy when man fucks with it, so every once in a while the reader must wade through a lecture on why the trail is essentially lucky to be alive. For all that, I loved this book just about in its entirety and look forward to reading more by Bill Bryson, a writer who I've taken an immediate shine to, a reader-writer bond strengthened by my own private pleasure at discovering we share December 8th as a birthday.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    Well, scratch the Appalachian Trail off my bucketlist. Bryson sets off to walk the Appalachian trail with only an extremely overpriced backpack (packed with equally ridiculously expensive gear), an old "friend" that he hadn't talked to in years and a will to find his next story. He quickly realized that the months of preparation he conducted (and the lack of months his friend prepared) were not nearly adequate. But on the plus side, he certainly found his story. As always, I absolutely enjoyed h Well, scratch the Appalachian Trail off my bucketlist. Bryson sets off to walk the Appalachian trail with only an extremely overpriced backpack (packed with equally ridiculously expensive gear), an old "friend" that he hadn't talked to in years and a will to find his next story. He quickly realized that the months of preparation he conducted (and the lack of months his friend prepared) were not nearly adequate. But on the plus side, he certainly found his story. As always, I absolutely enjoyed his signature sense of humor. Despite wandering around half crazed with fatigue, he still took the time to pen his quirky musings: Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old. Joking aside, this is a brutal trail (no matter what Cheryl from Wild may say. Her little pot-shots against The Appalachian Trail were not justified). The sheer willpower it takes to slog through ten to twenty trail miles a day simply boggles my mind. Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. I was weary just reading it - and he already most of the monotonous bits from his story. I appreciate how reading this allowed me to adventure vicariously and decide (most definitely) that I will never hike such a trail. Even part of it. I'm not touching that thing with a ten-foot pole I'll stick to my wood-chipped half-mile paths in the local park, thank you very much. Audiobook Comments ---Am a smidge annoyed that he did not narrate his own autobiography (well micro-autobiography of a trail adventure (are micro-autos a thing?)) ---Narrator (Rob McQuay) was great though. No complaints other than it wasn't Bryson. Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ After reading A Man Called Ove last week, I was afraid nothing would compare and I’d be stuck in book hangover mode unless I picked something totally different from what I normally read. I decided to go to the library website incognito in order to not get the typical porny recommendations made “just for me” and get the generally recommended ones instead. Obviously A Walk In The Woods was a book that appeared on the list and I remember Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ After reading A Man Called Ove last week, I was afraid nothing would compare and I’d be stuck in book hangover mode unless I picked something totally different from what I normally read. I decided to go to the library website incognito in order to not get the typical porny recommendations made “just for me” and get the generally recommended ones instead. Obviously A Walk In The Woods was a book that appeared on the list and I remembered way back when I was thinking about reading Wild a certain Georgia peach said I should read this instead because at least if I hated it she was almost certain I’d at least get a couple of laughs. And she was correct. Right from the start Bryson declares . . . I wanted a little of that swagger that comes with being able to gaze at a far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, manly sniff, “Yeah, I’ve shit in the woods.” I pretty much decided right at that point the author was probably my people. To begin with he described his state of living as “waddlesome sloth,” which is a lifestyle I support 110%. He followed that up with a shopping trip to buy necessities such as “a big knife for killing bears and hillbillies.” And then he sealed the deal by taking his old friend Katz along for the hike . . . . “Jesus, I smell like Jeffrey Dahmer’s refrigerator.” In case the above didn’t clue you in, Katz isn’t exactly what you’d call politically correct. You’ve been warned so don’t come crying to me about what a disgusting manbearpig he was. Here’s another tidbit at what my new best friend Katz brings to the table . . . . Good lord, look at you! What have you been doing? You’re filthy. You haven’t been screwing hogs again, have you, Bryson? . . . They’re not clean animals, you know, no matter how attractive they may look after a month on the trail. And don’t forget we’re not in Tennessee anymore. It’s probably not even legal here – at least without a note from the vet. . . . Come sit down and tell me all about it. So what was here name – Bossy? Did she squeal a lot? These two were a hoot. A regular Odd Couple taking the reader on a potential life-threatening comedy of errors. From freak snowstorms to uninvited tag-alongs on their journey. (SIDENOTE: Apparently the role of the uber annoying Mary Ellen is played by none other than the lady who voices this delightful little lady in the movie version . . . . While Ms. Schaal makes for quite the entertaining cartoon voice I have a feeling I’d want to stab the non-animated version should we ever meet. /ENDSIDENOTE) To a possible bear attack that had me casting John Candy in the role of Bill Bryson due to this fond memory . . . . The only reason this gets 4 Stars instead of 5 is due to the fact that . . . While it’s obvious that Bryson fell in love with The Appalachian Trail on his journey, there is a lot of info dumping that occurs because of this love. The history of national parks/the Army Corps of Engineers/the forestry industry as well a detailed inventory of flora and fauna and random tidbits and “fun” (in a macabre sense of the term) facts regarding different locations along the trail sometimes left my mind wandering. That being said, A Walk In The Woods is an adventure I won’t soon forget. I didn't know until this weekend that there’s a film version. I hope to check it out soon because . . . . Nick Nolte was more than a bit too old for the role, but still might end up being the perfect choice for Katz!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Bill Bryson is extremely annoying. I started out liking this book, but the further I went along, the more obnoxious I found the author's smarter-than-thou attitude. And that's a shame, too, because I was very interested in the subject matter and had the impression that Bryson wrote with a comedic edge. However, his sense of humor turns out to be quite bland, and consists mostly of making fun of everyone he meets. Get ready for adjectives like "stupid" and "fat" ... very high-brow. And don't worr Bill Bryson is extremely annoying. I started out liking this book, but the further I went along, the more obnoxious I found the author's smarter-than-thou attitude. And that's a shame, too, because I was very interested in the subject matter and had the impression that Bryson wrote with a comedic edge. However, his sense of humor turns out to be quite bland, and consists mostly of making fun of everyone he meets. Get ready for adjectives like "stupid" and "fat" ... very high-brow. And don't worry, you'll hear the standard inbred jokes as he hikes through the South. Like hypocritical rants? You'll get plenty here; he eviscerates the National Park system, but that doesn't stop him from taking full advantage of all its amenities. He rips tourists who just stop by the AT to do quick hikes, eat cheeseburgers at fast-food restaurants, then hop in their cars and move on, and yet he spends much of the middle section of the book doing just that! He also rips unprepared hikers who don't know what they're doing ... much like the time later in the book when he leaves his windbreaker at home while hiking in the Presidentials; also, he sets out to hike the entire length of the AT, but gives up when he looks at a map in Gatlinburg and realizes -gasp- the AT is really long! Seriously? You didn't look at a map BEFORE you started hiking? Needless to say, he gave up immediately. Not that there's anything wrong with giving up. I guess this writer's just not for me - he comes across as having a little more disdain for the rest of the world than he has a right to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Imagine a grueling, four-month wilderness trek along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Your guide: an intellectual, who lived half his life in England, well versed in geology, zoology, ecology and pretty much all of the other ‘ologies.’ Yet, this far from ordinary guide summons the sparkle of Twain, and of Billy Crystal. Picture all of this for a sense of what can be found inside the covers of Bill Bryson’s "A Walk in the Woods." Bryson, a self-deprecating intellectual of the first or Imagine a grueling, four-month wilderness trek along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Your guide: an intellectual, who lived half his life in England, well versed in geology, zoology, ecology and pretty much all of the other ‘ologies.’ Yet, this far from ordinary guide summons the sparkle of Twain, and of Billy Crystal. Picture all of this for a sense of what can be found inside the covers of Bill Bryson’s "A Walk in the Woods." Bryson, a self-deprecating intellectual of the first order, provides massive helpings of horse-laughing humor that are pleasantly painful to read. The compulsion to read aloud "Walk’s" funnier passages to friends and family overwhelms, as does the desire to pass the book on to others after the warmth of the last page flickers. Bryson grew up in Iowa. While in his twenties, he moved to England where he spent 20 years writing for British and American publications. In 1996 he and his family returned to the United States, settling in New Hampshire. One day, he “happened on a path that vanished into the wood on the edge of town.” That path was a tiny segment of the Appalachian Trail: a continuous 2,100-mile, mostly-wilderness trail along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. Intrigued, Bryson thought, what better way to reacquaint himself with his native land, and at the same time: “It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth." After thorough research, Bryson determines his undertaking would be difficult, requiring a companion. Exhausting all of his best choices, Bryson settles on Steve Katz, an old high school buddy. Katz, an overweight and out of shape, X - Files addicted, Snicker munching, surprisingly fetching sidekick becomes the focal point of much of Walk’s hilarity and pathos. A number of unforgettable characters pop up along the trail. Most memorable is the gratingly obnoxious Mary Ellen, who after she had tagged along for several days, Bryson and Katz ditch using an elaborate deception. “She was, as Katz forever termed her in a special tone of awe, a piece of work." They encounter Bob, the world’s foremost authority on everything. Bryson and Katz spend several days with the delightful John Connolly, a New York schoolteacher who had been hiking the trail a bit at a time for 19 years. One night the three camp with seventeen Boy Scouts and three adult supervisors, “all charmingly incompetent.” After watching a night of the scout’s ineptness: “Even Katz agreed that this was better than TV." Along the way, Bryson painlessly inserts lessons of history, geology, entomology, and more. We learn about the changes acid rain has brought to the wild, and he recounts the stories of the southern pine beetle, the smoky madtom and wooly adelgids, and about Daniel Boone, Henry David Thoreau and Stonewall Jackson. Bryson delivers an extended geology lesson on the tectonic formation of the 470 million year-old Appalachian Mountains that palatably educates. While praising some of their employees, Bryson effectively and mercilessly bashes the U.S. Forest Service (road builders for the logging industry – “eight times the total mileage of America’s interstate highway system," the National Park Service (“actually has something of a tradition of making things extinct"), and the Army Corps of Engineers (“they don’t build things very well"). Bryson makes his environmental bent abundantly clear. But, his lessons rarely become preachy. They reflect the all too human predisposition to seek the easy way, the momentary thrill, and always at a cost. Without accusation, Bryson reminds us of those often easy to ignore environmental costs. Bill Bryson’s "A Walk in the Woods" lovingly opens a window to “an America that millions of people scarcely know exists.” There are problems to solve along this great, mountain forest trail. Yet, the air intoxicates. The sights are unforgetable. And the smile remains

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    When I chose this book I failed to understand the author’s intention. Look at the subtitle! I hadn't noted the words "Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail". This book is not for people who love hiking; it is not intended to increase love of the sport. It scarcely shows the pleasure one can derive from hiking. It is instead a commentary on America with some details about the Appalachian Trail. I have to admit my own fault in not carefully reading the complete title. I still must rate ac When I chose this book I failed to understand the author’s intention. Look at the subtitle! I hadn't noted the words "Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail". This book is not for people who love hiking; it is not intended to increase love of the sport. It scarcely shows the pleasure one can derive from hiking. It is instead a commentary on America with some details about the Appalachian Trail. I have to admit my own fault in not carefully reading the complete title. I still must rate according to my own appreciation of the book. For me it was just OK. This book is full of griping and whining. From its start to almost the very end. At the end there is a line or two that shows appreciation for hiking. For the purpose of delivering an exciting tale the author begins by listing all the terrible things that can happen and have happened on the trail. Bryson warns of getting lost, being bitten by snakes, eaten by bears, mauled by mountain lions and even being murdered. The complaining doesn't stop there. He tells of unpleasant people on the trail, the weight of the pack, hunger and tiredness, the expense and idiocy of trekking gear, even abstinence from sex and family and TV and soda pop and Little Debbie cakes and beer. He goes on to bemoan pollution, park authorities, deficient maps, modern American urbanization and expansion of roads to the point where one is unable to w-a-l-k by foot anywhere. Sure, some of the gripes certainly are legitimate, but a whole book of griping is hard to take, and the focus is scarcely on the delight of hiking. I love hiking. Beware, by no means does the author and his buddy Stephen Katz travel the whole trail. Do not expect a complete trail guide. They trek 500 miles, starting at the southern end, and then stop for a break, totally worn out by their experiences. They each go home, but Bryson then decides to cover portions of the trail by making day trips using his car. At this point the topics covered shift from trail experiences to information about historical events that have occurred at various places near the trail. The book sidetracks to cover events of the Civil War (Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry), oil and anthracite mining, the smoking, inextinguishable underground mine fires of Centralia, Pennsylvania, as well as the ecological devastation at abandoned zinc mines at Palmerton in the same state. I name but a few examples. After Bryson’s solitary day excursions by car the two buddies meet up again to trek in Maine, finishing off with the “100 Mile Wilderness”. Well, I will not tell you what happens there, but you can pretty much guess. Anyone who knows anything about longer hiking tours knows that planning and careful preparation are essential. This includes critically assessing one’s own capabilities. Who says one has to trek the whole trail anyway? They finally realize that! Pseudonyms are used to protect the identity of those spoken of. Stephen Katz is a pseudonym too. When you read the book you will not be surprised at the need to cover up true identities. Many extremely uncomplimentary things are said. There are some humorous lines. There are some interesting historical details about the trail. There are some relevant insights about trekking which can be drawn from the book if you ponder what happens: -the first and second day are always the hardest. -it is easy to get lost. -don’t walk alone and inform others of your itinerary. -plan carefully water availability. -have proper clothing; weather can radically change. -take only what you really need. Every ounce feels like a ton when it is on your back. After a trek you will feel as though you are flying. After a trek you will appreciate the wonder of a warm shower and cleanliness. After a trek you will appreciate what before you have taken for granted – the ease of walking without gear, cooked food, being clean, and the beauty of nature. I wish this book had much more emphasis on what trekking can give a person. The audiobook is narrated by Rob McQuay. He does a fine job. Easy to follow and at a good clip. He expresses through his intonation both the lines of humor and the author’s criticism of modern American trends. The disdain is heard. ************************** After 9 chapters: I am not exactly enjoying this, even if there are a few amusing lines. So much complaining. Such poor planning. And tell me why is there so little about the beauty of nature? The point with hiking is not to partake in a race or a competition to determine who does it fastest, in one swipe or in parts. Why would anyone have to do the-whole-thing? That is not the point. I prefer the empty Swedish mountain ranges. But I haven't given up on the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    In "A Walk in the Woods", Bryson narrates his experiences on the Appalachian Trail which stretches 2000+ miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through eleven states and populated with all kinds of peril imaginable. As Bryson says The woods were full of peril - rattlesnakes and water moccasins and nests of copperheads; bobcat, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wild boar; loony hillbillies destabilized by gross quantities of impure corn liquor and generations of prof In "A Walk in the Woods", Bryson narrates his experiences on the Appalachian Trail which stretches 2000+ miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through eleven states and populated with all kinds of peril imaginable. As Bryson says The woods were full of peril - rattlesnakes and water moccasins and nests of copperheads; bobcat, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wild boar; loony hillbillies destabilized by gross quantities of impure corn liquor and generations of profoundly unbiblical sex; merciless fire ants and ravening blackfly; poison ivy, poison sumac, poison salamanders; even a scattering of moose lethally deranged by a parasitic worm that burrows a nest in their brains and befuddles them into chasing hapless hikers through remote, sunny meadows and into glacial lakes. Of course he's exaggerating... but it's the kind of exaggeration one nervously indulges in to mask one's apprehension, the reader feels. And combined the trials of the trail, the fact that Bryson is supremely unfit to do any kind of extended strenuous activity, does not know the first thing about hiking, and is accompanied by the recovering alcoholic Stephen Katz who is even less fit does nothing to alleviate his apprehensions. He sets of gamely, however - and what we get is a travelogue-cum-science-cum-history-cum-geography lesson. It is fascinating. What I love about Bill Bryson is the casual way in which he feeds you nuggets of information: history, geography, science and whatnot. He packages them in digestible chunks in between personal anecdotes sprinkled with humorous observations, so that subjects which by right should be boring, become exciting. The first part of the hike from Springer Mountain in Georgia to the town of Front Royal in Virginia, was completed in one stretch by Bryson and Katz, with motorised breaks in between - for not being professional hikers, walking through was a virtual impossibility for them. This part is extremely amusing, some parts being worthy of Wodehouse himself. The idiosyncrasies of various hikers, the sorry condition of the night shelters, and the colourful personality of Katz (who manages to fall afoul of the irate husband of a lady he propositions, even in the midst of hiking, believe it or not!) - all make for engrossing reading. The second part is completed by Bryson in bits and pieces until the very last bit in Maine, where he is rejoined by Katz (and they end up in dropping out halfway, after Katz manages to lose himself in the woods for a brief interval - a scary episode). It is here that we are treated to the fascinating history of the trail. The story of Centralia, a once thriving mining community in Pennsylvania now degraded to ghost town status, due to a coal fire in the underground mine started in 1962 and still burning, slowly eating away the town, is especially rivetting and disturbing. Bryson does not hide his ire at the authorities for America's disappearing woodlands, as well as his contempt for a populace addicted to the transient pleasures of instant sensual gratification. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read to finish the year off. I will be reading more of Bryson in the future.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mischenko

    Definitely read the book if you're a fan of the outdoors and hiking. I learned about the book after watching the movie, and let me say, the book to me was much better.

  17. 4 out of 5

    PirateSteve

    I chose this book in hopes it would rekindle my appetite for hiking. The book easily did that. I also found this to be such a pleasurable read. I looked forward at every stolen opportunity to read another chapter. It delivered each time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    I have read most of Bill Bryson's books and they are all good-- excellent even. His gift is in his ability to detect the humor in any situation. Where you or I might see a man walking down the street he sees something, and articulates it so well, packed with humor. But this book is his best. The reason, I think, is that it takes him out of his element. His natural writing style is this so-called "travel writing" genre-- the idea that someone goes somewhere and writes about it and their time ther I have read most of Bill Bryson's books and they are all good-- excellent even. His gift is in his ability to detect the humor in any situation. Where you or I might see a man walking down the street he sees something, and articulates it so well, packed with humor. But this book is his best. The reason, I think, is that it takes him out of his element. His natural writing style is this so-called "travel writing" genre-- the idea that someone goes somewhere and writes about it and their time there. But most "travel writers" don't hike over half of the AT, that's unheard of. And the fact that Bryson at middle age decided to take on such a task with no real background in backpacking, let alone for months at a time, is downright impressive. So the premise of the book is already good before you even start reading. Then the book just blows you away. The man can describe nature with the best of them but his expertise is in describing human interactions. And, perhaps, that's why he chose the AT. There are indeed some interesting people who decide to take the plunge and walk the trail from end to end. Among them are Stephen Katz, Bryson's sidekick from earlier adventures in France, who is now overweight and obsessed with junk food-- admittedly Katz gives Bryson ample material to work with. Then there is the woman who hikes with them and camps with them for a few weeks. She acts as though they are the problem, forcing the partnership on her as it were, but we quickly discover that her own insecurities are at the root of her behavior. Bryson navigates her personality in a delicate but oh so funny way. Whether you hike or not, laugh or not, enjoy Bryson or not you should read this it will change your mind or affirm what you already knew-- Bryson is the best at what he does.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)

    This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life. I am terribly disappointed by the fact that I did not fall in love with this book. When I was choosing a book to read, I took one look at the ratings for this book on Goodreads and knew that I had to read this book right away. Seriously, every single one of my friends on Goodreads gave this book either a 4 or 5 star rating. And they said it was funny. I love funny. I knew that I would just love this book. I didn't love it. I was actually bored This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life. I am terribly disappointed by the fact that I did not fall in love with this book. When I was choosing a book to read, I took one look at the ratings for this book on Goodreads and knew that I had to read this book right away. Seriously, every single one of my friends on Goodreads gave this book either a 4 or 5 star rating. And they said it was funny. I love funny. I knew that I would just love this book. I didn't love it. I was actually bored for most of this book. I do admit that this isn't the kind of book that I usually read but a humorous non-fiction story about hiking the Appalachian Trail sounded fabulous. I really did enjoy the parts of the book that focused on Bill and Stephen's adventures on the trail. I just wish that the focus of the book would have stayed with Bill and Stephen. The problem was that there was just too much other stuff crammed into this book. I sometimes felt like I was reading a textbook....a well-written textbook...but a textbook nonetheless. In this short little book, I learned about the history of the Appalachian Trail, some geology, information about bears, trees, the National Park Service, birds, and various other things. A lot of the time the book just felt dry and information packed. I was glad that some of this information was shared in a fun way that actually put a smile on my face. All too often, I felt like skipping entire sections of the book so that I could get back to the actual hike. I had hoped that this was going to be one of those side splitting funny kind of books. It had its moments of humor but nothing that made me do anything more than crack a smile. There was no laughing out loud and the parts that were funny seemed to be rather sparse. Don't get me wrong, I can tell that Bill Bryson is a very funny guy but I need a lot more of those kind of moments to offset the parts of the book that were dry. I did notice that there is a movie based on this book that is soon to be released. I actually am looking forward to that movie because I suspect that it will focus on the parts of the book that I really enjoyed....the actual hike. I don't think that there will be too many geology or history lessons found in the film. I am thinking that I actually want to go an see the movie when it comes out and I never go see movies. I am not going to be recommending this book but I am seriously in the minority with this one. I would tell readers to pick it up if it sounds interesting to you. You may be one of the many who really love it. I still really wish that I was one of the many readers who love it. I received an advance reader edition of this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of providing an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Sometimes I wonder if I have been too judgemental with a book, I returned and reread a good chunk of this and feel if anything I was too generous. The problem I feel is that Bryson's humour is all about people. The odd people he meets and the funny things they say. On a footpath, in a forest, there are not many people and the interactions between Bryson and his sidekick Katz don't carry the weight of my expectations. The other ingredient in Bryson's style is a general attitude that the world is Sometimes I wonder if I have been too judgemental with a book, I returned and reread a good chunk of this and feel if anything I was too generous. The problem I feel is that Bryson's humour is all about people. The odd people he meets and the funny things they say. On a footpath, in a forest, there are not many people and the interactions between Bryson and his sidekick Katz don't carry the weight of my expectations. The other ingredient in Bryson's style is a general attitude that the world is going to hell in a hand cart, and that cart has a wobbly wheel, which squeaks. This mindset qualified him to become the head person at the Campaign for the Preservation for Rural England, in this book it is evident in his belief that everybody has done everything wrong. So if it is not bad enough that logging is allowed in US national parks, to add insult to injury that logging is inefficient and loss making. If the Parks service leave an area to allow nature to do what it wills, that is wrong too. I had the feeling that for him Nature was perfect in, perhaps 1937 (view spoiler)[ or some other year (hide spoiler)] and the efforts of all right thinking public organisations should be directed to keeping things exactly as they were in 1937. At this time in his life Bryson was irregularly uprooting himself and family from England to the USA and then from the USA to England, England at times was plainly too English for him while the USA seemingly has a majority population of overweight car obsessed people who can barely stagger a half mile on foot, many of whom are also irredeemably stupid and inbred. Having said that whenever he stumbles across a hostelry he gorges himself on grease burgers and makes off with multi litre bottles of fizzy pop. He admits while walking to generally zoning out and not being aware of the landscape which apparently is largely all the same for him (view spoiler)[ some might regard that as a slight disadvantage for someone writing a book about a long distance walking trail (hide spoiler)] . I feel that Bryson's vision of his fellow Americans is largely a mirror image of himself(view spoiler)[ and viewed too close he finds the reflection horrible, back on the other side of the Atlantic it is, to mangle popular sayings, enticingly greener (hide spoiler)] , an intellectual butterfly that prefers to flitter than to seriously engage with anything and so with regard to the management of the National Parks I note that ecology is hard, mismanagement from one perspective or another near inevitable. Overwhelmingly I felt he would have preferred to have been walking in England - start the day in a pub, finish in a pub, unless unlucky lunch in a pub too, a rich collection of charming eccentrics on the footpaths admiring a landscape which by US standards would be dreary with nothing wilder than some sheep in sight. This a deeply, thoroughly and utterly ok kind of book, completely middle of the road. It's readable, moderately humorous and slightly informative and if you never read it your life will be no poorer. Bryson, writing this book doesn't know the Appalachian trail as somebody who has walked it a few times, or short stretches regularly might, or even somebody who has lived alongside it might. Nor from his text did I believe he had much knowledge of long distance walking. So I'm not sure that I can take his praise or criticisms of the route, its management or those who use it seriously. More to the point having read it, I don't feel an urge to explore it myself which is about the worst thing I can say about a book of this nature.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    Let me just get this out of the way first: Sorry, Trish! I couldn't help myself! I have no willpower! I am officially the world's worst buddy reader! Right, as for the book... I enjoyed it. The only Bryson I've read before this was his book about hiking in my native UK and, perhaps because this book deals with territory I'm a lot less familiar with, I preferred this one. I enjoyed Bryson's wry, despairing sense of humour. I enjoyed his interactions with his walking-buddy, Katz (not sure of the sp Let me just get this out of the way first: Sorry, Trish! I couldn't help myself! I have no willpower! I am officially the world's worst buddy reader! Right, as for the book... I enjoyed it. The only Bryson I've read before this was his book about hiking in my native UK and, perhaps because this book deals with territory I'm a lot less familiar with, I preferred this one. I enjoyed Bryson's wry, despairing sense of humour. I enjoyed his interactions with his walking-buddy, Katz (not sure of the spelling; I listened to the audiobook) who was both hilariously annoying and quite sweet on occasion. I enjoyed Bryson's many educational tangents into the history of the area they were currently walking through. Why only four stars then? Well, there isn't really anything wrong with the book that I can exactly put my finger on, but I just didn't enjoy it quite enough to warrant the full five stars. I wish I could tell you why; I just can't quite bring myself to give it five out of five. Maybe some of the people they encounter are just a little too irritating to be thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe some of the historical tangents are just a little too tangential. Maybe I'm just an arse. Despite this, I certainly enjoyed it enough to read more Bryson in the future. (That's kind of redundant isn't it? It's not like I can read more Bryson in the past...)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Char

    A WALK IN THE WOODS was just okay. The author and his friend did not get to hike the entire trail as they had originally intended, which was not only disappointing for them, but for me as well. I learned about the history of the trail and how the whole thing works. I previously had no idea that the trail sometimes crosses roads and rivers and whatnot-I had this picture of a pristine wilderness in my head and while some parts are just that, others are not. I thought there would be a bit more hu A WALK IN THE WOODS was just okay. The author and his friend did not get to hike the entire trail as they had originally intended, which was not only disappointing for them, but for me as well. I learned about the history of the trail and how the whole thing works. I previously had no idea that the trail sometimes crosses roads and rivers and whatnot-I had this picture of a pristine wilderness in my head and while some parts are just that, others are not. I thought there would be a bit more humor than there actually was and on top of that, there were no actual bears, (see him on the cover there?), unless you count the night something was heard just outside of their tent. Overall this was fun and I learned some things, so 3 stars it is. Thanks to my local library for the loan of this audiobook. Libraries RULE!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Metcalf

    3.5 stars If not for being my book club choice for March I probably would not have read A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson, and though I didn't vote for it I'm happy to have read it. Bill Bryson, a much published travel writer, was mid 40's when he struck upon the idea of walking the Appalachian Trail (AT). At time of publishing, the AT was around 2200 miles of wilderness and was the longest continuous footpath in the world. Bryson and buddy Stephen Katz embarked on this walk with little preparat 3.5 stars If not for being my book club choice for March I probably would not have read A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson, and though I didn't vote for it I'm happy to have read it. Bill Bryson, a much published travel writer, was mid 40's when he struck upon the idea of walking the Appalachian Trail (AT). At time of publishing, the AT was around 2200 miles of wilderness and was the longest continuous footpath in the world. Bryson and buddy Stephen Katz embarked on this walk with little preparation, almost no experience, way too much gear, and a powerful fear of bears and other assorted wildlife. (Their unpreparedness for a walk of this magnitude reminded me a little of Wild by Cheryl Strayed - although Bryson's book was published 15 years before hers). Bryson spins an entertaining tale of their highs and lows, the people they met, the cold, the heat, the best and worst of their experiences, in a humorous manner interspersed with factual information about the history of the AT, the geology, biology, flora and fauna. Bryson has an acerbic wit and at times he had a Michael Moore ring to his words when critiquing National Park & Forest Services administrators. This wit was sometimes directed towards Katz making me squirm and wonder if Katz wasn't getting a bad rap, but I guess that's male mateship for you. By books end there was no question in my mind that regardless of their differences the friendship was solid and there was mutual trust and respect between the two. If the point of the book was to take readers on a hiking journey it succeeded. If it was to portray the beauty of the wilderness it succeeded. If its success can be measured by the number of times I thought "I want to do this walk!!" then it was a winner, particular if you consider the fact I loathe camping and am not really an outdoorsy kind of person. A Walk In The Woods provided me with some feel good moments, (some cringe worthy ones too) and more than a few laughs. It was a good balance of factual information, opinion and anecdotes told in an engaging and interesting manner.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    I love Bill Bryson's books, and this one is no exception. Bryson tells the story of his hiking up the Appalachian Trail (AT for short) with his friend, Stephen Katz. His friend is quite a character, and I sort of wonder if he is a real person, or if he is "invented". But--Katz is such a wonderful character, he is probably real, because "inventing" him would be nearly impossible. He is a recovering alcoholic, overweight sort of slob who throws out his irreplaceable supplies when the going gets to I love Bill Bryson's books, and this one is no exception. Bryson tells the story of his hiking up the Appalachian Trail (AT for short) with his friend, Stephen Katz. His friend is quite a character, and I sort of wonder if he is a real person, or if he is "invented". But--Katz is such a wonderful character, he is probably real, because "inventing" him would be nearly impossible. He is a recovering alcoholic, overweight sort of slob who throws out his irreplaceable supplies when the going gets tough. It seemed like a disaster in the making, but somehow Bryson and Katz survived. Bryson's prose is just a delight. He interleaves humorous anecdotes with tangents about history, the environment, bears, wildlife, and other interesting tidbits. The AT is not a simple "walk in the woods"--it is at times demanding, challenging, and very time consuming. It can take a great deal of preparation before setting off, and is definitely not for the weak-hearted. If nothing else, this book persuaded me not to try to hike the AT. But--I love the stories that Bryson tells along the way. I didn't read this book--I listened to it as an audiobook. Rob McQuay does a great job narrating, and I look forward to listening to other books that are read by him.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    It's the longest armchair hike I've ever taken and I've enjoyed every minute of it. I know I will never do this for real so this is next best. I enjoyed reading about the history of the AT and all the other stories that BB included in the report of his adventures.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Guy Austin

    This is a book I had always thought to read, but never had. I am very pleased that I finally got round to it. If you’re wanting something funny and absorbing for the flight home, to sit on the patio with a cup of coffee, or you’re your favorite chair staring out the window you have found it in A Walk in the Woods. I’m intrigued by stories of people who take to challenging adventures… I'll never be one of them. Bill Bryson and Katz kept me laughing and entertained for hours. I latterly was laugh This is a book I had always thought to read, but never had. I am very pleased that I finally got round to it. If you’re wanting something funny and absorbing for the flight home, to sit on the patio with a cup of coffee, or you’re your favorite chair staring out the window you have found it in A Walk in the Woods. I’m intrigued by stories of people who take to challenging adventures… I'll never be one of them. Bill Bryson and Katz kept me laughing and entertained for hours. I latterly was laugh crying at points and my wife walked in and asked what the heck I was reading. I know people say this from time to time as in an internal chuckle. No this was literal. Laughing so hard tears came forward and I could not go on reading as the pages were blurred by my tears. Mary Ellen was one of my favorite parts – I won’t spoil it. Bryson and Katz spend several weeks on the trail, hiking 500 miles in their first section. Then the two take a break and return home for a few weeks, and Bryson resumes with some shorter hikes in New England. Katz and Bryson reunite in Maine to hike a particularly daunting section of the trail called the Hundred Mile Wilderness. The first 500 Miles hold the best part of the book. The back half was good, but without Katz it was feeling a bit light and he returns for the hundred Mile Wilderness. Sewn within the narratives are many stories and back stories of town’s histories, trail history and environmental issues of both. I never felt I was being preached at. I loved those parts of it as well. You laugh, you learn, you walk away in a better frame of mind. If you’re looking to escape a little, I recommend this highly.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ben Williams

    i always tell people that they will either love this (and most of his other) books to death, or that they will find them utterly unamusing. i find them hilarious. i have never laughed so hard while reading a book as with Bryson's books. Give it a go--you'll know after the first few chapters whether you share his witty, tasteful sense of humor or not:)

  28. 4 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    Pure Bryson delight, as well as an informative history about the Appalachian Trail. Although I could never imagine Robert Redford portraying Bill Bryson, the film version is pretty funny, with Nick Nolte adding great comic relief. Highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Don

    I have had 4-5 people tell me over the years that I ought to read this book, so after Jean read it I kept it around the house. And one evening when I had finished a book and wasn't all that sleepy, I picked this up. And it made me very sleepy. Lots of sleepy nights with this selection. Yes, and he's a good writer and this has a few nice little anecdotes. But jeez, it's just not a very interesting or very good book, that's all. Let's see, it's by a guy who doesn't really like to hike (he'd rather be I have had 4-5 people tell me over the years that I ought to read this book, so after Jean read it I kept it around the house. And one evening when I had finished a book and wasn't all that sleepy, I picked this up. And it made me very sleepy. Lots of sleepy nights with this selection. Yes, and he's a good writer and this has a few nice little anecdotes. But jeez, it's just not a very interesting or very good book, that's all. Let's see, it's by a guy who doesn't really like to hike (he'd rather be walking in England than hiking in the woods, which he basically says 10 different ways, creeps him out). Yet, he decides he wants to walk the Appalachian Trail and write a book about it. So he gets together with a fat, not-very-nice smoker, and then mostly writes about how strange other people are out on the trail. In fact, the book mostly relies on our two heroes running into people that they find goofy -- or who they simply don't like and want to make fun of. Sorry, not all that gripping. For the record, I loved "Measure of a Mountain," by Bruce Barcott. But maybe that's because Barcott loved being in the mountains and expressed it well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brandice

    I really enjoyed A Walk in the Woods, the first book I've read by Bill Bryson. I enjoyed Part 1, where Katz was Bryson's trail companion, more than Part 2 but still liked all of it. The book has a very good balance of story, humor (including plenty of sarcasm), and Appalachian Trail history and information. Hiking the AT (or anything similar really) is something I more than likely would never do. I am a day-nature-r, enjoying outdoorsy activities for the day, usually one day at a time, and if an I really enjoyed A Walk in the Woods, the first book I've read by Bill Bryson. I enjoyed Part 1, where Katz was Bryson's trail companion, more than Part 2 but still liked all of it. The book has a very good balance of story, humor (including plenty of sarcasm), and Appalachian Trail history and information. Hiking the AT (or anything similar really) is something I more than likely would never do. I am a day-nature-r, enjoying outdoorsy activities for the day, usually one day at a time, and if anything, am more of a Glamper than a Camper. While there are plenty of differences, Into the Wild and Wild are among some of my all-time favorite books, and I'm not surprised I really enjoyed this one too. Perhaps well-written books where the premise is nature-based are enjoyable for me because they're an escape - imagining the immersion in nature while not having to actually participate in the rigorous, physical demands involved in undertaking such a challenge.

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