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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (original 1998; edition 2006)

by Bill Bryson

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Member:5hrdrive
Title:A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Anchor (2006), Edition: 2nd, Mass Market Paperback, 397 pages
Collections:Your library, 2012, pre-2007
Rating:***1/2
Tags:non-fiction, 20th century, travel, appalachian trail, hiking, mmp, 3.5

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (1998)

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Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
There is no doubt that Bryson is a well-traveled individual, but he seems so out of his element on the Appalachian Trail. This makes for some pretty hilarious stories– his foray into a camping supply store, meeting other foolhardy hikers, his companion (Katz), crossing paths with a moose, and of course bears. If you’re familiar with Bill Bryson’s writing, then you know it’s never short on snark. Sometimes his style of humor can be exhausting, and it can make him seem pretentious. This is not the case in A Walk in the Woods. For every jeering remark he makes, it’s followed up by an anecdote of his own ineptitude. Hiking the Appalachian Trail seems like it was a humbling experience for Bryson.

Bryson’s account of the trail was satisfying enough, but the gem of the book was his discussion of human interaction with nature. The first half of the book, while it focuses on Bryson’s experience of hiking the trail, introduces the reader to the National Park Services. The NPS is a government organization created to preserve nature, though they have been known to single-handedly eradicate entire species of animal or plant. Oops! The second half of the book provides a more in-depth look at the human/nature relationship and on a broader timeline– from the European explorers first trek into the woods to modern-day ghost town made so because of a massive fire that’s been burning in a coal mine since the 1960s . You come away with the feeling that humans, who have always had a fascination with their surroundings, manage to destroy the beauty of nature out of sheer curiosity or their desire for recognition or monetary compensation.

A Walk in the Woods is the fifth book I’ve read by Bill Bryson, and I think it might be my favorite. It’s a perfect balance of everything that is typical of Bryson’s style. It’s equal parts breathtaking, informative, and hilarious. The landscapes he creates with his words makes me want to trek along over 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail myself. Then, he obsesses over bears and hantavirus-carrying mice, which immediately brings me back to reality. I am not a hardy person, and I am better suited to experiencing Mother Nature vicariously through others. Thank goodness for Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. ( )
  books_n_tea | Apr 1, 2014 |
Another quality book by Bill Bryson. It is amazing how he takes item that do not seem interesting or exciting and makes them so. ( )
  foof2you | Mar 15, 2014 |
Just reread this while on vacation in Vermont. Love it! He goes into so many things, including science, nature, society, and history. I hope the movie does it justice. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
This was my first Bill Bryson book several years ago. I loved it! He has an engaging voice and drew me in from the very beginning. The book is written from a very honest perspective and shows the hardships and trials of a long hike in an engagingly humorous way. It made me want to hike the trail too, just to meet the people along the way. A Walk in the Woods became the first of many of Bryson's books that I have read and loved. Quite a fun read. ( )
  Jamilyn | Jan 21, 2014 |
An old man with little physical strength and no hiking training decides to travel one of the hardest and longest trails in America. Hilarity ensues.

Bill Bryson returns with... not his best narrative, but not his worst. It's not a must-read by any means, but parts of it are entertaining. Especially if you're into hiking. I am not. He experiences annoying fellow hikers, equipment quirks, and frightening himself with bear attacks. Those are entertaining parts. Then there are other parts which are pure description of the purple mountain's majesties that don't work for me, punctuated by random histories of the trail -- what it could have been and what it is.

I still like "Thunderbolt Kid" better. Once his idiot friend leaves in the first half, the book takes a nose dive into tedium. It's too bad he couldn't have deleted those parts and just left the highlights. Hiking is hard to make a compelling story, unless you have bears. Of which, there really aren't any. ( )
  theWallflower | Jan 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
Bryson's breezy, self-mocking tone may turn off readers who hanker for another ''Into Thin Air'' or ''Seven Years in Tibet.'' Others, however, may find themselves turning the pages with increasing amusement and anticipation as they discover that they're in the hands of a satirist of the first rank, one who writes (and walks) with Chaucerian brio.
 
[Bryson] was often exhausted, his ''brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below.'' The reader, by contrast, is rarely anything but exhilarated. And you don't have to take a step.
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bill Brysonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goddijn, ServaasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Not long after I moved with my family to a small town in New Hampshire I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town.
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ISBN 0552152153 refers to the abridged version. Please do not combine with unabridged works.
ISBN 0-553-45592-3 and 978-0-553-45592-2 refer to the abridged audiobook version. Please do not combine with unabridged works.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307279464, Mass Market Paperback)

Your initial reaction to Bill Bryson's reading of A Walk in the Woods may well be "Egads! What a bore!" But by sentence three or four, his clearly articulated, slightly adenoidal, British/American-accented speech pattern begins to grow on you and becomes quite engaging. You immediately get a hint of the humor that lies ahead, such as one of the innumerable reasons he longed to walk as many of the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail as he could. "It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth" is delivered with glorious deadpan flair. By the time our storyteller recounts his trip to the Dartmouth Co-op, suffering serious sticker shock over equipment prices, you'll be hooked.

When Bryson speaks for the many Americans he encounters along the way--in various shops, restaurants, airports, and along the trail--he launches into his American accent, which is whiny and full of hard r's. And his southern intonations are a hoot. He's even got a special voice used exclusively when speaking for his somewhat surprising trail partner, Katz. In the 25 years since their school days together, Katz has put on quite a bit of weight. In fact, "he brought to mind Orson Welles after a very bad night. He was limping a little and breathing harder than one ought to after a walk of 20 yards." Katz often speaks in monosyllables, and Bryson brings his limited vocabulary humorously to life. One of Katz's more memorable utterings is "flung," as in flung most of his provisions over the cliff because they were too heavy to carry any farther.

The author has thoroughly researched the history and the making of the Appalachian Trail. Bryson describes the destruction of many parts of the forest and warns of the continuing perils (both natural and man-made) the Trail faces. He speaks of the natural beauty and splendor as he and Katz pass through, and he recalls clearly the serious dangers the two face during their time together on the trail. So, A Walk in the Woods is not simply an out-of-shape, middle-aged man's desire to prove that he can still accomplish a major physical task; it's also a plea for the conservation of America's last wilderness. Bryson's telling is a knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud funny trek through the woods, with a touch of science and history thrown in for good measure. (Running time: 360 minutes, four cassettes) --Colleen Preston

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:29 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Traces the author's adventurous trek along the Appalachian Trail past its natural pleasures, human eccentrics, and offbeat comforts.

(summary from another edition)

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