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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America…

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

by Bill Bryson

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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
Tags:light reading

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


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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Oh, how I love Bill Bryson. He's everything I look for in an author. A good writer. Brave, but not too much. Human. And funny. Most of all, funny.

So last week I reread A Walk in the Woods. I reread it slowly. It was one of those books you don't want to end. All along the way you are laughing. You just have to laugh at Bryson. He tries to do the hard thing, but it's...well, hard. And his companion, Katz, is equally human. Quintessential Americans.

So much fun. ( )
  debnance | Sep 27, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is the second time of reading this book and it is not in the same caliber as WILD by Cheryl Strayed or as good as his other travel books in content. Nevertheless, it is written by Bill Bryson so how can you go wrong?! It has the same dry humor and insightful comments and observations as his other books. Well worth reading for those interested in taking the walk themselves, want to enjoy a good light read or just be be entertained. ( )
  ashmolean1 | Sep 27, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods," details his (mis)adventures hiking the Appalachian Trial.

It's a light, easy to read, recounting of his attempt to hike the trail. It's much like Peter Mayle's Life Provence books, with more emphasis on readability than veracity.

Bryson's book is engaging; unfortunately, I was bothered that he finds himself even more engaging than I do. ( )
  dianaleez | Sep 24, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
review via blog: http://tewigleben.blogspot.com/2015/09/a-walk-in-woods-rediscovering-america.htm...

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail By Bill Bryson — A Review
Memoirs are selfish. It's the nature of the book, and should be expected. The best memoirs allow your footsteps to follow those of the author, their thoughts and emotions to become your thoughts and emotions, and preserve the humanity of the story and still keep it engaging.

A Walk in the Woods is pretty close to accomplishing this for me. At turns an adventure story, pseudo guidebook to the Appalachian Trail, and a friendship narrative, Bryson's trademark humorous and self-deprecating style keeps the pace of the book moving.

Hikers are an interesting bunch, and I think everyone has their own reasons for choosing to tackle a difficult trail like the AT. I enjoyed hearing Bill's reasons, and the back and forth between him and Katz, the out of shape, old college friend who was the only one who would accompany him.

I love nature, I love walking in the woods and climbing a hill every now and then, but I'm not one to go running at 5 AM. Ever. A perspective of hiking this beautiful and monstrous trail from folks who aren't professional runners and eat an occasional (or more than occasional) Snickers was motivational for me. Maybe someday I can do something out of my comfort zone, too.

If you have read any of his other books and liked them, chances are you'll like this one too. It's not about getting there, it really is - as cliche as it sounds - about the journey.

*I received this book free from LibraryThing with movie tie-in cover via their Early Reviewers program. ( )
  tewigleben | Sep 21, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A Walk in the Woods must be one of the most recognized travel memoirs in existence. Certainly the most famous book of Bill Bryson’s. Generally I get glassy stares and polite nods when I talk about a book I'm reading, but not so with A Walk in the Woods. No sooner did I mention the title and people perked up and said, “Oh, the Bill Bryson book?” Even if they hadn't read the book themselves, most had heard of it.

The memoir begins in New Hampshire where the author and his family have returned to the U.S. after 25 years of living in England. Although Bryson was born in Iowa, his time away from the U.S. left him longing to get reaquainted with his homeland. When he sees that the Appalachian Trail passes near his home, he does some research and becomes enamored with the seminal hiking trail. Despite the hardships and irrationality of hiking 2168 miles of wilderness, Bryson decides to attempt it.

“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 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 from being able to gaze at the far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, manly sniff, ‘Yeah, I’ve shit in the woods.’”

Determined not to hike alone, He sets out to find a companion willing to tackle the multi-month journey with him. Unsurprisingly, he’s not only rejected by his friends and family, but most question his sanity. Finally an estranged friend from his past answers the call. Stephen Katz, an overweight, rude, and recovering alcoholic begs to come along. Though their relationship had ended on less than amicable terms decades earlier Bryson agrees to have Katz along.

The book recounts their funny, scary, and mundane moments on the trail. While hiking seven miles to the trail head in Georgia, Katz, who has fallen behind, becomes frustrated with weight of his pack. In a moment of fury he tosses most of the duos food over the edge of a cliff. Another time the two become separated and lost in a remote section of the trail. After spending a night apart they finally find one another. In the moment of relief two men finally let their guards down and reconcile their differences.

The book also captures the exhausting monotony of long distance hiking. Most books I've read gloss of this inconvenient and glamorous reality. But Bryson captures it in perhaps the most perfect description of futility of ever, which I shared on my blog last month. (http://erlenmeyer316.com/a-few-words-for-august-2015/)

Bryson writes with a distinct wry, british tone and his self deprecating style sets 'A Walk in the Woods' apart from other hiking memoirs. For instance Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is an excellent book. But it bears the marks of my generation: self absorption, existential dread, exhaustive introspection, and over-seriousness. Another excellent book, Peter Jenkin's 'A Walk Across America' exhibits similar, albeit toned down, traits. Although those aspects resonate, they also tend to make for downer stories….in a good way. (Yeah, you wouldn’t want to have to live inside my head.) Bryson, on the other hand, never takes himself too seriously, has a wonderful curiosity, and writes with a contagious levity.

The strange thing though is that my favorite thing about this memoir weren't recollections of the trail. Liberally mixed in are geological, biological, political, and social histories of the Appalachian trail. These sections fill me with absolute awe and wonder with the workings of evolution, human nature, and geology. There were the parts I couldn’t wait to share with people. This magical passage was perhaps my favorite:

"For all its mass, a tree is a remarkably delicate thing. All of its internal life exists within three paper-thin layers of tissue - the phloem, xylem, and cambium = just beneath the bark, which together form a moist sleeve around the dead heartwood. However tall it grows, a tree is just a few pounds of living cells thinly spread between roots and leaves. These three diligent layers of cells perform all the intricate science and engineering needed to keep a tree I alive, and the efficiency with which they do it is one of the wonders of life. Without noise or fuss, every tree in a forest lifts massive volumes of water - several hundred gallons in the case of a large tree on a hot day - from its roots to its leaves, where it is returned to the atmosphere. Imagine the din and commotion, the clutter of machinery, that would be needed for a fire department to raise a similar volume of water.

And lifting water is just one of the many jobs that the phloem, xylem, and cambium perform. They also manufacture lignin and cellulose; regulate the storage and production of tannin, sap, gum, oils, and resins; dole out minerals and nutrients; convert starches into sugars for future growth (which is where maple syrup comes into the picture); and goodness knows what else. But because all this is happening in such a thin layer, it also leaves the tree terribly vulnerable to invasive organisms. To combat this, trees have formed elaborate defense mechanisms. The reason a rubber tree seeps latex when cut is that this is its way of saying to insects and other organisms, “Not tasty. Nothing here for you. Go away." Trees can also deter destructive creatures like caterpillars by flooding their leaves with tannin, which makes the leaves less tasty and so inclines the caterpillars to look elsewhere. When infestations are particularly severe, some trees can even communicate the fact. Some species of oak release a chemical that tells other oaks in the vicinity that an attack is under way. In response, the neighboring oaks step up their tannin production the better to withstand the coming onslaught.

By such means, of course, does nature tick along."

When you begin this book you'll be convinced it's a book about hiking the Appalachian trail. About half way through you'll begin to realize you've actually been reading a love letter to the beauty and wonder of America's nature. A love letter written with a contagious curiosity, passion, and reverence for the grandeur that exists all around us. Like a guide, it leads readers out of themselves and into the wonder of the natural world and desire to experience and protect it. Like Bryson's journey this book will change the way readers look at nature and their relationship to it.
  erlenmeyer316 | Sep 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 315 (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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of course.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:30 -0400)

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

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