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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America…

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

by Bill Bryson

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Read this on a few years ago, I guess with the movie coming out it is popular again. I loved it! The humor made me LOL!! ( )
  lorriwilliams12 | Sep 1, 2015 |
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. ( )
  Carolesrandomlife | Aug 31, 2015 |
I listed to the audio of this book; the performer is fantastic! His comedic timing is spot on. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It's laugh out loud funny. ( )
  acargile | Aug 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A funny and informational account of Bryson's venture into hiking the Appalachian Trail. I found myself enthralled by the novel, and I very much appreciated the history and facts that were included. It is part writing for the outdoor enthusiast, part travel writing, but all around funny and enjoyable. ( )
  Alie | Aug 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A truly adventurous read…and great for those that want to vicariously go on an adventure.

I love memoirs about hiking, and I love Bill Bryson's various books. So I thought that this would be the best of both worlds. Bryson writes eloquently, and offers a find balance of personal anecdotes as well as interesting history, science, or geographical explanations. You can't go wrong with A Walk in the Woods.

The story focuses on Bryson and his friend Stephen Katz as they attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, starting from Georgia and concluding in Maine. He offer various experiences that occur during the course of the hike, some more memorable than others. I especially loved the part with their wonderful hiking-mate, Mary Ellen. And as much as I would love to do something as thru-hiking a trail, the details Bryson offers on potential mishaps that could occur don't encourage me in the least bit. So I think I'm fine with reading about the hike.

For lovers of hiking, this is a great read. ( )
  jms001 | Aug 25, 2015 |
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson , originally released in 1998, has been re-released as a tie in for the upcoming movie of the same title.

Even though it has been a few years since this book was originally published it is still a great memoir, and great introduction to the Appalachian Trail, which extends for over 2,000 miles up down the east coast of the United States from Maine to Georgia.

Part memoir, part educational lesson about the trail itself, the US National Parks Service, and nature and conservation, this is a good title for those looking for a humorous yet insightful book about hiking, history, and the great outdoors. It is full of details and facts, and contains quite a bit of interesting information in its 300-or-so pages. As you follow Bryson, and his friend Stephen Katz along portions of their hike, you’ll find out why hiking the Appalachian Trail is no walk in the woods.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  sklee | Aug 25, 2015 |
This funny, interesting book was an absolute listening pleasure. The narrator’s droll delivery is well suited to the writing style, which intersperses informative passages with a hefty dose of humor. While I loved learning more about the Appalachian Trail, the highlight of the book is the descriptions of the author’s hiking partner, Stephen Katz. I’m not really sure how much of Katz is an embellishment and how much is real, but I truly hope that every word is true.

Even if you have no particular interest in the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods is still a fascinating and entertaining book. I highly recommend it, no matter the format. (By the way, don’t rely on the trailers for the upcoming film adaptation to give you a sense of this book; from what I’ve seen, they’re essentially two totally different things.) ( )
  les121 | Aug 23, 2015 |
I really wanted to give this book 5 stars. At times it was so engaging I couldn't put it down. The first half of the book with the lead in to the hike and the actual telling of events of the hike up through Tennessee were really funny. Bryson and his companion, Katz, are quite a team. Hilarious at times. The third quarter of the book is slow, even boring at times. Bryson is hiking the trail on his own. There is a lot of trail history and science thrown in to lengthen the story, which is sometimes interesting, but mostly boring. I had to skip parts of this or I never would have made it through the book. There just isn't much for him to talk about when he is out on the trail alone. For the ending, Bryson and Katz team up again to take a stab at the end of the trail in Maine. Once again, Bryson's telling of the interactions between he and his friend are quite entertaining. He wraps it all up nicely, and in the end I was glad I read the book. ( )
  valorrmac | Aug 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson

Seventeen years after its original publication, sporting "Now a major motion picture" label, this rambling account of an attempted long hike on the Appalachian Trail came into my hands. I had been on the trail long ago. I never would have aspired to do more than sample it, and salute those who complete it.

(I was tempted to leave the above as my review but find I cannot. Like Bryson and Katz, I press on.)

Neither himself or his overweight companion had any realistic expectation of completing the journey. We marvel that they did as much as was possible against all odds, appreciate Bryson's honesty, and look forward to the film. ( )
  Esta1923 | Aug 18, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In the mid-1990s, expatriate writer Bill Bryson decided that the best way to reconnect with his American heritage and upbringing was by walking the Appalachian Trail, the celebrated 2,200-mile (or so) pathway that stretches through the mountains of the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Maine. A Walk in the Woods chronicles his adventures on that journey, along with detailed accounts of many of the people and sights he encountered along the way. Beyond those reminiscences, Bryson also offers lengthy forays into such diverse additional topics as the origins and development of the AT, significant moments during the Civil War, the myriad shortcomings of the Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers, the history of crime and other fatalities along the trail, as well as the many, many ways in which mankind has failed to protect either our physical environment or our wildlife populations.

I suppose I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with this book, particularly since I have enjoyed so much of the author’s past work. Being re-released as part of a movie tie-in promotion about two decades after its original publication, considerable portions of A Walk in the Woods feel quite dated, especially the ponderous statistical support given for social and ecological arguments that were undoubtedly fresh twenty years ago. Whether these issues involving wilderness preservation still resonate with readers today in the same way and for the same reasons is debatable, but then neither the author nor the publisher have made any attempt to update the book for events that have transpired since then. By all appearances, the text of this “new” edition seems to be exactly the same as it was when originally published in 1998.

What bothered me the most about the story, however, was that the parts involving the author’s actual experiences on the AT were simply not very interesting, nor were they in the slightest bit charming. In fact, Bryson devotes relatively little space to the time he and Stephen Katz, his sometimes trail companion, spent hiking and camping, preferring more frequently to regale the reader with their perpetual efforts to find motels and restaurants away from the AT where they might be more comfortable. Further, in addition to complaining about the hardships associated with virtually every step they take, Bryson and Katz do some incredibly mean-spirited things to other hikers, such as ditch a lonely (albeit annoying) elderly woman in the middle of a walk, insult another woman’s weight because she hasn’t yet hiked the trail, and steal the laces from the boots of another woman whom they found to be obnoxious at an overnight rest stop.

By the end, I was not quite sure what the author’s real purpose was for the entire venture, besides being a good reason to write another book. Indeed, he abandons very early on the prospect of walking the entire trail; instead, he ends up hiking less than 40 percent of the AT and takes some significant time off in the middle. (Katz is present for considerably less time than that, although he does provide some occasional comic relief.) Also, for all the talk of confronting the omnipresent dangers of the AT (e.g., gun-toting ne’er-do-wells; wild animals, such as bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes; hypothermia and dehydration), Bryson encounters exactly one moose and experiences one brief stretch when he finds himself underequipped for some fog and rain that materializes suddenly. So, for as interesting as some of the associated historical vignettes were to read, the lack of focus left me more than a little frustrated, which is something that I never thought I would say about a book by Bill Bryson. ( )
  browner56 | Aug 17, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In the 1990s Bill Bryson hiked much the Appalachian Trail, but not all at once. The trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and is a daunting prospect, even doing sections at a time. It is about 2600 miles in length, which is one source of humor in the book, because no one knows exactly how long the trail actually is. Humor is a large component of the story. Bryson can mine a good laugh from the most harrowing or ridiculous situations. However, as A Walk in the Woods progresses, and Bryson’s quest takes on a serious tone, the humor is less evident, which is fitting.

Bryson’s writing draws you in immediately. It is engaging and full of precise observations. Unlike many serious hikers he is ambivalent about backpacking equipment. One item he carried: “A big knife for killing bears and hillbillies.” Neither of which he encountered.

Bryson intersperses his story of walking the trail with bits of history, trail lore, observations on the surroundings and other hikers, and facts. He expounds geologically, describing the changes the earth has gone through, setting the scene for development that created much of the world.

He worries, needlessly, about encountering angry wildlife. On the rumors of Mountain Lions that were released pets: “It would be just my luck, of course, to be savaged by an animal with a flea collar and a medical history. I imagined lying on my back, being extravagantly ravaged, inclining my head slightly to read a dangling silver tag that said: ‘My name is Mr. Bojangles. If found please call Tanya and Vinny at 924-4667.”

A star of the book is Bryson’s friend, Stephen Katz, who accompanies him part of the way. Katz sometimes provide comic relief and is a foil for Bryson. Bryson takes pride in hiking the trail. As he puts it, “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 discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists. I made a friend. I came home.” ( )
  Hagelstein | Aug 13, 2015 |
An endlessly entertaining travelogue which suffers slightly from a bit too much wit and some much-too-late emotional grounding. Still, it's hard not to love Bryson's seamless fusing of history, humor and adventure. ( )
  Zonnywhoop | Aug 10, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bill Bryson has to be one of my favorite authors and in this book he travels the Appalachian Trail with his old buddy Katz. The thing I like about his writing is that he always seems to balance interesting facts and stories with what he's trying to accomplish. I mean, on its own, hiking is not a fascinating subject for me, but Bryson has a knack for your keeping your attention.

It really is impossible to not like Bill Bryson. If there was anything about this book that I didn't like, it was the the slow middle where he and Katz part ways for the summer before returning to the trail towards the Fall. Katz and Bryson's relationship really make this book what it is. You'll be cheering them along if you pick up this book.

(2015 sidenote: I can not wait to see this movie. Perfect casting choices.) ( )
  rosylibrarian | Aug 3, 2015 |
I won this book in a first reads giveaway! :) I cannot wait to receive and read it! :)
  kimg77 | Jul 30, 2015 |
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trailwas recommended to me by a co-worker who has spent some time hiking and biking various parts of the Appalachian Trail (henceforth known as the "AT"). Bryson is a humorist who has traveled the U.S. and Europe and wrote this in 1998 while living in the U.S. temporarily.

It is hard to know what is embellished and what is fact in this book, but it's certain that Bryson and an old high school classmate Kratz--overweight and out of shape-- attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Bryson is originally from the Midwest, resides in the North, and is unfamiliar with the strange ways of the hillbillies of Georgia and Tennessee. The hikers fare pretty well compared to many who give up the AT after just a few days. They survive record cold weather, snow, losing a bunch of their gear, drunk drivers, and strange or annoying hiking companions. Upon reaching Gatlinburg, they decide to bypass Kentucky by rental car (to my disappointment) and hike in Virginia. Eventually, they call it quits and decide to reunite and hike the northern part of the trail later on.

Bryson includes many facts on the history of the AT, the geography and wildlife, and is often highly critical of the U.S. Forest Service. His adventures with Katz are entertaining, sometimes fairly profane. The second half of the book where Bryson is doing some solo hiking and exploring is more dull. Eventually he and Katz are reunited for a brief and disappointing last attempt at hiking before calling it quits for good. They are rightly proud of their accomplishments. I learned a bit about the AT, and was entertained. I give it 3 stars out of 5.
( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
Hilarious. Made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail! ( )
1 vote katherineemilysmith | May 4, 2015 |
I thought this novel was very informative and very humorous. ( )
  OliviaGoymour | Apr 29, 2015 |
In the mid-90's, humorist Bill Bryson decided he would take on the monumental feat of walking the Appalachian Trail. The AT runs approximately 2100 miles from George to Maine (there's a whole chapter discussing measurement of its precise length). A friend of his, Katz, offers to come along. A reformed alcoholic, single, middle-aged couch potato, Katz didn't seem to give it much thought when agreeing to go. We all know that kind of guy...the one who wants to come along for the party, even if there is little party to be had.

Taking up hiking and starting with such an extraordinary adventure is kind of like taking up running and immediately signing up for an ultra marathon. While Bryson researched this trip for nearly a year before starting, the lack of actual experience meant he was still woefully unprepared. Bryson conveys the history of the trail, history of certain landmarks along the way, and the culture of fellow hikers throughout the course of the book.

Slowed down from the start by unusually brutal weather, Bryson and Katz quickly fell off the pace required to finish in the typical 7 months it takes for successful hikers to complete the journey. Side trips to towns get a little longer, and start to expand beyond a night in an inn and some hot gruel. Before long, they are renting cars, and catching up on the distance deficit the easy way. In the end, they actually hiked nearly 40% of the trail -- a good effort, and Bryson spins this into a fine story. I like to hike, but I've never been tempted by the AT (not after watching Deliverance when I was a kid). Reading this book makes me less inclined -- the hardships endured were real, and the "this is why we do this" moments seemed too few and too far between. I'll stick to day hikes for now, when I know what to expect when I get there, and can choose to endure bad weather or not. ( )
1 vote JeffV | Apr 26, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A fun memoir by Bill Bryson, detailing his experience hiking the AT. This was an enjoyable (and often hysterical) read, and something I buzzed through pretty quickly. I had a slightly different expectation going into the book - I thought he was a "thru hiker," and did the entire trail all in one go, but he actually was a section hiker who ended up accomplishing less than half of the trail (which is still an incredible feat, something I highly doubt I will ever do, and I consider myself a pretty avid hiker). Bryson also packed his book full of interesting and historical facts, although at times they dragged his narrative a bit. Personally, I found part one to be a lot better than part two. Definitely a book I would recommend to anyone interested in the AT, or hiking trips in general. ( )
  skrouhan | Apr 14, 2015 |
Dont think this the best of Bryson but seriously funny in places, written well as always but left me expecting more ( )
  Tony2704 | Mar 18, 2015 |
This had some good information, but overall I was disappointed because I knew it had been well received and I was expecting more. I think he gave too little attention to his actual experience -- and I can't believe that he and his friend subsisted on only noodles and candy bars while walking all day long for weeks on end! It just didn't add up. The sidebar information about how the trail was created and the wildlife was definitely the best part. ( )
1 vote creynolds | Feb 25, 2015 |
Funny, informational, and real right up to the not quite ending. ( )
  whybehave2002 | Feb 4, 2015 |
Dried noodles! That’s basically what the hikers Bill Bryson, and his friend Steven Katz, had left to eat after their first full day of their hike on the Appalachian Trail. Both were out of shape before taking on their hike, but Katz even more so. During the halfway point of their first day, Katz saw fit to ‘fling’ stuff out of his pack in order to ease his load; much of it was food stuff. But, hey, it felt good to ‘fling’ it. This is Bryson’s first-hand account of their experience, and at first it was hilarious. He started us out with the reason why – because it’s there and because he’s reacquainting himself with America after spending 20 years in England. Then, he basically takes us with him as he’s shopping for the supplies he would need. In many respects, he was clueless, but it was enjoyable for the reader. The entire trail is over 2,100 miles long from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. As each day progresses, you can see their fitness level improve. They seem able to walk further each day taking it all in stride. However, occasionally, they do look for opportunities to go off the AT for the comfort of restaurants and motels.

At the beginning, I was all in. It was funny and light-hearted and very enjoyable. As they are walking the trail, he tosses in some history and facts of the trail which was quite interesting. I loved his characterization of other hikers. I didn’t realize when I first began reading that he was eventually going to delve more into political and controversial aspects. There was a whole dissertation about the failings of the US Forestry; a part about tree science; and even his views on evolution. I rated A Walk in the Woods at 3.5 out of 5. ( )
2 vote FictionZeal | Feb 1, 2015 |
One of the funniest books I've ever read. Read this at my Mom's and I can remember reading parts aloud to her and my Aunt Mary, and all of us shrieking with laughter. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Jan 31, 2015 |
Bill Bryson, seasoned author of a number of entertaining books on travel and the English language, is suddenly inspired one day to hike the Appalachian Trail after discovering that a length of it passes by near his small town in New Hampshire. Shockingly, none of his local buddies take him up on the offer to walk 2000+ miles for fun, but he ultimately finds a partner in this adventure in an old acquaintance from his youth. And so, two middle-aged, not-particularly-fit men outfit themselves and set off from Springer Mountain in Georgia, intending to hike to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Naturally, all does not go as expected, from snowfall during their first week on the trail to excessive heat during the tail end, navigating with poor-quality maps, meeting eccentric trail folk, surviving on Snickers and Slim Jims and getting lost.

Bryson is foremost a humor writer, and he does an excellent job of making what must have been at times a miserable experience still sound enticing enough to inspire my own sense of wanderlust. If you want to get out in the woods, this -- along with John Francis' Planet Walker, will inspire you. ( )
1 vote ryner | Jan 22, 2015 |
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