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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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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! ( )
  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 |
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 |
Caution: Do not drink milk while reading. 100% chance of laughter, with high likelihood of serious snorting. ( )
  TFHetrick | Jan 2, 2015 |
Bill Bryson is one of those "collectible" authors. Meaning, I know I can read anything he has written and enjoy it on some level. A Walk in the Woods was no different. One day in 1996 while walking near his Hanover, New Hampshire home Bryson gets it into his head to hike the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia and working his way, 2,100 miles later, to Maine. He brings along an old buddy, Stephen Katz, someone he hasn't seen in years. They make an interesting pair and their relationship is one of the best parts of the book, but there is a little of everything in A Walk in the Woods. Over the course of 870 miles, Bryson has the opportunity to tackle the serious with a touch of silliness. Case in point, the bears. Bryson jokes about becoming a snack for the hungry mammals but at the same time paints a pretty scary picture of what those beasts can do. While a great deal of the book is written in a humorous tone (can you just picture the "waddlesome sloth" he mentions on page 4?), Bryson also has a sobering commentary on the history of the trail, man's devastating logging and hunting practices, and the sociological quirks of the regions he visits. His visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania is both haunting and disturbing. From the blundering beginnings of trying to buy the correct equipment (and use it properly) to the soberly fact the Appalachian Trail is over 2,000 miles long and they will never finish it, Bryson and Katz experience the best and worst of an iconic trail. Even though they end up skipping the AT from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Harper's Ferry, Virginia, the pair learn more about America (and themselves) than they bargained for. A Walk in the Woods made me want to find my own little piece of the trail and hike it, just to say I did. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Dec 2, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book. It relly brought into nature. It made me want to go hike a trail. It was very humerous . But the ending was a bit sudden.
  Spartans99 | Oct 3, 2014 |
This makes a great audiobook.

I especially love the bit where he thinks he might be dying of hypothermia. I've definitely had these thoughts cross my mind while tramping! ( )
  LynleyS | Aug 20, 2014 |
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I read it during a period in which I was really into the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail (still am, but not as much), which is something I'll probably never be physically able to do but which is fun to read about.

This book was so much better than I thought it would be. Bryson had me screaming with laughter and pounding the arm of my chair when he described his imagined reaction to hearing a bear outside of his tent. I loved his honesty and the realism of the story (of course, it's a true story, but such things often get embellished). Bryson's point is not to brag about how far he and a friend got on the trail, nor is it to try to persuade others to take on the hike. He simply describes his often funny experiences on the trail, from the people he saw to the food he ate and the wildlife he encountered (or, really, that encountered him). I also liked the tidbits of information about how the trail came to be and how it is managed. People often overlook these important facts, and reading about them made me appreciate how hard people work to keep the trail open for generations to come. It made me want to at least hike a little bit of it someday, even though I'd have to get on an international flight to get there.

Great, funny read. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote athenaharmony | Aug 3, 2014 |
A Hilarious Series of Misadventures, History Lesson, and Buddy Tale All in One

I don't think I'm ever NOT reading this book--it's one of the 5 I would take to a desert island. First book I remember that made me laugh out loud until I cried. Lewis and Clark meet Laurel and Hardy, by way of Mark Twain. Bryson is the best travel writer, period. Five stars. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
This is a work of narrative non fiction. The author gives an account of his effort to walk the Appalacian Trail, a 2200 mile trail through America for hikers. This is an honest narration about the highs and lows of that trek. There is some amount of geology and lot of history told with a funny turn of phrase. It makes for a nice and entertaining read. ( )
  mausergem | Jun 10, 2014 |
Bill Bryson decides he wants to walk the entire Appalachian Trail (but does he, actually? He'll let you know). This was back in the 1990s, when I suspect isolation was much greater due to the relative lack of internet availability and smartphones didn't exist. Bryson does acquire a walking partner who is an unlikely volunteer -- Katz is overweight and favors junk food as fuel.

This book started out hilarious; I was laughing so much. As it went on, Bryson's snarky tendencies (especially towards other hikers encountered along the trail) started to wear on me. Still, I found it fascinating reading -- he includes tidbits about how the government handles the trail (not very well) and about animals that are encountered, or might be encountered, along the trail. His descriptions about what he learned regarding bears was truly hair-raising.

And, no, it didn't make me want to give the Appalachian trail a shot (beyond maybe a couple miles). But I don't think that was Bryson's goal, to make people clamor to try it; he did not mince words about how hard his experiences were. ( )
1 vote ValerieAndBooks | May 31, 2014 |
The book is a wandering, laugh-out-loud funny account of a trek on the trail and the people they meet plus a smattering of history about the AT and its environs. I didn't find the history parts dull at all. The exploits of Bryson and his friend kept me chuckling. He has a way of describing things that is witty and acute. And in case you're wondering- he was constantly worried about meeting bears- but pretty much the worst incident is his friend getting lost. They hiked 500 miles (almost a third) of the trail before realizing they weren't going to make it all the way and decided to sample portions of the rest.

more at the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | May 21, 2014 |
Amusing and informative story about one man's trek along the Appalachian Trail gets bogged down with adverbs and a penchant for a certain obnoxious, negative attitude. A good read, nonetheless. ( )
  Bradley_Kramer | May 15, 2014 |
Sent by Mom, who's cleaning out her bookshelves again. Decided to read because we may be walking bits of this trail in a month or two. First thought: Bill Bryson Is Not As Funny As He Thinks He Is, and this is going to be one of those travel books for people who've never done ANYTHING, so it has to be full of exaggerated perils and discomfort. I mean the Appalachian Trail is not Uzbekistan... But then I got sucked in and stuck with it, and doing so taught me something about why and how I read narrative: the journey AND the protagonist/guide/narrator/author each (if they aren't one and the same) have to keep me engaged with them in some way that's partly cerebral and partly emotional. If the emotional side isn't there (say Italo Calvino)I drop it. If the cerebral isn't there, I "fling it with great force," a la Dorothy Parker. Either way, I now can finally justify all those set-asides I've felt guilty about for years, that weren't just a case of out-and-out bad writing. Not to mention my guilty pleasures as well! If you're going to take any trip, physical or mental, these connections would have to be there, right? QED. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Honest, funny and inspiring. Makes you want to put on your boots and rush out in search of a trail to walk. ( )
  Matt_B | Apr 27, 2014 |
The funniest travel book you will ever read. ( )
  zguba | Apr 25, 2014 |
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