A walk in the woods : rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson

Paperback, 1998




New York : Broadway Books, 1998.


Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail offers some of America's most breathtaking scenery. It also offers an irresistible, amusingly ill-conceived adventure to Bryson & his out-of-shape walking companion, Stephen Katz. Mile by arduous mile, these unlikely pioneers walk the Appalachian Trail, along the way surviving the threat of bear attacks, cravings for hot showers & cream sodas, the loss of key provisions, & everything else this rugged territory can throw at them. But Bryson's account also vividly conjures a backdrop of silent forests & sparkling lakes - America's astonishing but fragile landscape. Both a hilarious comedy & a tribute to one of our country's last great wildernesses, A Walk in the Woods is a modern classic of travel literature.… (more)

Media reviews

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.
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[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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
I am sure there are books about the Appalachian Trail that are jam-packed with facts, figures, topographical maps, photos, and so on. A Walk in the Woods is not such a book; rather, it is a humorous memoir of one person's effort to hike the trail from beginning to end. And along the way, the reader picks up an astonishing amount of information about the Appalachian Trail (AT)'s history, flora & fauna, weather, etc. The trail is over 2,000 miles long, and runs from Georgia to Maine. There are entry/exit points along the way, and shelters about every 10 miles. It's possible to hike pieces of the trail, but the mother of all hikes is "thru-hiking" from end to end. This endeavor takes several months and requires careful planning to accommodate the harshest weather conditions at each endpoint. In the mid-1990s, Bill Bryson recruited a friend from his hometown to join him in "thru-hiking" the AT. His book, A Walk in the Woods, recounts their journey.

Bryson and Stephen Katz were an unlikely pair. They were friends in their youth but their adult paths diverged. Neither man was in great physical condition. Bryson, at least, was an experienced hiker. Katz's top priority was pursuit of a hot meal and a real bed. But off they went. They met some interesting characters along the way, which Bryson recounted with great humor. He also used this memoir as a platform for giving the National Park Service a performance review for their preservation efforts, and conveying his disappointment in humankind's lack of respect & appreciation for the world around them. Bryson clearly thrived on the natural beauty found on the trail, and the hike itself had a profound personal impact on him, which he managed to communicate without getting overly philosophical. He also wove in a lot of trail history, and useful details for anyone considering an AT hike, such as the best and worst states for trail maintenance, the condition of shelters, and even amenities in some towns near the trail.

I'm unlikely to attempt such a hike myself, but I do enjoy nature writing and stories about taking on a challenge or overcoming adversity. Bryson's memoir was a very enjoyable read in all of these respects.
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LibraryThing member bardsfingertips
This is my first sojourn into the delightful world as seen from Bill Bryson's eyes. Well, maybe "delightful" is too pretty of a word.

Anyway, this is a memoir, thus making it nonfiction, thus making it a piece of the written letters I normally do not tread. Regardless, his approach here is very narrative in spirit and makes you feel as though you really want to see this first-person (and his companion) through his journey.

What we have here is a story about a man who decided, somewhat out of the blue, that he wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is, of course, quite an undertaking, therefore, he does not wish to do it himself. So, he writes to all of his friends and gets one person to respond much to his surprise. His name is Katz. He is well overweight and has recently stopped drinking due to the fact he is an alcoholic. Plus, as I am sure you, gentlereaders, have guessed, quite out of shape.

Bill Bryson takes note of their journey in a manner that is both hilarious and melancholic. Bryson successfully mixes narration with factoids about the trail, the environment, animals, plants, history all without causing any discomfort.

If there were more writers like Bryson retelling aspects of their lives, I would be more thrilled to read them.

…And, I sort of feel like taking a bit of a walk.
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LibraryThing member pbjwelch
Having grown up in New England, my childhood was marked by periodic visits to sites along the New England Appalachian Trail. Because my brother and I were still young in those years, our hiking was limited to about four hours--first there was the drive from Boston to our destination, then 2 hours up a trail, 2 hours back down the trail to the parking lot, and the return trip home. These trips remain, however, amongst the highlight memories of my childhood, and as a later parent, I understood the amount of work and patience they required of our parents--the long car ride, the need to pack small 'motivational' snacks, the lack of toilet facilities for shy 8-year-old girls, my younger brother's demand to be carried on our father's shoulders for most of the trip back down. Later, as a young newlywed, my husband and I would often go hiking and camping around Moosehead Lake in Maine (where you saw not only moose but also way more snakes than I ever want to see again).

So Bryson's book brought back all those memories in addition to putting the trail, which I really hadn't given much thought to, into context. Like many other readers, I loved the details--the salamanders, the fear of bears and cougars, the chance encounter with a shy moose, the history, and even the statistics. Today, I turn over rocks looking for small salamanders for my grandchildren, and point out which side of a tree moss grows on, as my father did for me as we learned about forests. As Bryce notes, the trail was quite empty in the 50s and 60s; we rarely encountered other families and only an occasional 'hiker' on our weekend walks...even though they were all well within range of a road or parking lot. I suspect the same pattern holds true today. The forest in many parts of America is still thick and relatively unexplored. When, as young marrieds, we chanced upon the crash site of a small private plane dense in the Maine forest and reported it to the local authorities, we were waved off with a "Too much trouble to clean out" (and no one seemed to know or remember if there had been survivors or not).

This is a lovely book, a joy to read--a story enhanced by the author's brio and wildly unsuitable walking companion. My daughter, who loves to run in the woods, recommended it to me, for which I will be forever grateful. If you, too, like to walk in forests, I heartily recommend A Walk in the Woods.

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LibraryThing member TheLoopyLibrarian
I had long heard great things about Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, but I had yet to read it. I had the perfect reason to finally pick up a copy when Bill Bryson came to Georgia Center for the Book to promote his new book One Summer: America, 1927. I was immediately caught up in Bryson’s storytelling with his droll sense of humor and keen, witty observations. For a middle-aged man who had never so much as gone camping to suddenly decide to tackle the Appalachian Trail is, in itself, fodder for much humor. He managed to turn a trip to the camping store into a laugh-out-loud adventure. His traveling companion provided bumbling comedy himself and, from what Bill said in his talk Friday night, has achieved his own measure of fame due to the book. First published in 1998, the book remains in print and is an official guide to the Appalachian Trail (the AT). Not only does the book contain humorous misadventures, but it is also a fascinating account of the history, geology, and ecology of the AT. I was never bored. I laughed and I learned, often simultaneously. Bryson also meets an amusing cast of characters along the trail (like Chicken John who became notorious for getting lost). I was inspired and thoroughly enjoyed the account of Bryson’s journey. He proved to be the ideal guide for the trail. Now that the fall weather has come to Georgia, I’m tempted to take a walk on the trail myself. I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys travel books, hiking, or just plain entertaining storytelling.

Favorite quotes:

Regarding the hike, Bryson muses: “Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really” (p.100).

An example of learning and laughter combined regarding a time in America where bounties were paid for the killing of predatory animals and wherein some became extinct or endangered as a result: “Rationality didn’t often come into it. Pennsylvania on year paid out $90,000 in bounties for the killing of 130,000 owls and hawks to save the state’s farmers a slightly less than whopping $1,875 in estimated livestock losses. (It is not very often, after all, that an owl carries off a cow.)” (p.291)

“A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old” (p. 347).

Favorite words:

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LibraryThing member athenaharmony
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.
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LibraryThing member NellieMc
One of Bryson's most personal books, it's a lot less about observing others and more about his own personal feelings as he tackles the Appalachian Trail. It's a surprisingly nostalgic book, and more subtly humorous than most of his, almost as if he sees the part of America that he loves leaving as he's walking along. A very fast read, it becomes obvious early on that Bryson (and his old friend from Iowa, Katz) are not going to make the whole trail, the only question is whether they're going to feel that having at least done some of it, they will feel disappointed or exhilerated. Actually, they do both. After the first section, when they come down in Virginia, you do feel that they have triumphed, making it a lot further than their experience of fitness would imply they can. But the second half of the book, where Bryson does day trips in Pa and Vt, and esp. when Katz rejoins him to attempt the 100 mild wilderness portion of Maine, is a lot less triumphant. Although Bryson does ultimately decide that even though this latter trip is unsuccessful (it's very clear that Katz puts himself in danger due to stupid hiking), they had accomplished what they set out to do, I still felt a little disappointed that the end was flat.… (more)
LibraryThing member FictionZeal
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.
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LibraryThing member creynolds
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
A Walk in the Woods was my first, but certainly not my last Bill Bryson book. This one is a wonderful read about the Appalachian Trail told from the viewpoint of a amateur hiker. This book is really funny. The author is well able to find the humor in any given situation. I must admit, even though I am listing this as a “non-fiction” book, I can’t quite believe that all the situations he found himself in are totally accurate.

I guess his writing would fall under the category of ‘Travel Writing” but as he inserts himself into the story, it is taken to a different level, and allows the reader to participate in a fun adventure without leaving the comfort of your home. His writing is comfortable and cozy, but he does manage to insert plenty of facts and figures about the creation of the trail and it’s upkeep and history, along with many small tidbits about misfortune that has or could befall the hapless hiker.

I found myself really looking forward to picking up the book and losing myself on the Trail with him and Katz. I also drove my husband to distraction trying to read portions aloud to him, I finally gave up and will just pass the book along for him to enjoy quietly on his own. I recommend this book for the humor, the education, and the author’s basic love of the outdoors which shines through.
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LibraryThing member MarysGirl
Classic Bryson! Funny, informative and gripping. I suffered and laughed with Bryson as he and his overweight buddy from Iowa tried to walk the Appalachian Trail one summer. He takes us through the process of deciding to do the deed, buying his equipment, begging everyone he sent Christmas cards to to join him, researching the pitfalls (bears - lots of bears,)his first foot-blistering days, the topography, the history, the people he met on the trail and more. A delightful and easy read. Highly recommend this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member bell7
Bill Bryson recounts his bumbling travels on the Appalachian Trail with an old friend, Stephen Katz. With lots of humor, vivid descriptions, and a smattering of botany and geology, this was a hugely enjoyable read. I'm not sure if I entirely believe his encounters with fellow travelers (they seem a little too humorous not to be embellished), but the stories are fun and I learned a lot along the way. I only wish I'd picked up the book earlier.… (more)
LibraryThing member tess_schoolmarm
Mr. Bryson and a companion hiked a very small part of the Appalachian Trail (and really didn't rough it) to become fit as well as acquaint himself with nature and the territory. His manner of writing is easy and flowing. I enjoyed the ecology and the history of the trail as well as his knowledge of the trees.

I often became bogged down in the daily details, they were all the same, get up, have coffee, hike, etc. Occasionally they met interesting people along the trail. I did not like the way Bryson and his companion made fun of others (their weight, dialect, etc.); it was just plain mean.

Although this was a average good read, I probably would not read another of his books. 397 pages 3 stars
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LibraryThing member iayork
A Walk in the Woods with a Wonderful Guide: Bill Bryson's travel writing is filled with humor, introspection and fascinating information. In this work, Bryson takes us through the trials, tribulations an joys of hiking the Appalachian Trail. On the way, we learn of the origins of the trail, of the flora and fauna along it, of the tragedies that have occurred in it, but most of all, we are left with a deep and profound respect, and even awe, for nature's wonders. Adding to the flavor of the tale is Bryson's companion, an old friend who resumes his friendship with Bryson to join him on the trail, and is a foil to Bryson's personality, a sort of Sancho Panza to Bryson' Don Quixote.

Bryson is a skilled craftsman with words, and gives vivid, memorable accounts of his ramble through the trail, all the while interjecting his own persona, his witty observations relating to the woods, environmental issues, the lore of the trail, without diminishing the powerful presence of the nature and environment in which he moves. As a very average Joe, in many respects, it becomes easy for the rest of us to identify with Bryson, with his fears and failures on the trail, with his frustrations and his triumphs. We are left with all the emotions and experience of the trail but without the bumps and bruises.
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LibraryThing member ChazziFrazz
Bill Bryson takes on a daunting tast of hiking the Applachian Trail...OK...maybe not all 2,100 miles but a pretty nice chunk for someone who is not a hiking enthusiast.

Bryson's style of writing makes you want to read on. His appreciation of the beauty of nature that is found in the woods he treks. The challenge of walking with his hiking buddy, Katz; a man who is totally out-of-shape and diet tends towards Twinkies and soda. The number of characters they meet on their treks along the trail and the strange situations they go through to accomplish their hike.

The book is not just humourous but also fact filled and eye opening to how frail our natural landscape has become. He includes the history of how the trail came into being, the loss of plant life and wildlife that has happened over they years due to Man. The need for conservancy of this natural asset is a running thread in the book.

A little more history and factoids than I usually like, but interwoven in such a way that reading it is all part of the enjoyment.

There has been a movie made of this book but I figure it is more of the highlights and humourous parts that the serious side that runs through it.

If you love Nature or humour this could be a Goodread for you.
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LibraryThing member JeffV
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.
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LibraryThing member AmyElizabeth
I just read an amazing book. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail was an informative, funny, eye-opening experience. I say "experience" because Bill Bryson pulls you onto the trail beside him. I feel as if I truly understand the hard work and stamina required for such an endeavor and, although I admire what Bryson accomplished and even fantasize about doing it myself, I know, based on what I've read, there's no way I would try to hike the Appalachian Trail.

That's not true. I'm sure I could be persuaded by a hefty dollar amount.

While I enjoy hiking and experiencing nature and new things, from my own personal experience with hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, I am very much an "indoor girl."

But that's what was so great about Bryson's writing. I could be inside in air conditioning, with a bottle of water next to me and absolutely no mosquitos, and still felt as if I was experiencing the trail with him. I felt as if I was there when he first set foot on the roughly 2,100 mile hike, felt exhilirated with the feeling of unknown adventure, terrified when his friend went missing, awed when he came face-to-face with a moose, and held my breath when something - or some thing - was just outside his tent in the middle of the night with nothing but a pair of staring, glowing eyes. I learned the importance of always packing (and double-checking that you packed) waterproof gear and how quickly the weather can change on a mountain. All of this took him months to learn and experience while fighting heat, exhaustion, rain, and wildlife. It took me just over 24 hours.

There are few books that I will read in less than 48 hours, and even fewer that I will read more than once. A Walk in the Woods has now fallen into both categories.

I enjoyed his wit (his humor is much the same as my own, which always makes a book more fun) and the hilarious banter between him and his friend Stephen Katz (who did most of the hiking with him). One aspect of the book that was incredibly informative but just as incredibly sad was the statistics that Bryson would seamlessly transition into when he reached a new part of the trail or came across a specific animal. I learned a lot about the different problems facing moose, bears (or the problems they present to us), and even specific species of trees.

This is a book I highly recommend. It's one I wish I hadn't waited to read.

Five out of five stars.
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LibraryThing member shearon
This charming travelogue is full of very interesting information about the history, geology and weather along the over 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail through 14 states in the eastern US. Bryson’s clever writing about the trials and tribulations he and his companion faced on the AT, and the characters they met often has a laugh-out-loud effect and always keeps you smiling.

But this is also a story of the friendship between Bryson and his hiking companion, Stephen Katz. Unlikely friends, unlikely hikers, the evolution of their relationship along the Trail is a touching story within this very entertaining travelogue.
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LibraryThing member Sean191
My first Bryson book, read appropriately enough, on a six day backpacking/camping trip in Ecuador. The book was laugh-out-loud funny, sad, and informative. Well worth reading, either for those really into the outdoors, or those having their outdoor interaction by looking out the window - it may change your mind!
LibraryThing member haleyo
The first half of this book was engaging and hilarious, a funny story about two guys hiking the AT. Bryson smoothly integrates the ecological history of the trail, its foundation and its current state. Unfortunately, the second part of the book in my eyes failed to live up to the first. I sludged through the second half, feeling as if I too were walking the tail end of the AT, as Bryson leaves the funny bits behind and spends an inordinate about of time going on rabbit trails of the ecological nature of the AT. Had the second part been like the first I would have most definitely given it a higher rating!… (more)
LibraryThing member adamallen
As seems to be my trend of late, A Walk in the Woods was the first book that I’ve read by Bill Bryson. I own two books by Mr. Bryson, this one and A Short History of Nearly Everything. I chose to read this one first since I’ve recently been reading several books on Vermont, the woods, and (more generally) nature. I had been anxious to read one of Bryson’s books as I’ve heard that his humor is infectious and engaging. I found that to be very true. In fact, it’s rare for me but I found myself laughing aloud regularly. Bryson and Katz were quite the comedic duo and Bryson’s writing delivered the laughs regularly.

The book chronicled the author’s hiking of various segments of the Appalachian Trail in the spring, summer, and fall of 1996. Mr. Bryson made most of the hikes with his friend Katz and their lack of fitness often resides at the center of a funny story. Bryson’s writing style was very interesting in that he would spend 5 – 10 pages detailing something historic about the trail, a surrounding area, or nature in general before returning to the journey underway. For me, it made the book more readable and kept me engrossed in the story. I learned a little and then I laughed a little. He didn’t try too hard to make me laugh the entire time – which would have been extremely tough – nor did he write a textbook. Nicely blended Bryson!

There were so many comedic bits that I hesitate to even choose one. However, since I’m a sucker for bits about flatulence/poop (come on…you know it’s funny…), I’ll give this one when Bryson is relating stories he’s researched about campers facing bear attacks in the wild:

“What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties – I daresay it would even give a merry toot – and bleed into a messy death in my sleeping bag.”

I concede that taking the bit out of context doesn’t do it justice. As such, I implore you to read the book. It’s funny! (And this is the only poop-related bit that I remember too…)

There were also some startling facts that made me reflect such as:

“Now here’s a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days – that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls – adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That’s ridiculous.”

I couldn’t agree more. It actually saddens me and makes me consider my personal habits.

Read the book. Read one of his other books. We can all use a good laugh and I’ve heard from so many others that they’ve enjoyed his books. I feel confident that you will too.
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LibraryThing member Polaris-
This was a lot of fun. Probably won't be the best Bryson I'll read, but totally enjoyable. I like the way he's always ready to go off an a good tangent and there's loads of diverting commentary. Shame the whole AT wasn't covered by Bryson and his mate Katz - but somehow that isn't really the point.
LibraryThing member ALincolnNut
Bill Bryson is a noted popular, with several books to his credit. Finding humor in all sorts of bizarre situations, his books are popular. In "A Walk in the Woods," he describes his rather quixotic attempt to through-hike the Appalachian Trail, with almost no hiking or camping experience. Taking along a friend who is even a more unlikely candidate, he sets out.

Bryson's descriptions are invariably amusing, as he takes us along his slow journey. He intersperses descriptions of trail life with interesting bits about the creation and history of the trail and certain locations along the way -- or in one case, almost on the way.

Although I've never hiked the trail, Bryson's details seem accurate, providing a feel for the pain, giving way to monotony, giving way to acceptance, giving way to wonder. It continuously posits the question, "Why would anyone do this?" even as it suggests a few answers, including discovering a different type of life away from our modern conveniences and our modern schedules.

Several people have written books about hiking the Appalachian Trail over the years. Many are by hikers much more experienced than Bryson and his companion, but it's difficult to imagine any that are more entertaining. Of course, all is not fun and games, there is one story of true terror in the book, unexpected, which demonstrates Bryson's skill as a storyteller.

Likely this book will appeal to a broad audience. One does not need to be a forest ranger to understand or appreciate Bryson's story. And given that these hikers start with little experience, there's no wilderness jargon that will bewilder the uninitiated.
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LibraryThing member Carolesrandomlife
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.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, narrated by Rob McQuay
4 stars

This is the of Bill Bryson's attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine. I read his book Notes From a Small Island which was his walking England. I liked that one quite a bit. This one a little less. Mr Bryson provides besides a commentary about his experience, history of the trail, ecology and political commentary. Bill can be funny but some of his humor is a little edgy at times. I did like it more than his The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and a lot more than his A Short History of Nearly Everything. The narrator was okay. He tried to give different voices to the different people but I thought he mixed them up once in awhile and if you weren't paying attention you could end up wondering, who said that? I like travel books and I give it 4 stars but just barely.… (more)
LibraryThing member brenzi
What a joy to join Bill Bryson as he attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail. Part travelogue, part social commentary, always engaging and mostly very funny, Bryson lets you tag along as he and his overweight, out-of-shape friend Stephen Katz, start the hike in Georgia and head north. They soon discover that, even with a boatload of expensive, fancy camping equipment, the two inexperienced hikers faced a daunting task in tackling the 2,100 mile hike. There’s no way to underestimate the challenges from hot weather, hiking with a 40 pound pack on your back, cold weather, rain, deep snow, animals in the wild and an unending variety of quirky characters who travel along the AT. It soon becomes apparent that they are not going to manage to walk the whole trail and it was time for a scaled down hike.

But it was Bryson’s easy-going style and engaging manner that won me over as well as his commentary on the mismanagement of the trail by the National Forest Service; the under-funding of the National Parks system; the history of the rebirth, erosion and rebirth of the Appalachian Mountains, over and over again, over millions of years; the demise and almost total abandonment of the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania where a fire in an underground coal seam has the potential to burn for a thousand years; and the presence of the savage moose on the trail in Maine:

”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’s all there is to it. Without doubt, the moose is the most improbable, endearingly hopeless creature ever to live in the wilds. Every bit of it---its spindly legs, its chronically puzzled expression, its comical oven-mit antlers---looks like some droll evolutionary joke. It is wonderfully ungainly; it runs as if its legs have never been introduced to each other. Above all, what distinguishes the moose is its almost boundless lack of intelligence.” (Page 241)

I loved this book, its style, its happy-go-lucky author and all the history about the trail and its surrounding regions. Highly recommended.
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