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A Walk In The Woods

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson X
A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1998, 274 pages
    May 1999, 255 pages

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FictionZeal (11/05/15)

from re: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
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.
Jack (07/10/10)

A must read for anyone
A travel narrative that you cannot put down. We live near the AT and encounter the individuals that Bryson talks about. I fly with this book and have read it 3 times and still laugh out loud. I have encountered many individuals on a plane that comment on how great this book is. It is truly a work of art.
Maryann Pike (04/13/09)

The Ugly American in the Southern Appalachians
I hated this book from the beginning. Bryson may be funny, but much of his so-called humor is at others, including the trail itself, expense.
He is kind to his fellow male hikers,but the women he meets beginning with a waitress at the lodge, at the beginning of the hike, are usually held up to ridicule. Bryson also continually pokes fun or even expresses fear of the citizens who live in the Southern Appalachians citing Dickey's nasty little tale "Deliverance" as a true depiction of these fine people.
I am not familiar with the southern part of the trail.bur very familiar with the Northern sections and have hiked much of that area. I am also familiar with the AMC maps and guides which also come in for Bryson' derision.
I sincerely hope that at least some of those who read this book will not see the AT and the people who live along it it through Bryson's eyes.
Bob (10/16/08)

Don't read it in a day or you'll have a big chunk bitten out of things to look forward to. It is superb, very, very funny and packs enough information to make you regret the bumblings of humankind.
GREG (09/18/08)

Bryson relies on cheap jokes and commentary. He painfully tacks on heaps of useless historical information that distracts from the plot. It is unclear if even Bryson himself knows what type of book he is writing. Though he tries to pretend the book is non-fiction, his eerily accurate memories of events causes quite some skepticism. The book offers very little for the reader who is simply looking for some entertainment. Perhaps Bryson would have been off writing two books- one about his personal travel, and the other about the history of the trail. Regardless, this book is a must not read.
Eric (10/21/07)

Excellent Book
How can one's trek through the woods and America be so interesting? Bill Bryson, author of I'm a Stranger Here Myself and A Walk in the Woods, somehow weaves together stories from his life, interesting facts, and humor into two extremely different, but interesting books. One could not read a chapter of the book without some sort of giggle, that may soon evolve into a hysterical laugh.
   I'm a Stranger Here Myself is a collection of articles that Bryson wrote while living in America that he sent to his British publisher. He describes his adventures that would usually seem dull, but Bryson writes with such a wit that you can not help but find his enterprises humorous, no matter what he writes about. The style of the book itself is very lighthearted. Bryson describes his return to America after 30 years in England with a sense of nostalgia, but he always points out why America is a great place to live. The chapters in this book were once articles in a magazine, so they are short and precise. Each one is designed to entertain you for as long as the article lasts. There is no continuation between the chapters, so it is a great book to read for a short time when you have a few minutes to spare. However, once one has started to read the book, it is difficult to put it down.

   A Walk in the Woods is a different type of book. In this book Bryson describes his hike through the Appalachian Trail with his friend Stephen Katz. Katz himself is a great source of humor, almost always grumbling and bringing lightheartedness to any situation, even if he doesn't mean it. The book doesn't just analyze Bryson's and Katz's journey through the Appalachian Trail, it is also broken up by interesting facts about the trail, like how it came to be and how it has developed over the years. In almost every chapter you are bound to find at least one page devoted to some kind of historical fact. Though the information is usually interesting, it sometimes tends to make the reading a bit dry.

   Each book has a lot of good qualities about them. They both make for easy reads and will to appeal to a large audience. I'm a Stranger Here Myself, though written for a British audience, any audience can relate to the stories that he has to tell. “No it will be great. We'll get sand in our hair, our shoes, our sandwiches and then our mouths. We'll get sunburned and windburned. And when we get tired of sitting, we can have a paddle in water so cold it actually hurts. At the end of the day we'll set off at the same time as 37,000 other people and get in such a traffic jam that we won't get home till midnight.” The way Bryson writes in this novel is filled with sarcasm. The above excerpt relates to something almost everyone has done, gone to a beach. He tells the story humorously enough that it doesn't matter if you agree with his opinion or not, it's still funny.

   A Walk in the Woods can be read by anyone. The story may be about an odyssey through the Appalachian Trail, but hikers will not be the only ones drawn to the book. Bryson starts out his adventure quite excited, but this quickly changes to despair when he realizes how long the AT (as he affectionately grows to call it) is. Not just people who are thinking or preparing to go on the trail would find it amusing and interesting. Anyone who just wants to read a book that they will find both factual and entertaining should read the story. It isn't just a story about hiking, but a story of two friends who take on something they weren't ready to handle. Some of the highlights of the story are when they encounter the most unusual characters along the trail. But another driving point in the story is the interaction between the two main characters, Bryson and Katz. There relationship is so odd and dynamic, that is hard to believe you are reading a nonfiction book. The two characters are so distinct that you would never believe they would be friends, and the interactions they have are hilarious. Bryson also encounters other amusing people that leads to comical confrontations. Bryson tries ordering a cab and this only leads to amusement for the audience:

   “ 'How much would it be to take two of us to Ernestville?' I asked.
   'Dunno,' came the reply.
   This threw me slightly. 'Well, how much do you think it would be?'
   'But its just down the road.'
   There was considerable silence and then the voice said: 'Yup.'
   'Haven't you ever taken anybody there before?'
   'Well it looks to me on my map like it's about twenty miles. Would you say that's about right?'
   Another pause. 'Might be.'
   'How much would it be to take us twenty miles?'
   I looked at the receiver. 'Excuse me, but I just have to say this. You are more stupid than a paramecium.' “
   The whole book is filled with these amusing stories, which makes it hard to put the book down.

   Bryson delivers two great books here. The stories are both amusing and unbelievably interesting. It is hard to understand how Bryson writes about the most insignificant things yet still manages to keep his books alluring. The book is one of the most entertaining stories I have ever read and would recommend it to everyone.

Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods. New York: Broadway Books, 1998. .
Bryson, Bill. I'm a Stranger Here Myself. New York: Broadway Books, 1999.
Danielle Aird (08/23/07)

I loved it
I have just read the reviews. It fascinates me that a few people absolutely abhored this book. Well, you never know. As far as i am concerned, it was one of the best reads I have had in a while. Light, yet very informative, and funny. Laugh-out-loud, for sure. I think I have lost a friend (she was trying to read her own book while I had these much too frequent fits of loud laughter). I think I will buy her a copy to appease her. My husband and son are reading it too and agree with me. The only thing is, there is no way I am going back on the Apalachian Trail, not after the beautiful publicity Bryson does for Luxembourg. As a middle-age person, give me a nice easy walk strewn with bakeries and reasonable accommodation, no backpack... thanks, Bill. I'm now reading the Thunderbolt Kid; it's good too.
Kevin (02/25/07)

a walk in the woods
This book was hilarious. I loved it, I highly recommend it. I love how exciting it was and all the struggles Bryson went through to attempt to reach his goal, he still carried on even though Katz held him back. This book is one of my top 10.

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