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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

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The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way—and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

397 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 5, 1998

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About the author

Bill Bryson

147 books19.2k followers
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first travel book, he chronicled a trip in his mother's Chevy around small town America. It was followed by Neither Here Nor There, an account of his first trip around Europe. Other travel books include the massive bestseller Notes From a Small Island, which won the 2003 World Book Day National Poll to find the book which best represented modern England, followed by A Walk in the Woods (in which Stephen Katz, his travel companion from Neither Here Nor There, made a welcome reappearance), Notes From a Big Country and Down Under.

Bill Bryson has also written several highly praised books on the English language, including Mother Tongue and Made in America. In his last book, he turned his attention to science. A Short History of Nearly Everything was lauded with critical acclaim, and became a huge bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, before going on to win the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. His next book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, is a memoir of growing up in 1950s America, featuring another appearance from his old friend Stephen Katz. October 8 sees the publication of A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 21,028 reviews
Profile Image for erin.
9 reviews19 followers
January 31, 2007
It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I thought I'd spent the last of my holiday indulging in a witty travelogue to set my feet itching. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong book. Years of declining the advice of the Bryson-worshipers, it seems, was not in vain.

I'm halfway through, and - like the author on the daunting trail - am unsure as to whether or not I can finish my task. Bryson sounds, to put it mildly, a real jerk. He's smug and superior, and spends most of the book complaining about his companions on the trail. A common motif is how everyone one is but a weekend hiker, that he is a true back-to-nature type in comparison. True, some of his encounters sound less than thrilling, but even the obnoxious woman he encounters should get credit for tackling the trail by herself. Instead, she's unceremoniously ditched (in real life as well as print) by the man who couldn't stomach the thought of going alone. He enlists the companionship of a long-lost friend with whom he'd proven incompatible on a previous travel experience. Said "friend" is then derided throughout the book for his sloth, roughness in manner, and lowbrow tastes. Meanwhile, Bryson paints himself as Guardian of the Trail, criticising the Parks Service along with all who venture through her woods.

I'm still waiting for even a glimpse of the much-vaunted Bryson wit and charm to show itself. At the moment, he's nothing more than the stereotypical Blue Stater - putting himself on a pedestal while looking down his nose at everyone else. It's not attractive, and it makes for a very frustrating read. I wish he'd stayed home.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,944 reviews158 followers
November 24, 2020
I am a huge fan of hiking. My friends and I, several times a year, will take trips out to random State and National Parks. We spend a great deal of time out in the woods and any sort of nature. It is not only enjoyable and relaxing but good to stay in shape. But then again my friends and I are all people who are very comfortable n the woods, due to our military backgrounds.

Then there are these two. *sigh* Is the book funny? Yes...that humor and the interesting history about the Appalachian Trail is the only reason I finished this book. Why? To hear two fat fools tromping through the Appalachians is borderline annoying. Seriously? Are civilians usually so fucking stupid? (Don't answer that. It's rhetorical. I've been watching civilians since 2008 and I already know the answer). This is a laundry list of what NOT to do, what NOT to eat and what NOT to drink. I was aghast at the stuff these two were munching on and the amount of soda pop they drink. Stupid assholes don't realize soda dehydrates you...but hey, it's more common than you think. As an example of real life stupidity, there is an awesome State Park in Utah called Great Salt Lake park. It's ummmm a salt lake...which means it's a rather extreme environment. Now a quick Google search will show you DOZENS on incidents of idiots wandering around this place with little to no hydration and getting in trouble or even dying. Does this surprise you? Then you have a much higher level of respect for the survivability of the average civilian. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest and books like this merely reinforce what an instructor of mine at Scout-Sniper school said "Don't ever mistake it-but civilian types have a field survivability rate comparable to infants"

So please, don't do any of the things in this book. If you wish to hike the Appalachian Trail..ask yourself: How often do you walk? Have you ever just put on steel toed boots, stuffed a backpack with say 45-60 lbs of books and then went on a nice 5 or six mile hike? Go for it. Do it on flat ground. If at the end of it..you have barely a sheen of sweat and are like "ok what's next?" then you are fine. However if this sounds "rough" ummmmmmm...yeah..take a car, stay at hotels and realize watching Animal Planet or National Geographic has not prepared your body for real nature with no one nearby to come save you.

Now that my polemic is over- funny book. Nothing great. Some decent history about the trail...and that's really it. I didn't care for the two fat asses. I read this book because I enjoy nature and spend a lot of time in it. But there was no need for me to really read this book...you may enjoy it as a funny travelogue, but that's all it is.
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,302 followers
January 29, 2015
I am what some might call a pussy hiker. I do genuinely enjoy a leisurely stroll in the “mountains” of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. I like the pretty views. I always bring my conveniently-sized L.L. Bean backpack ($39.95 from the Kittery Outlets) so I have a place for my camera and cell phone. But by early afternoon, I would like to be done, please. I would like to be done and sitting at a booth in a pub with my burger and beer. Camping is certainly worthy of consideration, but here’s the deal: I don’t do rain. In light of the fact that weather reports are unreliable beyond a 48-hour window (and even that is pushing it in New England), it is unlikely I would ever camp for more than a two-night stay. Oh, and if I were to camp, I would like it to be at a site that has free Wi-Fi.

What this amounts to is that the Appalachian Trail, endearingly referred to by those hiking it as “the AT,” will never be anything more to me than a lovely little map.
appalachian trail map
(click to enlarge)
BUT. I am glad for gung-ho people like Bryson and his chubby checker friend Katz who did walk “the AT” and are kind enough to let me know what I am missing. As it turns out, I am not missing much. This is not to downplay the extraordinarity of a 2,200-mile trail of wilderness running from Georgia to Maine, a trail that takes the average thru-hiker six months to complete, but in terms of day-to-day variation, it is basically a shitload of trees followed by another shitload of trees.

at trail

For me, this book makes a better argument for the day hike. There are many parts of the trail I would enjoy, including the Smoky Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Delaware Water Gap. Like Bryson, though, I am a people person, and I enjoy my simple human comforts. I would like to see these areas without having to make an extended departure from civilization. Why can’t I have both—my nature and my nurture? Fortunately for me, almost a full third of the Appalachian Trail is in New England, so maybe I can have it all—because I think if there is one thing I’ve learned from Bryson’s experience, it is that I don’t have to suffer through long days of cold rain and hungry nights to enjoy what the Appalachian Trail has to offer.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,920 reviews69.3k followers
June 25, 2021
I kind of surprised I liked this book at all, because:
a) I read pathetically little non-fiction
b) I've never read a travelogue
I'm only a fan of the Great Outdoors as long as I'm safely Indoors.


So, color me shocked that I not only finished this, but giggled my way through quite a bit of it! Bryson really is a pretty funny writer, and the way he captured his experience on the Appalachian Trail had me in tears a few times. His fears about getting mauled by a bear (among other things) before he started off were especially hysterical, and maybe that's because I could see a lot of myself in his initial terror of spending so much time surrounded by...NATURE!


Now, there was a decent-sized chunk towards the middle of the book that I just had to grit my teeth and push on through. Bryson's friend Katz wasn't with him during this portion, and the difference in the tone of the writing is really noticeable. Lots and lots and lots of mind-numbing details about the Trail, and very little of his experiences.
And while all of that sort of info is relevant to the book, it's also the main reason that I don't actively seek out non-fiction or travelogues.


Eventually, Katz comes back to finish out the hike, and the story vastly improves, but it never managed to recapture the humor or spirit that it had in the beginning.


But that's only MY opinion.
And I really did enjoy the last bits of the book a lot. Especially the moments between Katz & Bryson there towards the end.
Overall, I'd say this was a winner. And even if the whole thing wasn't to my liking, the first half was an easy 5 star read for me.
In fact, it made me want to call up my BFF to see if she wanted to take the kids camping this summer so we could poop near a waterfall!


You know, instead of meeting at a hotel on the beach and drinking ourselves silly while the kids play in the surf.
And then I thought about that sentence.
No. Just...no.
See you in Florida, Jill! I'll bring the blender!

Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews868 followers
May 2, 2016
I wanted to like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Not sure what I was expecting from this—perhaps more about hiking on the actual AT and the reasons Bryson made this trek—but I was mostly disappointed. It read like a series of travel brochures: here’s the history of the region on this section of the trail, and now another…There was much more attention devoted to towns along the route than hiking the actual trail. It was also disappointing that Bryson noted the historical stereotypes of Appalachian people and casually confirmed their stupidity without any real interaction (not once but many times). The smugness of his remarks was irritating. I still would like to hike the AT, but Bryson did little to illuminate what it’s really like to hike the trail except to offer that it’s not what most people expect.
Profile Image for Julie G .
884 reviews2,755 followers
April 21, 2019
I'm no city mouse. I'm a country mouse who lives in jeans and who often has a thick layer of soil under her nails from gardening. But, when compared to my brother, I feel like Beyoncé.

My brother is like. . . Inman, from Cold Mountain. A man who walks and walks, all over Appalachia.

He knows how to forage for food and how to identify what is good and what is bad, out in nature. I can point to anything within the plant kingdom, and he knows its name. He composts all of his own waste and leaves a very faint footprint on our planet.

He's also. . . you know, a little crazy, when it comes to the whole walking thing.

My brother has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail once, in its entirety, and has section-hiked more than 900+ miles of favorite parts of it, at other times. He walks or hikes 5-25 miles a day, and he's currently on the Pacific Crest Trail, somewhere in Northern California, at the time of this writing.

He's a walker, and even though I ALSO walk and hike, my habits apparently look like small potatoes to him. When he was here in May, at our house, preparing to head out to hike the PCT, he was nudging me, emphatically, to hike the Appalachian Trail soon.

He was doing this nudging as all three of my kids were in the kitchen with me, and one of them was literally hanging on to my leg. Both dogs were starving, staring at me as we talked, our cats were walking in and out of the house, yowling for food, and my husband was outside, pulling weeds.

I must have looked at him like he was an idiot. I sputtered out something in annoyance, like, “I have responsibilities. Maybe someday, like, when we're retired??” (And, maybe not then, either?)

The compromise we reached was that, instead of starting the AT on that day, I would commit to reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods while he was out on the PCT. Fair enough. I finished it today.

Here's what I have to say:

I love Bill Bryson when he's funny, like when he's making social observations, or, in the case of this story, out hiking with his friend, Stephen Katz, and the hilarious commentary that ensues.

I don't love Bill Bryson when he bores me to bits, breaking off from the funny story to describe geological phenomenons or maps or the National Park system in the United States. Be humorous OR be didactic, Bill, but please don't be both.

I would never hike one of these trails without an entourage, bear spray, a billy club and/or a baseball bat and an INCREDIBLE SENSE OF HUMOR.

After reading Bryson's book, I would like to hike at least part of the Appalachian Trail someday, if only to write about it. I believe that my desire to pepper spray any strange looking man on the trail, without a moment's hesitation, may make for some interesting writing. Plus, I'd be sure to scream at every snake, and I'd probably be stupid enough to play with a bear cub. They're so cute!

Personally, I wanted to know a LOT more about these freaks in the shelter at night, and way more details on where and how they all went to the bathroom (shudder), and I felt completely let-down that Bryson and his companion hiked so little of the actual trail.

Honestly, the book was so boring in the middle (when they gave up on the trail the first time), that I could barely summon the interest to read it again.

I think I need to stop thinking of Bryson as a humorist, like Dave Barry. He does make me laugh, but he does drone on, too, about things that interest me not. I've reached a weird point with him, where I'm not sure I want to continue reading more.

Four stars for some memorable descriptions of a few of the hikers and several hearty laughs. . .

And fingers crossed for the safe return home of my brother!
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,655 followers
May 12, 2017
Bill Bryson calls the Appalachian Trail "the grandaddy of long hikes," but for me, this book is the granddaddy of hiking memoirs. I first read it sometime around 1999, and I enjoyed it so much that not only have I reread this multiple times, but it also inspired me to read at least a dozen other hiking adventures. None have matched Bryson's wit.

Before he started writing long books on various aspects of history, Bryson was known for his entertaining travelogues. A Walk in the Woods was his humorous take on attempting a long-distance hike of the Appalachian Trail, which spans more than 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. Here were his reasons for trying:

"It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth. It would be an interesting and reflective way to reacquaint myself with the scale and beauty of my native land after nearly twenty years of living abroad. 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 in 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 with being able to gaze at a far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, manly sniff, 'Yeah, I've shit in the woods.'"

And so Bryson plans his trip, gets indignant over the high cost of outdoor equipment, and recruits an old friend, Stephen Katz, to walk the trail with him. Katz, an overweight, out-of-shape, recovering alcoholic, adds much hilarity to the adventure. The first day on the trail, Katz falls behind and has a fit, throwing away a lot of supplies in an effort to lighten the load of his pack. Later he gets lost during a stretch when they were dangerously low on water. But he's so pathetic and funny that you forgive him.

Meanwhile, Bryson was having his own problems that first day:

"It was hell. First days on hiking trips always are. I was hopelessly out of shape -- hopelessly. The pack weighed way too much. Way too much. I had never encountered anything so hard, for which I was so ill prepared. Every step was a struggle. The hardest part was coming to terms with the constant dispiriting discovery that there is always more hill ... The elusive summit continually retreats by whatever distance you press forward, so that each time the canopy parts enough to give a view you are dismayed to see that the topmost trees are as remote, as unattainable, as before. Still you stagger on. What else can you do?"

After a few days on the trail, they met another hiker named Mary Ellen, who leeched onto them.

"She was from Florida, and she was, as Katz forever after termed her in a special tone of awe, a piece of work. She talked nonstop, except when she was clearing out her eustachian tubes (which she did frequently) by pinching her nose and blowing out with a series of violent and alarming snorts of a sort that would make a dog leave the sofa and get under a table in the next room. I have long known that it is part of God's plan for me to spend a little time with each of the most stupid people on earth, and Mary Ellen was proof that even in the Appalachian woods I would not be spared."

I'm not going to retype entire pages, but trust me that the conversations with Mary Ellen are one of the highlights of this book.

Bryson and Katz spend several weeks on the trail, hiking 500 miles in their first section. Then the two take a break and return home for a few weeks, and Bryson resumes with some shorter hikes in New England. Katz and Bryson reunite in Maine to hike a particularly daunting section of the trail called the Hundred Mile Wilderness:

"The Appalachian Trail is the hardest thing I have ever done, and the Maine portion was the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail, and by a factor I couldn't begin to compute."

Exhausted, filthy and hungry, the two abandon their trek in Maine and hitchhike to a small town, where they're able to make their way home again.

"I have regrets, of course. I regret that I didn't do [Mount] Katahdin (though I will, I promise you, I will). I regret that I never saw a bear or wolf or followed the padding retreat of a giant hellbender salamander, never shooed away a bobcat or sidestepped a rattlesnake, never flushed a startled boar. I wish that just once I had truly stared death in the face (briefly, with a written assurance of survival). But I got a great deal else from the experience. I learned to pitch a tent and sleep beneath the stars. For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of woods. 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 had discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists ... Best of all, these days when I see a mountain, I look at it slowly and appraisingly, with a narrow, confident gaze and eyes of chipped granite."

One of the things I especially like about this book is the history that Bryson includes along the way. He shares interesting stories about the areas he's passing through and about how the trail was built. He also looks at America's unique relationship with nature, which includes some backwards policies of the U.S. Forest Service and the Parks Service. It's really a delight to read.

This memoir has been criticized because Bryson doesn't hike the entire trail, but regardless of the distance, it's still a damn fine travelogue. This was his experience on the AT, which he shares with much humor and insight. I don't care that he hiked only 870 miles out of 2,100 -- the point was that he attempted it.
Profile Image for Ben.
40 reviews4 followers
June 18, 2011
Bill Bryson is extremely annoying. I started out liking this book, but the further I went along, the more obnoxious I found the author's smarter-than-thou attitude. And that's a shame, too, because I was very interested in the subject matter and had the impression that Bryson wrote with a comedic edge. However, his sense of humor turns out to be quite bland, and consists mostly of making fun of everyone he meets. Get ready for adjectives like "stupid" and "fat" ... very high-brow. And don't worry, you'll hear the standard inbred jokes as he hikes through the South.

Like hypocritical rants? You'll get plenty here; he eviscerates the National Park system, but that doesn't stop him from taking full advantage of all its amenities. He rips tourists who just stop by the AT to do quick hikes, eat cheeseburgers at fast-food restaurants, then hop in their cars and move on, and yet he spends much of the middle section of the book doing just that! He also rips unprepared hikers who don't know what they're doing ... much like the time later in the book when he leaves his windbreaker at home while hiking in the Presidentials; also, he sets out to hike the entire length of the AT, but gives up when he looks at a map in Gatlinburg and realizes -gasp- the AT is really long! Seriously? You didn't look at a map BEFORE you started hiking? Needless to say, he gave up immediately.

Not that there's anything wrong with giving up. I guess this writer's just not for me - he comes across as having a little more disdain for the rest of the world than he has a right to.
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
December 5, 2016
Definitely read the book if you're a fan of the outdoors and hiking. I learned about the book after watching the movie, and let me say, the book to me was much better.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,469 reviews9,634 followers
March 25, 2022
4.5 Stars

I’ve owned this mass market paperback for 6,945 years and I thought I read it about that long ago. I’m assuming I never added it to GR. Well, here you are.. I read it, it’s logged, hurrah!

I thought about adding a pic of me hugging one of my favorite trees where I hike but, maybe later. I’m grateful I can hike a little bit with all of my medical issues and I’m not sure for how long. The woods are my favorite place, my love, my solace.

Years ago (hindsight) when I was younger I planned on walking a little bit of the AT and camping but I never did..sigh. I used to look at one of the entries to it when going down the road to somewhere else in the woods back in the day. Well, the day is over .. if there is something you’re thinking about doing, do it!

Still grateful for what I can do 🌲

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
February 15, 2021
Travel writing does not get any better or any funnier than this. This is Bill Bryson at his very best,side splittingly funny.

Bill Bryson sets out with his friend Katz to hike the Appalachian trail. The trail is picturesque,but for two men in their forties,it is still hard work.

As he always does,Bryson digs up a whole lot of background detail and trivia about the trail. It's first rate entertainment. Katz may not be the ideal hiking companion but provides plenty of humour.

There are lively encounters with fellow hikers along the way and even some disconcerting ones with wildlife. The trail can be dangerous too,as shown by the murder of some hikers in the past.

It is a lot of hard work,sleeping rough in shelters and braving the elements.Eventually,Bryson has to concede that he will not be able to walk the entire trail.

After that,he picks and chooses the spots where he hikes.And he is rather proud of himself for having walked as many miles as he has.

Bryson's subsequent travel books would not necessarily maintain this quality.

This book would later become a movie in 2015,with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte playing Bryson and Katz. But I doubt if the movie could do justice to the sheer comic brilliance of the book.
Profile Image for Ken-ichi.
597 reviews556 followers
May 7, 2009
Undoubtedly an amusing, breezy read, full of the kind of fun and hilarity all the blurbs lead you to expect. For instance, "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 had me laughing on the train.

I can't say I liked this book quite as much as some of my friends seem to. On the one hand, I've had at least 1 semi-grueling backpacking experience with a companion who was wholly unprepared for a rigorous day hike, let alone several of them on consecutive days, weighed down by tents, bags, and water, except my experience was less hilarious and more infuriating (even in retrospect, though there was certainly some hilarity). I also found Bryson fairly amusing, his fears and hijinks recognizable and diverting. On the other hand, he's kind of an ass. Seemed like every person he met was a subject for mockery. He also went off on these long jeremiads over the ecological devastation we've wrought on the Eastern forests, without citing any sources whatsoever, or recommending solutions. Obviously I agreed with the substance of those rants, but the dripping sarcasm in his indignation was just so annoying. Good researchers cite sources, and good crusaders at least try to find answers to the world's problems. Bryson seemed like more of a gadfly: buzzing, bothersome, but impotent.

In the end, what I really wanted was just more depth. More analysis of what the trail means to Americans, what it symbolizes, a more informed (and documented) record of the Park Service's transgressions, more comparisons to similar trails in other parts of the world.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 11, 2020
Well, scratch the Appalachian Trail off my bucketlist.

Bryson sets off to walk the Appalachian trail with only an extremely overpriced backpack (packed with equally ridiculously expensive gear), an old "friend" that he hadn't talked to in years and a will to find his next story. He quickly realized that the months of preparation he conducted (and the lack of months his friend prepared) were not nearly adequate. But on the plus side, he certainly found his story.

As always, I absolutely enjoyed his signature sense of humor. Despite wandering around half crazed with fatigue, he still took the time to pen his quirky musings:

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.

Joking aside, this is a brutal trail (no matter what Cheryl from Wild may say. Her little pot-shots against The Appalachian Trail were not justified). The sheer willpower it takes to slog through ten to twenty trail miles a day simply boggles my mind.

Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception.

I was weary just reading it - and he already most of the monotonous bits from his story. I appreciate how reading this allowed me to adventure vicariously and decide (most definitely) that I will never hike such a trail.

Even part of it.

I'm not touching that thing with a ten-foot pole

I'll stick to my wood-chipped half-mile paths in the local park, thank you very much.

Audiobook Comments
---Am a smidge annoyed that he did not narrate his own autobiography (well micro-autobiography of a trail adventure (are micro-autos a thing?))
---Narrator (Rob McQuay) was great though. No complaints other than it wasn't Bryson.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews694 followers
June 3, 2014
Going into this book, I really had no idea of what to expect from Bill Bryson. Even though I picked this book up based on Diane’s terrific review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I had never read the author before and let’s face it - blurbs on the cover only tell you so much. You have to read and live with an author’s prose to get a feel for it. As far as travelogues go, I don’t read many: Paul Theroux, Mark Twain and Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley are the only ones that come to mind. So I plunged in and I’m happy I did.

Finding a rich source of humor (Monty Python, Archer, S.J. Pearlman, Deadpool) is always like Christmas Day. For me, humor has always been the fuel to motor through tough times and Mr. Bryson delivers it by the tank full. This book has a score of laugh out loud moments all weaved into Bryson’s cultural and historical insights.

Bryson lived abroad for years and upon returning to the United States decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. The trail is over 2000 miles long and extends from Georgia into Maine. Along the way, Bryson discourses on subjects that range from the history of the Appalachian Trail, the neglect and incompetence of the Forestry and Park services, pre-Colonial botanists, the potential flame ball that is Centralia, PA, the temperature extremes of Mount Washington (NH), trees, the constant threat of getting eaten by bears or hogtied by hillbillies and, of course, the hike itself. The long, long hike.

My experience with hiking and outdoorsy stuff begins and ends with the Boy Scouts. For me, it was about smoking cigarettes in the woods, being able to indiscriminately pee on the local flora, fauna and the occasional fellow scout (the latter, accidently, of course) wearing the same clothes and not bathing for three days. “You packed extra underwear and socks, Ma? I hadn’t noticed.” “The tooth brush is green because I dropped it in the creek. Don’t worry, I used it anyway.”

If I were to go hiking today, I don’t think I would have picked the guy Bryson ended up with. Stephen Katz was overweight, needy, impetuous but funny. Kind of like hiking with my brother-in-law, minus the funny. The two are an unrivaled comic pair and their hiking adventures are a highly recommended read.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,228 followers
June 4, 2015
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail pressed all my favorite buttons: Humor. Adventure. Danger. Storytelling. Nature. Local/personal interest. Et cetera.

I even liked that the author Bill Bryson is a American-Brit ex-pat/transplant and thus an outsider giving his opinion as a stranger in a strange land. Bryson's humorous, well-researched, yet relaxed writing is what I always hope for when embarking upon a book like this.

A trek upon the Appalachian Trail is supposed to be relaxing, if strenuous, and if a bit of history and humor get mixed in then all the better. For those like myself who grew up in New England, the lure and legend of the trail was spoon-fed us from an early age, right along with Johnny Appleseed and the ride of Paul Revere. Those of us too lazy to make the actual hike can sit back and read Bryson's book while thinking about how swell a jaunt would be.


While I enjoyed hearing about the local spots I'm familiar with like Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (a hiker from Pepperell, MA the tiny town my mom is from is even mentioned, woohoo!), it's Bryson's relationship with his friend Katz, a larger-than-life character who joined him periodically on the trail, that really ties this whole book together. The hijinks are raised when Katz enters the scene, making a normal hike in the woods into an adventure, perhaps more than it needed to be, but I'm grateful either way!

Bryson's writing and the personality that comes through made more palatable his occasional soapbox tangents. The guy loves nature preservation and he's not happy when man fucks with it, so every once in a while the reader must wade through a lecture on why the trail is essentially lucky to be alive. For all that, I loved this book just about in its entirety and look forward to reading more by Bill Bryson, a writer who I've taken an immediate shine to, a reader-writer bond strengthened by my own private pleasure at discovering we share December 8th as a birthday.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,469 followers
February 7, 2017
When I chose this book I failed to understand the author’s intention. Look at the subtitle! I hadn't noted the words "Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail". This book is not for people who love hiking; it is not intended to increase love of the sport. It scarcely shows the pleasure one can derive from hiking. It is instead a commentary on America with some details about the Appalachian Trail. I have to admit my own fault in not carefully reading the complete title. I still must rate according to my own appreciation of the book. For me it was just OK.

This book is full of griping and whining. From its start to almost the very end. At the end there is a line or two that shows appreciation for hiking. For the purpose of delivering an exciting tale the author begins by listing all the terrible things that can happen and have happened on the trail. Bryson warns of getting lost, being bitten by snakes, eaten by bears, mauled by mountain lions and even being murdered. The complaining doesn't stop there. He tells of unpleasant people on the trail, the weight of the pack, hunger and tiredness, the expense and idiocy of trekking gear, even abstinence from sex and family and TV and soda pop and Little Debbie cakes and beer. He goes on to bemoan pollution, park authorities, deficient maps, modern American urbanization and expansion of roads to the point where one is unable to w-a-l-k by foot anywhere. Sure, some of the gripes certainly are legitimate, but a whole book of griping is hard to take, and the focus is scarcely on the delight of hiking. I love hiking.

Beware, by no means does the author and his buddy Stephen Katz travel the whole trail. Do not expect a complete trail guide. They trek 500 miles, starting at the southern end, and then stop for a break, totally worn out by their experiences. They each go home, but Bryson then decides to cover portions of the trail by making day trips using his car. At this point the topics covered shift from trail experiences to information about historical events that have occurred at various places near the trail. The book sidetracks to cover events of the Civil War (Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry), oil and anthracite mining, the smoking, inextinguishable underground mine fires of Centralia, Pennsylvania, as well as the ecological devastation at abandoned zinc mines at Palmerton in the same state. I name but a few examples. After Bryson’s solitary day excursions by car the two buddies meet up again to trek in Maine, finishing off with the “100 Mile Wilderness”. Well, I will not tell you what happens there, but you can pretty much guess. Anyone who knows anything about longer hiking tours knows that planning and careful preparation are essential. This includes critically assessing one’s own capabilities. Who says one has to trek the whole trail anyway? They finally realize that!

Pseudonyms are used to protect the identity of those spoken of. Stephen Katz is a pseudonym too. When you read the book you will not be surprised at the need to cover up true identities. Many extremely uncomplimentary things are said.

There are some humorous lines. There are some interesting historical details about the trail. There are some relevant insights about trekking which can be drawn from the book if you ponder what happens:
-the first and second day are always the hardest.
-it is easy to get lost.
-don’t walk alone and inform others of your itinerary.
-plan carefully water availability.
-have proper clothing; weather can radically change.
-take only what you really need. Every ounce feels like a ton when it is on your back.
After a trek you will feel as though you are flying. After a trek you will appreciate the wonder of a warm shower and cleanliness. After a trek you will appreciate what before you have taken for granted – the ease of walking without gear, cooked food, being clean, and the beauty of nature. I wish this book had much more emphasis on what trekking can give a person.

The audiobook is narrated by Rob McQuay. He does a fine job. Easy to follow and at a good clip. He expresses through his intonation both the lines of humor and the author’s criticism of modern American trends. The disdain is heard.


After 9 chapters:
I am not exactly enjoying this, even if there are a few amusing lines. So much complaining. Such poor planning. And tell me why is there so little about the beauty of nature? The point with hiking is not to partake in a race or a competition to determine who does it fastest, in one swipe or in parts. Why would anyone have to do the-whole-thing? That is not the point. I prefer the empty Swedish mountain ranges.

But I haven't given up on the book.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,449 reviews7,561 followers
October 3, 2016
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

After reading A Man Called Ove last week, I was afraid nothing would compare and I’d be stuck in book hangover mode unless I picked something totally different from what I normally read. I decided to go to the library website incognito in order to not get the typical porny recommendations made “just for me” and get the generally recommended ones instead.

Obviously A Walk In The Woods was a book that appeared on the list and I remembered way back when I was thinking about reading Wild a certain Georgia peach said I should read this instead because at least if I hated it she was almost certain I’d at least get a couple of laughs. And she was correct. Right from the start Bryson declares . . .

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

I pretty much decided right at that point the author was probably my people. To begin with he described his state of living as “waddlesome sloth,” which is a lifestyle I support 110%. He followed that up with a shopping trip to buy necessities such as “a big knife for killing bears and hillbillies.” And then he sealed the deal by taking his old friend Katz along for the hike . . . .

“Jesus, I smell like Jeffrey Dahmer’s refrigerator.”

In case the above didn’t clue you in, Katz isn’t exactly what you’d call politically correct. You’ve been warned so don’t come crying to me about what a disgusting manbearpig he was. Here’s another tidbit at what my new best friend Katz brings to the table . . . .

Good lord, look at you! What have you been doing? You’re filthy. You haven’t been screwing hogs again, have you, Bryson? . . . They’re not clean animals, you know, no matter how attractive they may look after a month on the trail. And don’t forget we’re not in Tennessee anymore. It’s probably not even legal here – at least without a note from the vet. . . . Come sit down and tell me all about it. So what was here name – Bossy? Did she squeal a lot?

These two were a hoot. A regular Odd Couple taking the reader on a potential life-threatening comedy of errors. From freak snowstorms to uninvited tag-alongs on their journey.

(SIDENOTE: Apparently the role of the uber annoying Mary Ellen is played by none other than the lady who voices this delightful little lady in the movie version . . . .

While Ms. Schaal makes for quite the entertaining cartoon voice I have a feeling I’d want to stab the non-animated version should we ever meet. /ENDSIDENOTE)

To a possible bear attack that had me casting John Candy in the role of Bill Bryson due to this fond memory . . . .

The only reason this gets 4 Stars instead of 5 is due to the fact that . . .

While it’s obvious that Bryson fell in love with The Appalachian Trail on his journey, there is a lot of info dumping that occurs because of this love. The history of national parks/the Army Corps of Engineers/the forestry industry as well a detailed inventory of flora and fauna and random tidbits and “fun” (in a macabre sense of the term) facts regarding different locations along the trail sometimes left my mind wandering.

That being said, A Walk In The Woods is an adventure I won’t soon forget. I didn't know until this weekend that there’s a film version. I hope to check it out soon because . . . .

Nick Nolte was more than a bit too old for the role, but still might end up being the perfect choice for Katz!
Profile Image for PirateSteve.
90 reviews330 followers
June 28, 2016
I chose this book in hopes it would rekindle my appetite for hiking. The book easily did that.

I also found this to be such a pleasurable read. I looked forward at every stolen opportunity to read another chapter. It delivered each time.
Profile Image for Jack.
Author 8 books12 followers
May 17, 2007
Imagine a grueling, four-month wilderness trek along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Your guide: an intellectual, who lived half his life in England, well versed in geology, zoology, ecology and pretty much all of the other ‘ologies.’ Yet, this far from ordinary guide summons the sparkle of Twain, and of Billy Crystal. Picture all of this for a sense of what can be found inside the covers of Bill Bryson’s "A Walk in the Woods." Bryson, a self-deprecating intellectual of the first order, provides massive helpings of horse-laughing humor that are pleasantly painful to read. The compulsion to read aloud "Walk’s" funnier passages to friends and family overwhelms, as does the desire to pass the book on to others after the warmth of the last page flickers.

Bryson grew up in Iowa. While in his twenties, he moved to England where he spent 20 years writing for British and American publications. In 1996 he and his family returned to the United States, settling in New Hampshire. One day, he “happened on a path that vanished into the wood on the edge of town.” That path was a tiny segment of the Appalachian Trail: a continuous 2,100-mile, mostly-wilderness trail along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. Intrigued, Bryson thought, what better way to reacquaint himself with his native land, and at the same time: “It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth." After thorough research, Bryson determines his undertaking would be difficult, requiring a companion. Exhausting all of his best choices, Bryson settles on Steve Katz, an old high school buddy. Katz, an overweight and out of shape, X - Files addicted, Snicker munching, surprisingly fetching sidekick becomes the focal point of much of Walk’s hilarity and pathos.

A number of unforgettable characters pop up along the trail. Most memorable is the gratingly obnoxious Mary Ellen, who after she had tagged along for several days, Bryson and Katz ditch using an elaborate deception. “She was, as Katz forever termed her in a special tone of awe, a piece of work." They encounter Bob, the world’s foremost authority on everything. Bryson and Katz spend several days with the delightful John Connolly, a New York schoolteacher who had been hiking the trail a bit at a time for 19 years. One night the three camp with seventeen Boy Scouts and three adult supervisors, “all charmingly incompetent.” After watching a night of the scout’s ineptness: “Even Katz agreed that this was better than TV."

Along the way, Bryson painlessly inserts lessons of history, geology, entomology, and more. We learn about the changes acid rain has brought to the wild, and he recounts the stories of the southern pine beetle, the smoky madtom and wooly adelgids, and about Daniel Boone, Henry David Thoreau and Stonewall Jackson. Bryson delivers an extended geology lesson on the tectonic formation of the 470 million year-old Appalachian Mountains that palatably educates. While praising some of their employees, Bryson effectively and mercilessly bashes the U.S. Forest Service (road builders for the logging industry – “eight times the total mileage of America’s interstate highway system," the National Park Service (“actually has something of a tradition of making things extinct"), and the Army Corps of Engineers (“they don’t build things very well").

Bryson makes his environmental bent abundantly clear. But, his lessons rarely become preachy. They reflect the all too human predisposition to seek the easy way, the momentary thrill, and always at a cost. Without accusation, Bryson reminds us of those often easy to ignore environmental costs.

Bill Bryson’s "A Walk in the Woods" lovingly opens a window to “an America that millions of people scarcely know exists.” There are problems to solve along this great, mountain forest trail. Yet, the air intoxicates. The sights are unforgetable. And the smile remains
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,257 followers
January 15, 2018
In "A Walk in the Woods", Bryson narrates his experiences on the Appalachian Trail which stretches 2000+ miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through eleven states and populated with all kinds of peril imaginable. As Bryson says

The woods were full of peril - rattlesnakes and water moccasins and nests of copperheads; bobcat, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wild boar; loony hillbillies destabilized by gross quantities of impure corn liquor and generations of profoundly unbiblical sex; merciless fire ants and ravening blackfly; poison ivy, poison sumac, poison salamanders; even a scattering of moose lethally deranged by a parasitic worm that burrows a nest in their brains and befuddles them into chasing hapless hikers through remote, sunny meadows and into glacial lakes.

Of course he's exaggerating... but it's the kind of exaggeration one nervously indulges in to mask one's apprehension, the reader feels. And combined the trials of the trail, the fact that Bryson is supremely unfit to do any kind of extended strenuous activity, does not know the first thing about hiking, and is accompanied by the recovering alcoholic Stephen Katz who is even less fit does nothing to alleviate his apprehensions.

He sets of gamely, however - and what we get is a travelogue-cum-science-cum-history-cum-geography lesson. It is fascinating.

What I love about Bill Bryson is the casual way in which he feeds you nuggets of information: history, geography, science and whatnot. He packages them in digestible chunks in between personal anecdotes sprinkled with humorous observations, so that subjects which by right should be boring, become exciting.

The first part of the hike from Springer Mountain in Georgia to the town of Front Royal in Virginia, was completed in one stretch by Bryson and Katz, with motorised breaks in between - for not being professional hikers, walking through was a virtual impossibility for them. This part is extremely amusing, some parts being worthy of Wodehouse himself. The idiosyncrasies of various hikers, the sorry condition of the night shelters, and the colourful personality of Katz (who manages to fall afoul of the irate husband of a lady he propositions, even in the midst of hiking, believe it or not!) - all make for engrossing reading.

The second part is completed by Bryson in bits and pieces until the very last bit in Maine, where he is rejoined by Katz (and they end up in dropping out halfway, after Katz manages to lose himself in the woods for a brief interval - a scary episode). It is here that we are treated to the fascinating history of the trail. The story of Centralia, a once thriving mining community in Pennsylvania now degraded to ghost town status, due to a coal fire in the underground mine started in 1962 and still burning, slowly eating away the town, is especially rivetting and disturbing. Bryson does not hide his ire at the authorities for America's disappearing woodlands, as well as his contempt for a populace addicted to the transient pleasures of instant sensual gratification.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable read to finish the year off. I will be reading more of Bryson in the future.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
386 reviews327 followers
February 19, 2021
Bill Bryson’s – A Walk in the Woods follows Bryson as he and his old mate, Katz, attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. This endeavour is no small thing, the AT is a 2,000 + mile hiking trail up and down the East coast of the US, linking Georgia in the South to Maine in the North. It traverses around 11 states and is one of the most popular and well-known walking trails around.

This book started off in true Bryson style – I guffawed at the pages at times. I find Bryson very funny, and when he’s on song he really is hilarious. Most of the funny, initial parts of the story involved the planning for the adventure and his perspectives of his mate, Katz. Katz is a funny bloke, often hopeless, sometimes moody, awkward, forever hungry and oblivious to his own manners.

As the boys commence this herculean endeavour Bryson describes the wonderful surroundings of the AT, the interesting people they meet, interesting service situations and of course – being Bryson, fascinating historical facts and figures of the AT and anything associated with it.

One particularly interesting character who managed to attach themselves to Katz and Bryson was the ‘fleshy’ Mary Ellen. She joined the lads earlier in the trip, dropping into and out of the story. Mary Ellen was quite well known amongst the other hikers due to her interesting manner. A typical conversation might go something like this:

“When’s your birthday?” Mary Ellen asks Bill.
“December the eighth.”
“That’s Virgo.” says Mary Ellen.
“No, actually it’s Sagittarius.” replied Bill.
“Whatever.” Mary Ellen then abruptly says “Jeez you guys stink!”
“Well, uh, we’ve been walking.”
Mary Ellen says “Me, I don’t sweat. Never have. Don’t dream either.”
“Everybody dreams,” Katz said.
“Well I don’t.”

………..and on it goes. Lofty stuff like that. I love reading pointless dialogue when I’m in the mood, especially when a character like Mary Ellen is directing proceedings. Conversations with Mary Ellen can, and usually do, end up anywhere, often with hilarious consequences.

However, this book started to run out of puff for me at about a third of the way through. Firstly, Bryson and Katz decided not to walk the trail in its entirety, and in fact ‘only’ walked around a third of the AT by the time they reached the endpoint in Maine. Sure, many people walk this trail in sections and come back to do it in sections. But I was really hoping we would see genuine, gruelling, hardship of Bryson and his mate traversing the entirety of this track. We would’ve learned more about the guys themselves, the people they met and some of their thoughts and struggles – which in themselves can provide some chuckles. Secondly, I get the feeling Bryson got a bit bored with the whole thing – day after day, tree after tree, mountain after mountain. This resonated for me as such the book turn south. We see a lot more ‘drier’ factual padding. Often interesting, but it became more of a historical piece of the AT and current political and environmental challenges, rather than an adventure of the odd couple.

I must admit though, this book inspired me to call my best mate, Joe, who lives in Adelaide, and he has agreed to go hiking with me in Tasmania in spring later in 2021. Something to plan, get a bit excited about and train for. I was surprised he agreed so readily – Joe, dislikes camping and hiking as much as I do. I also get on Joe’s nerves a little bit sometimes (I can tell) he’s more the thoughtful, quiet type, whereas I’m not and not. So, it could be fun!!

3 Stars

Profile Image for Brian.
689 reviews332 followers
September 23, 2020
“I don’t recall a moment in my life when I was more acutely aware of how providence has favored the land to which I was born.” (3.5 stars)

This is a book that a lot of people love. I just liked it. I found that it did not hold my attention for long periods. It is the fourth Bill Bryson text I have read, and I’ll read more. But not because of this one.
In “A Walk in the Woods” Bill Bryson attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail with a childhood friend. The book documents that attempt, and mixes in some history of the Trail and other miscellany within the travelogue. I enjoyed the parts of the book most that did not involve Bryson’s attempt at the Trail, which I doubt was his intention.
I think one of my issues with “A Walk in the Woods” is that Bill Bryson is too snarky and derisive of some of the people he encounters a little too much for my tastes. Although the travelogue is clever at times, it just did not consistently grab me.
“A Walk in the Woods” is a good book. It has a clear appreciation for the natural grandeur of the eastern United States, and I learned some things I did not know. No complaints about reading it.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,023 followers
January 29, 2012
Probably only the second non-fiction book that has made me sit up thrilled through an entire night reading and feel terribly disappointed as it ended almost without my noticing it. Full review to be put up soon.
Profile Image for Dylan.
15 reviews
September 15, 2007
I have read most of Bill Bryson's books and they are all good-- excellent even. His gift is in his ability to detect the humor in any situation. Where you or I might see a man walking down the street he sees something, and articulates it so well, packed with humor. But this book is his best. The reason, I think, is that it takes him out of his element. His natural writing style is this so-called "travel writing" genre-- the idea that someone goes somewhere and writes about it and their time there. But most "travel writers" don't hike over half of the AT, that's unheard of. And the fact that Bryson at middle age decided to take on such a task with no real background in backpacking, let alone for months at a time, is downright impressive.

So the premise of the book is already good before you even start reading. Then the book just blows you away. The man can describe nature with the best of them but his expertise is in describing human interactions. And, perhaps, that's why he chose the AT. There are indeed some interesting people who decide to take the plunge and walk the trail from end to end. Among them are Stephen Katz, Bryson's sidekick from earlier adventures in France, who is now overweight and obsessed with junk food-- admittedly Katz gives Bryson ample material to work with. Then there is the woman who hikes with them and camps with them for a few weeks. She acts as though they are the problem, forcing the partnership on her as it were, but we quickly discover that her own insecurities are at the root of her behavior. Bryson navigates her personality in a delicate but oh so funny way. Whether you hike or not, laugh or not, enjoy Bryson or not you should read this it will change your mind or affirm what you already knew-- Bryson is the best at what he does.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,308 reviews20 followers
April 18, 2017
Let me just get this out of the way first: Sorry, Trish! I couldn't help myself! I have no willpower! I am officially the world's worst buddy reader!

Right, as for the book... I enjoyed it. The only Bryson I've read before this was his book about hiking in my native UK and, perhaps because this book deals with territory I'm a lot less familiar with, I preferred this one. I enjoyed Bryson's wry, despairing sense of humour. I enjoyed his interactions with his walking-buddy, Katz (not sure of the spelling; I listened to the audiobook) who was both hilariously annoying and quite sweet on occasion. I enjoyed Bryson's many educational tangents into the history of the area they were currently walking through.

Why only four stars then? Well, there isn't really anything wrong with the book that I can exactly put my finger on, but I just didn't enjoy it quite enough to warrant the full five stars. I wish I could tell you why; I just can't quite bring myself to give it five out of five. Maybe some of the people they encounter are just a little too irritating to be thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe some of the historical tangents are just a little too tangential. Maybe I'm just an arse.

Despite this, I certainly enjoyed it enough to read more Bryson in the future. (That's kind of redundant isn't it? It's not like I can read more Bryson in the past...)
Profile Image for Mikey B..
984 reviews363 followers
November 1, 2020
With the never-ending pandemic and the turmoil of the U.S. presidential elections I felt I could use some Bill Bryson!

He is a writer filled with versatility. This book is on the Appalachian trail stretching all the way from Georgia right up into Maine. But the book is more than that – there are marvelous disquisitions on the flora and fauna and the geology of the region and some of the very informative people he met. And be warned – do not read this book in public unless you want to induce stares while reading Bill Bryson’s humour and wit! I laughed loudly on numerous occasions!

Bill and his friend Katz never made it across the entire length of the Appalachian trail. It did not take them long to realize that their initial endeavour was a little too much for hapless comfortable middle-aged folk. For example, the trail in Maine has frequent crossings of bogs, streams and ponds adding to the weight of the backpacks they were carrying as they tended to fall into the murky waters.

If you have idealistic visions of doing a long-distance hike you should read this book.

Chapter 6 – while hiking

Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When its 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.

You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of worlds; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife”, as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it. All that is required is that you trudge.

There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere. However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods… But most of the time you don’t think. No point. Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode.

Of course, on other days - Chapter 7

We walked for four days and the rain fell tirelessly, with an endless, typewriter patter. The trail everywhere became boggy and slick. Puddles filled every dip and trough. Mud became a feature of our lives. We trudged through it, stumbled and fell in it, knelt in it, set our packs down in it, left a streak of it on everything we touched.
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,211 reviews52 followers
December 21, 2017
It's the longest armchair hike I've ever taken and I've enjoyed every minute of it. I know I will never do this for real so this is next best. I enjoyed reading about the history of the AT and all the other stories that BB included in the report of his adventures.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,223 reviews169 followers
September 2, 2022
Nature writing and a travelogue with "oomph"!

Perhaps it was a fit of angst dealing with his own personal version of a mid-life crisis that led Bill Bryson to tackle the challenge of hiking the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail! It was certainly a solid understanding of his own personality and clear recognition of his own physical and mental limitations that prompted him to invite his friend, Stephen Katz, an overweight and out of shape recovering alcoholic with an inordinate fondness for snack foods and cream soda to accompany him on this daunting challenge. The demands of the AT ultimately proved too much for Bryson and Katz who sensibly (and with an almost relieved sense of philosophical acceptance) decided to abandon the notion of a complete through hike. But the resulting story, drawn from Bryson's daily journal of the summer's efforts, is an overwhelming success and pure joy in the reading.

A WALK IN THE WOODS is an extraordinary, entertaining travelogue on both the AT - the Appalachian Trail - and the people and places of small town America that dot the trail's path along the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Maine. At the same time, it is much, much more. Bryson is scathing in his political commentary and almost enraged criticism of the ongoing state of mismanagement and the sadly misguided policies of both the Parks and Forest Services of the US government. A WALK IN THE WOODS is also a deeply moving introspective examination on the nature of friendship, family, perseverance, joy and despondency. As he and Katz amble along rock strewn trails dappled with sunlight broken by the leafy forest canopy, Bryson frequently, effortlessly and almost without our even noticing the change, wanders metaphorically off the main trail and onto a side path of lightweight but nonetheless informative and educational sidebars of nature writing on an amazingly wide variety of topics. Glaciation, bears, bugs, ecology, continental drift, hypothermia, hypoxia and weather are only a few examples of the topics which he elucidates for the lay reader with his clear, concise prose.

Then there is the humour! It is perhaps an understatement to say that, in this regard, Bryson has a rare gift. He has treated his readers to laughs originating in every imaginable corner of the vast world of humour - wry sardonic wit; biting satire; slapstick; self effacement; sarcasm and insults; fear; and even extended comedy sketches worthy of stage or television. His description of the astonishingly stupid and entirely self-absorbed fellow hiker Mary Ellen who has the annoying habit of constantly clearing her sinuses with a grating honk is definitely laugh-out-loud material.

Pure entertainment and enjoyment from first page to last. I believe Bill Bryson would consider it a compliment if I suggested that A WALK IN THE WOODS is the first book I've ever read with a smile on my face during every single moment of the reading. Highly recommended - even if you've never spent a single night under nylon in the woods.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Char.
1,638 reviews1,488 followers
January 23, 2018
A WALK IN THE WOODS was just okay.

The author and his friend did not get to hike the entire trail as they had originally intended, which was not only disappointing for them, but for me as well.

I learned about the history of the trail and how the whole thing works. I previously had no idea that the trail sometimes crosses roads and rivers and whatnot-I had this picture of a pristine wilderness in my head and while some parts are just that, others are not.

I thought there would be a bit more humor than there actually was and on top of that, there were no actual bears, (see him on the cover there?), unless you count the night something was heard just outside of their tent.

Overall this was fun and I learned some things, so 3 stars it is.

Thanks to my local library for the loan of this audiobook. Libraries RULE!
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