A walk in the woods Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Bill Bryson

Book - 1998

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New York : Broadway Books 1998.
1st ed
Item Description
Published in paperback (with different pagination) by Anchor Books/Random House in 2007.
Physical Description
276 p. : map
Main Author
Bill Bryson (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

After living abroad, Bryson decides to reacquaint himself with America by walking the famed Appalachian Trail, which traverses 14 states and stretches 2,100 miles. He recruits his ne'er-do-well chum Stephen Katz, his traveling companion in Neither Here nor There (1991). They hadn't gotten along on that European trip, and this time Katz shows up extremely overweight, toting 75 pounds of Snickers bars. He is hardly a good choice for a hiking partner, but Bryson is happy just to have someone along to share the often difficult experience (and Katz does prove to be a very funny man). They set out from Amicalola Falls State (GA) Park carrying the official Appalachian Trail guides consisting of 11 books and 59 maps, which proved "monumentally useless." Although they fail to walk the entire trail (indeed, Katz falls behind almost immediately), Bryson's book is a marvelous description and history of the trail and the mountains, providing an informal record of the trail's founding and many of its hikers. Bryson's great good humor makes this a journey worth taking. ((Reviewed April 1, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

For readers who want more stories of epic hikes, Bryson's (At Home: A Short History of Private Life) illuminating portrait of the 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail makes for great parallel reading. Similar in concept to the Pacific Crest Trail but less grueling, the Appalachian Trail runs up the eastern coast through mountains, valleys, and lakes from Georgia to Maine. Bryson walked some of the trail with his high school friend Katz, a man even less equipped to undertake the journey than Bryson himself. Together, the two stumbled along, but the book is not so much about the walk they took as it is about the trail itself and the people and places they encountered along the way. Bryson is witty-sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes cuttingly sarcastic. He is also a fine observer of natural history, ecology, and local history. His detailed commentary on the sociology of the trail and its flora and fauna are brilliantly interwoven with his hike. For readers who want even more, there are many books detailing hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail. A good suggestion for a unique account is Angela and Duffy Ballard's A Blistered Kind of Love: One Couple's Trial by Trail. - "RA Crossroads" LJ Reviews 5/3/12 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Returning to the U.S. after 20 years in England, Iowa native Bryson decided to reconnect with his mother country by hiking the length of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail. Awed by merely the camping section of his local sporting goods store, he nevertheless plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance. Bryson (The Lost Continent) carries himself in an irresistibly bewildered manner, accepting each new calamity with wonder and hilarity. He reviews the characters of the AT (as the trail is called), from a pack of incompetent Boy Scouts to a perpetually lost geezer named Chicken John. Most amusing is his cranky, crude and inestimable companion, Katz, a reformed substance abuser who once had single-handedly "become, in effect, Iowa's drug culture." The uneasy but always entertaining relationship between Bryson and Katz keeps their walk interesting, even during the flat stretches. Bryson completes the trail as planned, and he records the misadventure with insight and elegance. He is a popular author in Britain and his impeccably graceful and witty style deserves a large American audience as well. (May)

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

YA-Leisurely walks in the Cotswolds during a 20-year sojourn in England hardly prepared Bryson for the rigors of the Appalachian Trail. Nevertheless, he and his friend Katz, both 40-something couch potatoes, set out on a cold March morning to walk the 2000-mile trail from Georgia to Maine. Overweight and out of shape, Katz jettisoned many of his provisions on the first day out. The men were adopted by Mary Ellen, a know-it-all hiker eager to share her opinions about everything. They finally eluded her, encountered some congenial hikers, and after eight days of stumbling up and down mountains in the rain and mud, came to Gatlinburg, TN. Acknowledging they would never make it the whole way, they decided to skip the rest of the Smokies and head for the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia-by car. Late that summer, for their last hike, the pair attempted to hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, near the trail's end. They got separated and Bryson spent a day and night searching for his friend. When they finally were reunited, "...we decided to leave the endless trail and stop pretending we were mountain men because we weren't." This often hilarious account of the foibles of two inept adventurers is sprinkled with fascinating details of the history of the AT, its wildlife, and tales of famous and not-so-famous hikers. In his more serious moments, Bryson argues for the protection of this fragile strip of wilderness. YAs who enjoy the outdoors, and especially those familiar with the AT, will find this travelogue both entertaining and insightful.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A wry account by the author of The Lost Continent traces an adventurous and arduous trek past the Appalachian Trail's natural pleasures, human eccentrics, and offbeat comforts. Reprint. $175,000 ad/promo. Tour.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Traces the author's adventurous trek along the Appalachian Trail past its natural pleasures, human eccentrics, and offbeat comforts

Review by Publisher Summary 3

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The classic chronicle of a “terribly misguided and terribly funny” (The Washington Post) hike of the Appalachian Trail, from the author of A Short History of Nearly Everything and The Body “The best way of escaping into nature.”—The New York Times  Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes—and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.  For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is a modern classic of travel literature. NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE