Customer Reviews of A Walk in the Woods
Very seldom do I read anything that makes me laugh out loud. To do so more than once or twice in a single book almost never happens. With "Walk," I became almost hysterical over certain chapters - in an airport, no less, while waiting for my flight. People must have thought I was nuts! Anyway, this is the story of two middle-aged and out of shape men (Bryson and his buddy, Katz) who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail. The AT is the third longest nature trail in the US, stretching from Georgia to Maine, along some incredibly rough terrain. Not all of their journey is rustic, however, as they often take a break to spend a night in the closest little town off the trail to have a shower, sleep in a "real" bed, and wash the grime from their clothes. It is during one such trip to the laundromat that Katz has a rather interesting encounter with 300 lb. Beaulah, her extra-large-sized panties, and a washing machine. Aside from the comical adventures, Bryson also has a great deal to say about the AT itself, and in particular, how much the National Parks Service needs a giant kick in the pants to help preserve these Trails.
More than a hiking narative.
This is much more than a travelogue of two neophyte hikers on the Appalachian Trail, and readers looking for a blow by blow account of the travails of Bill Bryson and his companion, Stephen Katz, will be disappointed. Hiking provides only a backdrop to a heartfelt discourse on the social condition of America, local history, the environment, and the complexities of friendship. The pretext for the book was Bryson's return to the United States after twenty years in Britain, and his interest in "rediscovering America" after such a lengthy absence.
The vast majority of the reviews of the book cite its hilarity (one reviewer called it "choke-on-your-coffee funny"), and indeed there are very many funny parts. However, the deeper I got into the book, I detected a strong shift in the author's sentiment from satire to deep introspection. His observations became more acute, more angry, and more individualized as his long hike constantly brings to his mind the fragile environment of the Trail, the insanity of bureacrats entrusted with the AT, and his own personal limitations.
This was my first encounter with Bill Bryson, and while I found him entertaining, a beautiful writer, and an astute observer, some readers will be put off my his sharp satiric wit. It is certain that he will offend somebody. A friend of mine, who also read the book, was very much upset by the fact that Bryson and Katz didn't hike all 2,200 miles of the Trail, and that somehow their "failure" should prevent the telling of the story. This is utter nonsense and just throws more manure onto the present dung heap that has accumulated from the participants involved in peak bagging, wilderness races, and experiential therapy groups.
Bryson and Katz at least tried to hike the entire AT, and they returned from their hike as changed men who learned many lessons about the wilderness and friendship. Towards the end of the book, the two men are talking about the hike. When Katz remarks that "we did it," Bryson reminds him that they didn't even see Mount Katahdin, much less climb it. Katz says, "Another mountain. How many do you need to see, Bryson?" I agree with Katz (and ultimately Bryson). They hiked the Appalachian Trail.
Fair Warning -- do not read this book while commuting - you will be laughing so uncontrolably you will risk being committed by your fellow commuters. I have loaned this book to 3 friends - in each case, the spouse was so intrigued by the constant belly laughs that they also read the book before returning it. One friend bought copies for Christmas presents. The appeal is that universal. I dare say even those with no interest in backpacking or the Appalachian Trail would find the book highly entertaining.
Enjoyable read - funny and informative
I don't remember when I've read a book that I enjoyed more - especially non-fiction. It is laugh out loud funny, and informative with excellent descriptions of the AT. I absolutely recommend this book.
A very good book not only for the fans of hiking
I found "A Walk in the Woods" my first encounter with Bill Bryson's books, a very enjoyable and educational read. I picked this particular book to start my acquaintance with him, because I like hiking and often explore parts of the Appalachian Trail (from New York to New Hampshire) myself.
Bryson writes with great sense of humor about his decision to walk the Appalachian Trail, the preparations, the choice of his walking companion (a hilarious figure of his old friend Steve Katz), the hike itself, with all its joys and troubles. The Trail is the dominating presence here, and although there is a lot of personality and jokes, the thoroughly researched information about the history of the Trail, the flora and fauna, the geographical, geological and meteorological conditions, is what I found most interesting. Especially, because it was written in a captivating manner. I loved the atmosphere Bryson created in this book.
Bryson's brisk style made me read his book from cover to cover almost without any stopping and I regretted only that it ended so quickly. The subject could easily have made the book nothing else than a guide, and only thanks to the sparkling, original prose it was so much more...
I appreciated the author's honesty when he admitted that he and Steve had many difficulties while walking the trail and found the initial task of walking the whole length of the trail impossible to accomplish. Since they skipped parts of the route were the ones I know best, I felt that there was no harm done and I was just encouraged to walk more of its Northern and Southern parts. I will definitely return to this book in future.