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4.4 out of 5 stars
A Walk In The Woods
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2001
Having read all of Bill Bryson's travel books, this was the last one left. I hadn't read this because I had been told it was one of his weaker novels but I decided, through no other reason that I needed a hit of Bryson, to read it. People couldn't have been more wrong. From the very initiation of assesing the feasibility, to arranging for Katz to accompany him to the purchasing of his equipment (the careful selection process and how easy it is for us to get blinded by science - ie ripped off) and the purchase of 'a large knife for killing bears and hillibillies.' Bryson is at his absolute best. His encounters along the trail and Katz anti-social, childish antics make the first 150 pages more than laugh out loud funny. I couldn't have been more suprised. The encounter with the, erm... 'bear' and Katz' reaction compared to the wimpy Bryson is simply classic.
And then halfway through it stops.
They leave the trail to take some time off and from then on, I tried hard but it never seemed to pick up again, it was funny but you no longer felt you were joining you old mate Bill on this adventure, but just reading a somewhat disjointed collection of tales. Also, after they leave the trail, the book becomes bogged down in history which some may like, but personally, I was more interested in the humor which in the second half is often lacking. However, halfway through this book, I can guarantee theat you will have contemplated at least once, trying to walk the trail - even just a part of it! If flabby, smoking, unhealthy eating Billy boy can do it, I'll bet you I can!
Still, Bryson is and always will be in my mind, a pure genius and this book is well worth the money even just for the first 150 pages and maybe it was just me, no-one else seems to have found this a problem - maybe I'm just thick!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2003
This book made me chuckle within the first ten minutes (and that is an unusual sight believe me as I'm usually a miserable person). Bryson bares all of himself for the world to see. His attitude, sense of humour, determination and stamina accompanies his every step across the longest continuous footpath in the world. His honesty is breath of fresh air which many forty somethings who want to be fitter and younger will identify with.
I listened to this on a long train journey, shut my eyes and I was there.... in his sleeping bag, itching at the thought of the insects.... smiling at the thought of his mad travel companion and chuckling at his sarcastic comments, which are sharp, witty and ones you would want to remember. The characters he meets on his journey are just great. A real insight into other people's alternative lifestyles. I enjoyed this more than the Australian 'Down Under' one which has put me off ever visititng the place. Bryson seems to be at his best when stressed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 September 2004
This Bryson tome differs from earlier outings in that he drags along a reluctant companion with him, as he embarks on the epic Appalachian Trail through rural wooded America. The relationship with the grumpy Katz is one of the best things in the book as they form an unusual bond despite the latter's evident dislike of physical exercise.
Unfortunately Katz's co-starring role doesn't last all the way through and the bits were he's absent are not quite so compelling although meetings with a group of posh hikers and an incompetent but know-it-all teenager provide highlights. Bryson and Katz's glee when they return to comfort-laden civilization is hilarious.
Overall, I liked this as much as the other Brysons especially as it isn't overloaded with facts and figures, which I thought unbalanced "Down Under".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 1998
A ' Walk In the Woods' by Bill Bryson - I found to be a both interesting and amusing recount of trekking the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern United States. Bryson's style in this book is to switch between the narrator and knowledge-giver throughout. With the aid of a helpful annotated map at the beginning of the book, I was constantly flicking to and fro to pinpoint wherever a particular episode of the story was taking place. Bryson's perceptions of the various other 'AT' trekkers and dwellers , I found to be hilariously spot-on. Katz was constant as the ever grumbling but inherently stalwart friend who agreed to accompany him on the journey. The grizzly and brown bear data was informative and horrifying. I now know which bear to stay still for and which one to turn and run quickly away from in order to evade! The true magnitude of the task at hand was brought home when after arriving in Gatlinburg after what they thought to be a heroic effort , Bryson and Katz clapped eyes on a map of the full trail length from Georgia to Maine. They realised that they had only done two inches of the four feet map !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2001
Dark and deviously funny is how I would describe "A walk in the woods". To say it is a book with a conscience would maybe over emphasise its informative content and trivialise the book's deviously funny side. Bryson weaves a story of a well-meaning adventurer that gets caught out by the size of his ego. A 22000 mile journey that was to trouble him like nothing he had done before, yet was to deliver us a book that will only give you trouble if you don't like to laugh! Bill Bryson tells the story effortlessly moving through anecdotes and facts about his environment that can be so darkly humorous you are not sure whether to laugh or cry. Whether it is his annoyance with the occupants of the trail or his fear of bears, Bryson eloquently describes his feelings with verve and intense humour. His story will leave you laughing until the last of his tales fade from the mind. If there is one lesson Bill has taught me after reading this it would be to not read about killer bears if you want to go and sleep in their back yard! A great book which I would recommend to anyone.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2005
I am a great Bill Bryson fan, and I loved reading this book.
Although, to tell the truth, it was so realistic that I felt I was camping out with him. I felt so relieved when he finally reached a decent place to spend the night, or when he found a supermarket where he stocked up on mostly junk food.
My heart went out to Katz, who stoically brought up the rear (and sometimes the front).
I tell you, I felt as if I walked every inch of that way with them and I was very happy when it finally got to the end. I was exhausted.
I felt I had to go the whole way with him, otherwise he might never make it!
If you don't want to get exhausted, worried about being attacked by bears, poisoned by mice dung or just plain lose your way or starve, go for some lighter Bryson reading where he gets in a car and travels somewhere relatively safe (like Britain).
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Two chracteristics that are fantastic to have are humour and wit and Bill Bryson has them in abundance. To write humour with such a comanding voice is an admirable quality indeed. The book is well written, planned, informative and funny.

My only comment is that towards the end the geographical, historical and geological information became a bit repetitive and I did find my interest waning. Aside from this it is another solid effort from a fantastic author.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2001
There's no questioning Bryson's flair for laugh-out-loud (embarrasing on the train) anecdotes. A walk in the woods is peppered with hilarious moments from Bryson's trek along the grueling 2000 mile Appalachian Trail, with his home-town-friend and reformed alcoholic, Katz. When I say he hiked the Appalachian Trail, I mean he only hiked 870 miles of it, missing out north and south Carolina. 870 miles is comendable, but it was a little bit of a dissapointment. The main nag I have is a trait that affects quite a few of Bryson's works, that is a tendency of his to get bogged down in facts and figures or gratuitous history lectures. A walk in the woods, I have to admit, is Bryson's biggest perpertrator of this crime. I think he struck the best balance between facts and anecdotes in Notes from a Small Island. However, maybe I'm a bit of simple minded young chap, you might be more embracing of Bryson's love of facts and figures. And if this is your first Bryson you will be hard pressed not to laugh out loud at least once.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
My first introduction to Bill Bryson's writings and I fell in love. The Appalachian Trail runs through my area, and I see its hikers everyday on my way to work. Bill wrote the most amusing and fact filled book. From the start of the hike with his college friend, and the sight of their backpack and its belongings being thrown all over the trail to lighten the load- to the facts and data of each state along the way. Bypass Pennsylvania if you can- Mr.Bryson relates his experiences with such amazing detail and such wit- laughing out loud my family lined up to read the book when I was finished. I have given this book as a gift to many friends, and-yes, they are still talking to me. A real find for the serious or not so serious hiker. Bill Bryson is moving back to the UK- our loss...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 July 2001
This book was written in the style of John McPhee and even quoting him once in a while. It includes facts and people like "The Perfect Storm." Then Bill Bryson adds first hand personal experiences. You can identify with his comments that do not have to be funny to be familiar.
This book recounts Bill Bryson's experiences on the Appalachian Trail. The dry facts can be picked up through other material. However the personal experiences are just that, personal. If you have never been hiking then you still get a feel for what you have missed. However if you have hiked then you can really appreciate the people he met, and circumstances that he went through. There are hikers and then there are hikers. In the Boy Scouts you are usually in a well-organized group, in the military you have to be more cautious of objects and terrain, Sierra Club and Outward Bound have their unique points of view. So if his experience is different, it still makes for fun reading.
I even liked the sections on selecting and using the equipment. I am afraid if I had met Bill Bryson on the trail; I would have been one of those "equipment comparing" people.
Anyway do not expect an epic and you will enjoy the time you spend reading this book. Oh, and it does make me want to go hiking.
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