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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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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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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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Bill Bryson, the author, used to be a fairly close neighbor. His rendering of this book is so close to the man. It is one book filled with humor and this is a man that is filled with humor. What we need to know at the outset is that Bryson is not taking this hike to ease his inner turmoil,
Oh, no, he wants to lose weight. He is a middle aged man, a little doughy and a good hike will be great for him. Little dies he know.

Bryson and his friend, Stephen Katz start their hike in Georgis. What they discover is that they are in deep woods, way over their heads, carting too much stuff, and probably not meant for this hike. They do not finish the Appalachian Trail, but Bryson does finish in bits and pieces. Stephen Katz falls off the ladder, but before he goes, it is an often hilarious trek. When I first read this book. It was one of the best books of the year for me. It helped that I knew the author, not well, but knew him. I gave copies to my family and friends for Christmas that year, and they all agreed with me.

Some people were upset with Bryson's take of the trail. At that time, not many people could survive the grueling ordeal. Now, it is a must for many people. But,Bryson picked fun at the government and organizations at that time who supported and maintained the trail. Many people started the trail after reading this book, much better prepared, and in much better shape. As we know the film starring Robert Redford is in theaters now. It has mixed reviews, Redford is really too old, but there you have it. The book is superb, if you have not read it, please do.

Recommended. prisrob 09-06-15

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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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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2006
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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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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on 29 November 2007
There are some good and some bad points to this audio CD.

First, it isn't as good as his travels around Britain, Europe, or his notes from a Big Country. There is considerably less material here - it's all about him hiking the Appalachians with his friend Steve Katz. It's still enjoyable in itself, but Bill Bryson writes best when he is put into new, bewildering situations, poking fun at the people he meets and poking fun at his reactions. And in a Walk in the Woods, he simply doesn't meet enough weirdos with which to test his acid pen.

Bill Bryson narrating the book is a mixed benefit. On the one hand, it's always good to have the author read his own material. And the passages in which Bill Bryson desribes the hostile beauty of Appalachians are particularly evocative. The problem is that unfortunately, his voice is quite relaxing and occasionally dull. Despite the fact that he is one of the funniest writers around today, he can't tell a straight-forward gag, whereas the often irritating narrator on some of his other work (the name escapes me) at least knew when and how to tell a funny story.

Despite the shortcomings, it is still enjoyable. I listened to it whilst driving long distance, and it's very nice to pass the time to. But I don't think I'd listen to it sat at home.
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VINE VOICEon 16 March 2006
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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on 21 October 2002
This is just what you expect, it's Bill Bryson, being witty, observant and occaisionally rather reckless on the Appalachian Trail.
Read of his encounters with man eating bears, his nights in vermin-ridden shelters and if you ever wondered what happened to his boyhood friend Katz from niether here nor there, this book has the answers.
It's good old fashioned laugh out loud on the train type Bryson.
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