Customer Review

142 of 156 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history of the trail, second half less compelling than the first., September 23, 2006
This review is from: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Official Guides to the Appalachian Trail) (Paperback)
As both a Bill Bryson fan and a long distance hiker myself (although I have not done the Appalachian Trail yet) I really expected to love A Walk in the Woods. I was a little bit concerned, since when my partner handed it to me (he finished the book first) he said, "I don't think you're going to like it..." But still, I was really looking forward to reading it.

For the first half of the book, I also really did enjoy the book. I wasn't bothered by the fact that they were unprepared or out of shape. Nobody is really prepared for their first long distance hiking trip until they are a few weeks into the trail. I remember my own experience of staggering along under my overly ambitious pack. I also enjoyed that he talked honestly about the experience of hiking, and I liked the way that he interspersed history and facts about the trail with the travel writing.

The second half, however, got much less interesting. The day trips and the abortive Maine portion were actually kind of disheartening. The whole feel of the prose got sort of mean spirited. He didn't have to walk the whole trail to feel like he walked it, but I honestly would have preferred to see him expand the first half and leave the second half out completely.

There is still quite a bit of good stuff in here, particularly if you are interested in the southern part of the trail. There is also quite a bit of truth about the culture of the long distance hikers. I laughed quite a bit while I read. I guess that the complaints boiled down to not quite being as good as it could have been.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 30, 2008 2:08:44 PM PST
Vykyng says:
I agree that the second half of the book is not as good as the first. The day trips don't have the drama and interest of the initial long-treks. I was disappointed that he didn't hike the entire A.T. However, when he said how much of it he and Katz DID hike, I was impressed!

Posted on Dec 14, 2009 9:42:37 AM PST
TaigaTank says:
You hit the nail on the head...I felt the same way after I read this book. Good, Honest review.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 15, 2009 8:07:21 PM PST
frumiousb says:
Thank you!

Posted on Sep 3, 2010 12:43:17 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 20, 2010 1:43:38 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 8, 2011 7:30:27 PM PDT
I agree with your review completely! I have entirely too many books I want to read, and here I am just past the halfway mark in this book, and it's just gotten so mean that I don't believe I will finish it (I never don't finish a book either!). I take a lot of offense at how many people he puts down in this book. Some of it I get, like the annoying woman they meet early on. But the intense criticism of the National Park Service and volunteers and the such, he only presents the one, extremely bullheaded, side of those stories, and I think it makes him look bad, rather than everyone else. Shame he didn't put more heart into the book, rather than so much grinch.

Posted on May 20, 2011 9:14:06 PM PDT
C. Johnson says:
I think you missed the whole point of the book. This was never meant to be a primer or a journal or instructional in any way. If you want a treatise on hiking the Trail, you need to go somewhere else. This is an informative book, yes, and contains enough subtle indictments on the way we treat our national heritage, our natural wonders, and even our bodies to make us all blush with shame. But more than anything it's a humorous jab at a couple of fat asses who got up off the couch and discovered a long stretch of the eastern seaboard, and more importantly, significant qualities in themselves that had been lying dormant their whole lives. Come on, lighten up!

Posted on Mar 1, 2012 9:02:33 PM PST
The part where he is actually hiking is fun, but mean. Several times, as he complains that the AT is not like the walks in Europe, I wanted to shake him and point out - RIGHT! THAT is why you were trying to do it! His comments about the National Park Service and others who protect and maintain the trail were funny until you think about them, then disgusting. Bryson is making a lot of money from his book about the AT - which would not exist without those Bryson criticizes so viciously. Too bad Bryson never volunteers to work on the trail.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2012 11:14:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 8, 2012 11:27:26 AM PDT
I do agree that the first half is better than the latter of the second, but since I have a bum knee, I can vicariously accept him not doing the Maine portion the way a story would like.

PS David Harrison: Yeah, I can't think of anyone who doesn't want to make money when they publish a book. Can you? I didn't see anything vicious, to be honest. He's not going to glorify, but vicious??? Anyhow, it was a great book in that it has inspired me to hike portions (day tripper) rather than ignoring it.

And PS: he totally KNEW walking in England is not the same as the AT, read carefully next time.

Where do you go to work on the trail? In a bit of my not so copious free time, I would seriously like to lend a hand near me.

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 4:35:40 PM PST
Jason Martin says:
If you're looking for a good account of a long distance hiker, seek out Backpacker Magazine's "The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Scott Williamson" by Steve Friedman (he "yo-yoed" the PCT)

Posted on Jun 20, 2013 2:34:46 PM PDT
LizaJane says:
The second half of the book contains, at the end, a very suspenseful experience which prevents it ending in anti-climax. Perhaps the most astounding, to me, things in the book were how grindingly difficult the trip was (leading me to ask why anyone would subject themselves to such misery) and second, how terrible their diet was (and that would relate to their difficulty in carrying it out.)
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