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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail Mass Market Paperback – December 26, 2006
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“Bryson is a very funny writer who could wring humor from a clammy sleeping bag.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Short of doing it yourself, the best way of escaping into nature is to read a book like A Walk in the Woods.”–The New York Times
“A terribly misguided, and terribly funny tale of adventure.... The yarn is choke-on-your-coffee funny.” –The Washington Post
“Bill Bryson could write an essay about dryer lint or fever reducers and still make us laugh out loud.” –Chicago Sun-Times
“Delightful.” –The Plain Dealer
“It’s great adventure, on a human scale, with survivable discomforts, and, happily, everybody goes home afterwards.” –Times Picayune
From the Inside Flap
God only knows what possessed Bill Bryson, a reluctant adventurer if ever there was one, to undertake a gruelling hike along the world's longest continuous footpath--The Appalachian Trail.
The 2,000-plus-mile trail winds through 14 states, stretching along the east coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine. It snakes through some of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes in North America, as well as through some of its most poverty-stricken and primitive backwoods areas.
With his offbeat sensibility, his eye for the absurd, and his laugh-out-loud sense of humour, Bryson recounts his confrontations with nature at its most uncompromising over his five-month journey.
An instant classic, riotously funny, "A Walk in the Woods will add a whole new audience to the legions of Bill Bryson fans.
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I wonder how Bill plans these things. He had a big bold and also naive plan to maybe hike the whole trail, announced it, spends tons of money on equipment, studies up . . . and then is happy to have a complete non hiker and wild card (Katz) go with him. Maybe he was planning for comedy all along . . .
Well he got it. And adventure. And although yes I did feel like they were wimping out the first shortcut they took – They both became hikers, walkers – going hundreds of miles that I never have.
I was personally insulted that he skipped Maryland – since I grew up about a mile from the trail there. He could have seen our mayonnaise jar shaped stone monument to George Washington (the first one we claim) and that might have put him in a better mood for Pennsylvania!! Being that this book is now 20 years old, I wonder if the PA Trail has improved, or if AT use has increased just because of this book. I hope the trees aren't all dead. Jeesh I need to get out more.
Despite some of the reviewers here labeling Bryson as a “liberal” I didn’t get that. Vulgar? Yes, got that. He comments in passing that the national dialog on the outdoors seems to be so polarized that the only two official positions seem to be over deification of nature or outright hostility to nature. That is so true. Has our discussion improved? No but hey our maps are better!! And we have cel phones and Fit Bits!
For me the sad/funny highlight of the book is when Bill is reading the park information sign in Shenandoah National Forest pointing out that the nearby hemlock trees are all dying from aphids that the park service can’t do anything about it - but “The good news, according to the board, was that the National Park Service hoped that some of the trees would stage a natural recovery over time. Well, whew! for that.”
Whew for that! I’m still laughing at that phrase! Whew for this book!
Bryson has a wonderful sense of humor. In some cases, I think he embellishes the truth, i.e., he takes an experience which deals in facts, but then adds quirks that will make the scene seem even more bizarre, or amusing, or frustrating than it probably was. I know this because I sometimes resort to the same ploy. I never waver from the truth, of course, but just make it sound a little more interesting and funky. One aspect that surprised me was that occasionally Bryson throws in a smutty remark. Nothing wrong with that, except it didn't quite fit in with the general tone.
Although Bryson is in love with Australia, he doesn't hesitate to criticize when he feels criticism is due. He can't stand Canberra, for example, although that's balanced by his love of Perth. His take on the outback is unexpected. While he faces certain "difficult' situations in that area, he is constantly amazed at the vastness, intrigued by the uniqueness, and enthusiastic about the "amenities" (no matter how basic they might be.)
This book is not a travel guide. You won't find a list of hotels or restaurants, but you will come away with a real sense of what Australia has to offer. And what it has to offer are experiences you will not find any place else on earth. Eat your heart out, Rick Steves. (4-1/2 stars).