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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Official Guides to the Appalachian Trail) Paperback – May 4, 1999
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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“Bryson is . . . great company right from the start—a lumbering, droll, neatnik intellectual who comes off as equal parts Garrison Keillor, Michael Kinsley, and . . . Dave Barry...[Readers] may find themselves turning the pages with increasing amusement and anticipation as they discover that they're in the hands of a satirist of the first rank who writes (and walks) with Chaucerian brio.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A terribly misguided and terribly funny tale of adventure...choke-on-your-coffee funny.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“A Walk in the Woods is an almost perfect travel book.”
—The Boston Globe
“The Appalachian Trail...consists of some five million steps, and Bryson manages to coax a laugh, and often an unexpectedly startling insight, out of every one he traverses...It is hard not to grin idiotically through all 304 pages...sheer comic entertainment.”
From the Inside Flap
Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes--and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature.
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This is not a scholarly dissertation (thank goodness) which tries to pass itself off as the beginning and end of all that was ever written about the life of Shakespeare. It is a short study of just what we do not know about him, which we find, is quite a lot! I picked up absolutely dozens and dozens of facts as to what I did not know, and until I read this book, did not realize I did not know. In addition to this I picked up some wonderful trivia (and some information that was not trivial at all) concerning the era in which Shakespeare wrote, if indeed, he wrote during that era. I had no idea of the words and phrases, which happen to number in the hundreds, which were introduced to the English Language via Shakespeare. As one reviewer has pointed out, this is really not a biography, but rather a history lesson, a lesson of little facts that you would not normally be exposed to. Bryson has done his home work and we have all benefitted from his seemingly endless curiosity.
Now for those folks who are Shakespearian scholars. This probably will not be all that much help to you; of course picking up the book, noting that it has only 196 pages, should pretty well tip you off to that fact pretty quickly. If it doesn't, perhaps you might want to find some other line of work. This is a readable book, an interesting book, written for those of us who have not made the study of Shakespeare a profession or made it an obsession, which ever the case may be. It is not a book that you can use as a substitute for a sleeping pill, as so many hard core books on this subject are. It is for those of us who are curious, and who want to know bits of this and pieces of this and that. I will say though, that by reading this work, I have gained even further appreciation for the work of Shakespeare, which says a lot, as I had already admired him greatly.
I did enjoy the last chapter or so, as it addresses the many theories of the many rather odd individuals who have been obsessed over the years, trying to prove that Shakespeare was not Shakespeare, or that someone else wrote his writings. These nut jobs seemed to have started from the beginning. The neat thing about it is, as Bryson so well points out, we know even less of the basis of their theories than we know of Shakespeare. Some of them are pretty funny though and worth taking a look.
Bryson does have a low keyed sense of humor and this fact shines through on ever page of this work. His style is easy on the eye, and in this work, there are no pretentions. It is sort of what you read is what you get. I enjoyed this one front to back and feel much richer for having read it. I did give this one five stars as I truly enjoyed it and felt, for me, it was a very worthwile book. Others may disagree with this, but hey, they can write their own review.
I, like I imagine thousands of others, laughed hysterically for the first 39 pages. Then I abruptly stopped when Mr. Bryson described how his friend Katz dumped pepperoni, rice, cans of spam, and brown sugar over a cliff as he climbed Amicalola Falls. On page 41 and 42 he amends this list by adding coffee filters which "...were great for throwing. Fluttered all over". Don't forget the cheese and peanuts (no doubt still in their wrappers) that went along with everything else. They must have made a nice resounding thud in the quiet of the forest. Evidently, neither Katz nor Bryson gained a greater appreciation for the environment because the dumping continued. On page 86, Katz flung his cream soda can into the underbrush. (Which one of us picked that one up?) Our beautiful trail in Maine was not even sacred to Katz's lack of environmental ethic. On page 239 and 240, he goes at it again - this time getting rid of clothing, water bottles, and food. I suggest that Mr. Bryson may want to atone for the damage that he has done by contacting any trail club and volunteering a few days. He may find that picking up after poorly prepared slobs really isn't that hilarious after all.
Let's continue, I'm just getting warmed up! Trail maps. Perhaps Mr. Bryson is ignorant of the fact that most of the work on trail maps is volunteer. He also must be ignorant of the fact that, while he was writing and publishing his book for cash, Keystone Trails Association volunteers (yes, the Keystone Trails Association that was referred to on page 174) were hard at work replacing the old black and white maps with incredibly beautiful and detailed color maps. Did the volunteers make money for this? Nope! Not even enough to pay for Katz's can of cream soda that they had to pick up under the bushes! Perhaps since Mr. Bryson feels that the AT maps are so poor he would care to donate some of the proceeds of his book to help update all of the maps. One tenth of the sale of his book would go a long way.
What enflames me is that instead of praising KTA, an organization filled with dedicated people who have spent thousands - hundreds of thousands - of hours building, signing, and maintaining PA hiking trails, Mr. Bryson criticizes them. But praise doesn't sell a book. And praise doesn't make a person rich.
On page 189, Mr. Bryson admits that he only walked 11 miles in Pennsylvania, yet on page 173 he describes how lousy the AT is in PA. Oh, Mr. Bryson, the 11 miles you walked must not have included Pole Steeple nor the outstanding views of the Susquehanna River from Hawk Rock and Peter's Mountain. Those 11 miles could not have been on the crest of Peter's Mountain with its frequent pastoral views. You must have by-passed the Pinnacle, Pulpit Rock, the Bake Oven, and the lovely rhododendrons, mountain laurels and hemlocks. It's sad that you missed all this. You missed Pennsylvania. But you did spend 5 pages describing Centralia. What does Centralia have to do with the AT? It's an hours drive, and a four days hike, away! But since you only hiked 11 miles in PA, I guess you had to write about something!
All this was bad enough, but on page 199 I gave up. Mr. Bryson states, "...the ATC seems to be positively phobic about human contact. Personally, I would have been pleased to be walking through hamlets and past farms rather than through some silent protected corridor". And on page 200 he states, "...the AT might be more interesting and rewarding if it wasn't all wilderness, if from time to time it purposely took you past grazing cows and tilled fields". He also suggests that some riverside walking would be nice. What's wrong with this picture? For starters, Mr. Bryson didn't bother to hike the AT. For if he had, he would have known that the AT is all these things. He would have hiked through the trail towns of Hot Springs, Damascus, Pearisburg, Harper's Ferry, Boiling Springs, Duncannon, Port Clinton, Delaware Water Gap, Kent, Dalton, and Williamstown to mention a few. He would have met some of the wonderful people who live there and go out of their way to befriend the hikers (unless, of course, they are made fun in the way Mr. Bryson made fun of the Southerners). He just might have had to run from frisky calves and horses in fields through which the AT passes. He obviously entirely missed the 17 mile stretch of the AT through the pastures of the Cumberland Valley and the meadows of wild flowers in Virginia and Massachusetts. And he didn't walk along the lovely Housatonic River and spend a couple of hours in the gloriously warm sunshine on the rocks at Bull's bridge.
In closing: There are those of us who hike the AT.
There are those of us who hike the AT and write lovely, meaningful, and accurate books about it.
And there are those of us who don't bother hiking the AT, but, what the heck, they write about it anyway.
We know the difference!
A final word to the hiking community. If you want to read this book, borrow it from someone who unknowingly bought it. Please, don't pay Mr. Bryson to pick up his garbage!
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Makes my knees hurt just reading it. Also makes me want to go give some of it a shot.Read more