Customer Reviews for

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Average Rating 4.5
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(22)

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(26)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

19 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

Brilliant one moment, baffling the next

This is an almost brilliant and deeply flawed work, which I nonetheless highly recommend for its humor and wealth of easily-digested historical and environmental information. One of the things that characterizes the absolute pinnacle of comedic achievement is the wi...
This is an almost brilliant and deeply flawed work, which I nonetheless highly recommend for its humor and wealth of easily-digested historical and environmental information. One of the things that characterizes the absolute pinnacle of comedic achievement is the willingness to make any and every sort of spectacle of onesself for a laugh...along with the comedic sensibility to carry it off. Gilda Radner as the girl scout. Carol Burnett wearing the curtain rod. Richard Pryor as himself. Bill Bryson proves as early as page 19 that self-humiliating physical comedy can work even in print. One of the problems with this book, however, is that he gets most of his laughs by similarly humiliating everyone he encounters during his on-again, off-again hike of the Appalachian Trail. He has sadly forgotten another of the hallmarks of comedic genius: laughing with, rather than at, one's felllow human being. Bryson seems to revel in a mean-spiritedness that is all the more disturbing in light of his obvious intelligence and insight. He is talented enough to forgo the cheap shots and, besides, he should know better. I began to understand why his family was afraid of him embarassing them. Another and more baffling problem is Bryson's seeming blindness to the rich experience of the wilderness. He has a sort of generalized awe for the majesty of the forest as a whole, here and there, almost as if he occasionally remembered to take a snapshot. But he so belabors his observation that every stretch of forest is like every other, one tree just like the next, that you can't help wondering, as he very frequently does himself, what he is doing there. I personally find a small miracle every three inches along whatever trail I walk. His failure to do so, and the prohibitions he mentions against leaving the trail, made me repeatedly envision a wall of streaky glass along both sides of the path between him and the forest. Which in turn made me picture the trail eventually coming to resemble a sort of museum of the outdoors. Maybe it already is one. Bryson is certainly honest. He makes no bones about whining and wishing for Big Macs, and his clear inability to enjoy the here-and-now. Yet a wistful tone is audible when he speaks of the destruction of the forests, and he has lovingly gathered and presented such a wealth of environmental and historical facts as to nearly make this book a primer for the budding environmentalist. In the end, Bryson himself becomes as fascinating and frustrating as the trail itself. Why is such an insightful person so insensitive to the forest's small delights, and to his fellow human beings? How can he be so courageous and whiny at the same time? (Good time to mention his sidekick, Katz, who somehow actually manages to pull it off with more aplomb. Maybe because Bryson tore him apart so thoroughly at the beginning that you feel sorry for him forever after.) Despite Bill Bryson's being older than I by a number of years, he seems so like young kids now. So lost without modern 'conveniences,' mainly because that is all they know. And yet, little by little, in this book, you can see the light get in around Bryson's blinders. He begins to find civilization ugly and wish for the forest whenever he leaves it. Which is, all in all, an encouraging message.

posted by Anonymous on March 2, 2000

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Boorish and miserable

Brysons writing talent is substantial as is his boorish hatred for most people. The first few chapters were outstanding but book becomes dark and hurtful when bryson reveals his disdain for southerners and relegion. There are so many more enjoyable reads. Bypass this on...
Brysons writing talent is substantial as is his boorish hatred for most people. The first few chapters were outstanding but book becomes dark and hurtful when bryson reveals his disdain for southerners and relegion. There are so many more enjoyable reads. Bypass this one.

posted by 16915615 on February 5, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    Boorish and miserable

    Brysons writing talent is substantial as is his boorish hatred for most people. The first few chapters were outstanding but book becomes dark and hurtful when bryson reveals his disdain for southerners and relegion. There are so many more enjoyable reads. Bypass this one.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    My opinion of this novel is probably different from most other p

    My opinion of this novel is probably different from most other people. Yes in the beginning I laughed a lot due to the hilarious dialogue between Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz, but soon I stopped laughing. I suddenly became bored with the book because the whole structure changed. It was hard to believe that a novel that was so lighthearted and entertaining could become very deep and dark. Because of this change, I wanted to stop reading and pick up a different book. I reluctantly finished the novel, not pleased with how it ended. I wanted the two main characters to go against the odds and finish the trail, but they didn’t. The end of the book left me feeling if I could go back, I would have picked a different book for my SSR project.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    I thought this was supposed to be about hiking the AT, not poppi

    I thought this was supposed to be about hiking the AT, not popping off the trail at every chance he got and heading back into a town only to gripe about the town and its inhabitants. Terribly disappointing read! I give it 2 stars because I liked the history and science  lessons, but as for hiking?  A beg ZERO. I literally just finished the book, and I am still not sure of exactly what I read, but I know one thing it wasn't - a book about hiking the AT.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    Disappointing

    Good book if your interests lead toward history but not if you want to know about the people and adventures of the trail.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    So so

    Started out to be a funny book why he prepared for his trip and for part of the AT. Then he starts about how the government dose not give enough money to minding trails. Should of told more on the hikers he met on the trails. To be honest never finished the last 75 pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    Cover photo

    Why is there a brown-colored bear on the cover? According to Wikipedia, there are no brown-colored bears indigenous to the eastern U.S.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2003

    Fun reading for 50 pages

    This book was great for 50 pages. When the author and his companion unceremoniously give up after walking 1/10 of the trail, I pretty much lost interest. The book changes tone from an interesting story to a pulpit, where the author starts hitting you with his personal opinions.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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