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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail Mass Market Paperback – December 26, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 7,622 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“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 Back Cover

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.

Product details

  • Publisher : Anchor; 2nd edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language : English
  • Mass Market Paperback : 397 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0307279464
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0307279460
  • Lexile measure : 1210L
  • Item Weight : 7.2 ounces
  • Dimensions : 6.9 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,622 ratings

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4.5 out of 5
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Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece worthy of exulting the venerable Appalachian Trail
By John Sykes on April 2, 2019
I am an avid reader. Yes, folks, I'm that annoying person who reads while standing in line, and even at red lights. I once finished an entire novel sitting in a doctor's waiting room-- but perhaps that says more about the doctor than it does about my reading abilities. haha. I also hold advanced degrees in both English and writing. I know good writing when I read it, and I have also stumbled wearily through books shoved at me from the hands of well meaning friends: "we know you love to read. Read this one and let me know what you think of it." Gah. Please don't be that person to your friends-- the frightful book foister. Please, I beg of you. Don't be that person. Don't make me flee from your presence like unfiled taxes fleeing from the IRS, to avoid said horrible book dumping.

Tiresome celebrity biographies, reminiscent of a painful 9th grade essay, sold merely because a famous name is on it . . . let's admit it-- what can they really "tell all" about, when their lives are already a literal (equally wearying) open book?
Romance novels, with a close up of a muscular hand clutching a lacy red bustier on the front, which after several dreary pages makes me feel like ripping it, literally, in half, and throwing the book away. Cookbooks-- there are a few decent ones in this "here read this!" genre, but many of them are thrown together to make a sale, and let's face it-- when is the last time you actually made a recipe from an actual cookbook? Exactly. You throw it in the bag for the beach, thumb through a few pages while smearing on sunscreen, and then toss it in the 'ole bookshelf when you get home, where it is destined to live for the rest of readless, purgatorial eternity.

A friend recommended "A Walk in the Woods." Sigh, I thought. Another recommendation. I admire the "woods" from a distance, but I fear insects, snakes, vermin, rodents, and even the casual snap of a twig within their clutches. I do not camp. I do not eat camp food. I prefer to have my meals without a side of food poisoning. So you'd be right in thinking that my reaction was something like, "Ugh another referral. I will have less in common with this book than a Protestant would have with the Pope." I started it grudgingly, expecting to do the obligatory dragging of my eyes across the page until it was finally, relievingly, replete.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

Within the first few pages I surprised myself by chuckling. Then laughing. Then outright, from the gut, throwing back my head and howling. I stayed up until almost 1 AM that first night, devouring chapter after chapter, even though I had to be up early for work the next day. I just couldn't put it down. The writing is refreshingly honest-- at once thoughtful, hilarious, sarcastic, and downright well done. This is not the scribbling of a celebrity trying to sell books. This is the tale of someone who has truly lived a once in a lifetime kind of all-American experience. His observations about the conditions of the trails, the miraculous preservation efforts made by volunteers on the trail for decades, and even his views on life, are inspirational. His descriptions of the kooky characters, the beautiful, sweeping vistas of untouched wilderness that he discovered as he rounded thousands of wearying bends in the never-ending trails . . . it's magic. Pure magic. I can almost close my eyes and see it, so vivid are his descriptions of the meadows, the wildflowers, the soft sighing of the trees in the quiet breeze.

I've always said that the best kind of writing contains three elements. First, it is relevant/relate-able to all. It takes an incredible author to take a subject about which I have little interest (camping), and make it relevant and interesting to me, yet he does. Second, it should have humor-- not the "polite chuckle" kind of humor, but a real, genuine, gut laughing kind of humor, hidden delightfully throughout the text, waiting to surprise you like golden treasure where you would least think to look. Third, it should have moments of piercing, beautiful clarity-- moments when you find yourself, for reasons you almost can't explain, blinking back the tears as some particularly poignant thought resonates through your very being.

Bill Bryson delivers richly on all three counts. This book ended with my feeling deliciously and completely satiated, in every way. I laughed until my sides were sore, I cried at the honest, beautiful tendrils of his story as it wrapped its beautifully written arms around my heart. I shook my head solemnly with a deep, "Mmmm, yes" at the inspirations recorded within the story as he discovered, not just the beauty of the Appalachian Trail, but the beauty of life, warmth, family, and companionship. Perhaps the beauty of America is that a little bit of the magic resides in the heart of all of us. That's the message here. And it's a darned inspirational one.

I haven't done this often, but a few times in my life a book is so wonderful-- so stupendous-- that I just can't bear to end it. So the moment I finish, I move my bookmark back to chapter 1. Not ending-- just starting again.

My bookmark is resting in chapter 1 of this one.
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Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's by Bill Bryson, what more can I say!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 16, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Into the wild with Bill Bryson!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 12, 2019
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Avalina Kreska
5.0 out of 5 stars A fab read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 19, 2019
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting narrative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 25, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don't rely on the movie...this is a must read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 17, 2016
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