18 February 2011

Book Review: A Walk in the Woods

Title: A Walk in the Woods
Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher/Year: Broadway / 1999
Date Finished:  18 February 2011
Source/Format: Grandpa / Print

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: TBR Dare, Reading Buddies,

The Short and Sweet of It
Bryon reflects on his experiences on a trip along the Appalachian Trail and the history of it while simultaneously getting in quite a few shots on the importance of environmentalism.

A Bit of a Ramble
I read this as part of Erin's Reading Buddies project which is an informal readalong of sorts where people with the same books languishing on the TBR shelves can motivate each other and discuss together. I have had this one on my shelves since my grandfather finished reading it (after I gave it to him as a Christmas present - it's great buying books for someone you know is going to give them back to you).

I thought I had never read it, but a few sections seemed really familiar...so there is a definite possibility that I've picked it up before. So what are my thoughts on my first (or second) reading? Meh. At first I was really into it. I enjoyed Bryson's voice, intellectual with humor thrown in and a rather down-to-earth honesty about the experience. I thought I would be bored, hearing nothing but blah blah blah about walking walking walking, but Bryson includes much more than just a travelogue. And honestly, I liked the blah blah blah about the walking.

He discusses the history of the trail, towns along the trail, and people associated with the trail. Short historical snippets like this are so enjoyable to me. But sprinkled rather liberally throughout are soapboxish rants about the environment - how we need to save the trees and the such not. For the most part, I'm a tree hugger, but it did grate on the nerves a bit. I don't think I can fully articulate why. Perhaps it's because I was much more interested in the trail and the cultural/historical information than I was in this giant reminder that we, as humans, totally are sucking it up in taking care of the planet.

But back to my enjoyment of the story. As I said, I was pretty into it in the beginning, but a little after halfway through, my interest waned. I got bored. It felt like a bunch of the same old, same old. So giving this a real rating is difficult: First half of the book would get an A- and the second half would get a C.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Check out the other reviews which were part of the Reading Buddies project! Quite a few other people have read this one, so be sure to check out the Book Blogs Search Engine!

Question: Have you ever wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail?


  1. I just adore Bill Bryson. It has been a long time since I read this one but I kind of remember that it maybe wasn't my absolute favorite of his.

  2. I like Bryson and thought this was good, but I LOVED the audio version of Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid...so funny.

  3. I love Bill Bryson! This book was my first introduction to him, but I have to admit I only know it in the audio format. He reads all of his own books and he's superb. I'm trying to imagine if I might find the second half of the book a bit tedious if I read it straight through...hard to say.

    I haven't reviewed this book on my blog but I did do a review of his newest book and post about meeting the man in person if you'd care to check it out: http://asthecrowefliesandreads.blogspot.com/2010/10/bill-bryson-bill-bryson-bill-bryson.html

  4. This is one of my favorite Bryson books and while I do remember him ranting about the environment a number of times (and also wishing he'd quickly make his point and get back to the story) I don't remember the second half of the book being tedious. The book almost made me want to try a big hike like this. Almost

  5. I loved it as well and don't remember getting bored. Like Red, it almost made me want to try a big hike. But not quite.

  6. Omgosh, don't you hate it when you start reading a book and you THINK you MIGHT have read it before? It's a huge part of the reason I STARTED book blogging!! lol

  7. I haven't read any Bill Bryson, but he seem to get either raves or mixed reviews all over the place. I feel the same way about certain books though. The first part is so good and the last part is just ...meh. The A/C way s a good way to put it.

  8. I've actually hiked a little of the Appalachian Trial but I would love to do more. Such a lovely place! This sounds like such an interesting book even if the author gets on a soapbox now and then. I think I remember someone saying that this audiobook was really good.

  9. I've been to many parts of the Appalachian Trail and it still amazes me that people can hike the whole dang thing. OUTRAGEOUS. I seriously must get a hold of this book so I can pretend that I am hiking it.

  10. I love Bill Bryson but like you, did not love this book. He just seemed cranky more than funny this time around, if that makes sense. I don't think I finished reading it...

  11. I have only read one Bryson, and I quite liked it, but this one sounds as if it was rather uneven. I don't like it when he gets whiny, so that would turn me off too. Thanks for being so honest about your feelings on this book.

  12. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one when I read it years ago because I am not at all an outdoorsy person. I can't explain the appeal, but I do wonder if I would like it as much if I read it now.

  13. never read Bryson, thanks! for sharing.

  14. Isn't it funny what different people notice? I hardly noticed the environmental rants, but there were a few points when I was a little sick of the historical parts. I didn't notice such a huge difference between the two halves, but I wasn't quite as gung-ho about the adventure once they started to skip around. I definitely think I'll read more Bryson, at some point.

    Thanks for reading this one with me!

  15. Bummer on the second half. I had always wanted to read this book, as I used to be an avid hiker.


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