Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review - A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Broadway Books
Publication Date: July 28, 2015 (Movie Tie In Edition); First Published: May 4, 1998 
Date Read:  August 30, 2015


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 has become a modern classic of travel literature.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | BAM!

I am terribly disappointed by the fact that I did not fall in love with this book.  When I was choosing a book to read, I took one look at the ratings for this book on Goodreads and knew that I had to read this book right away.  Seriously, every single one of my friends on Goodreads gave this book either a 4 or 5 star rating.  And they said it was funny.  I love funny.  I knew that I would just love this book.

I didn't love it.  I was actually bored for most of this book.  I do admit that this isn't the kind of book that I usually read but a humorous non-fiction story about hiking the Appalachian Trail sounded fabulous.  I really did enjoy the parts of the book that focused on Bill and Stephen's adventures on the trail.  I just wish that the focus of the book would have stayed with Bill and Stephen.

The problem was that there was just too much other stuff crammed into this book.  I sometimes felt like I was reading a textbook....a well-written textbook...but a textbook nonetheless.   In this short little book, I learned about the history of the Appalachian Trail, some geology, information about bears, trees, the National Park Service, birds, and various other things.  A lot of the time the book just felt dry and information packed.  I was glad that some of this information was shared in a fun way that actually put a smile on my face.  All too often, I felt like skipping entire sections of the book so that I could get back to the actual hike.

I had hoped that this was going to be one of those side splitting funny kind of books.  It had its moments of humor but nothing that made me do anything more than crack a smile.  There was no laughing out loud and the parts that were funny seemed to be rather sparse.  Don't get me wrong, I can tell that Bill Bryson is a very funny guy but I need a lot more of those kind of moments to offset the parts of the book that were dry. 

I did notice that there is a movie based on this book that is soon to be released.  I actually am looking forward to that movie because I suspect that it will focus on the parts of the book that I really enjoyed....the actual hike.  I don't think that there will be too many geology or history lessons found in the film.  I am thinking that I actually want to go an see the movie when it comes out and I never go see movies.

I am not going to be recommending this book but I am seriously in the minority with this one.  I would tell readers to pick it up if it sounds interesting to you.  You may be one of the many who really love it.  I still really wish that I was one of the many readers who love it. 

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of providing an honest review.

About the Author

Bill Bryson’s bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Neither Here Nor There and Notes from a Small Island, which in a national poll was voted the book that best represents Britain. His acclaimed book on the history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Royal Society’s Aventis Prize as well as the Descartes Prize, the European Union’s highest literary award.

Bryson has written books on language, on Shakespeare, and on his own childhood in the hilarious memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. His last critically lauded bestsellers were on history – At Home: a Short History of Private Life, and One Summer: America 1927.

Another travel book, A Walk in the Woods, has now become a major film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. Bryson’s new book, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island comes out in Autumn 2015.
Bill Bryson was born in the American Mid-West, and is now living back in the UK. A former Chancellor of Durham University, he was President of Campaign to Protect Rural England for five years, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.

Author Links: Website | Facebook


  1. I'm really sorry that you didn't enjoy this book. It is always hard not enjoying a book that the masses loved, especially when you really wanted to like it. I must admit that the premis sounds really interesting, but I wouldn't be able to deal with all the lectures on nature and geology, I finished University some years ago, and didn't continue studying for a reason. ;] I hope that your next read is more enjoyable. :)

    1. Sometimes when I read an book and don't end up liking it nearly as much as everyone else seems to I wonder if I read the same thing. It is great that we can all have so many interesting opinions. I like learning but when I pick up a novel, I really just want to be entertained.


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