A Walk in the Woods

Version: Abridged
Author: Bill Bryson
Narrator: Bill Bryson
Genres: Travel, United States
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Published In: May 1998
# of Units: 5 CDs
Length: 6 hours
Ratings:
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Overview

"Not long after I moved with my family to a small town in New Hampshire, I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town."

So begins Bill Bryson's hilarious book A Walk in the Woods. Following his return to America after twenty years in Britain, Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The AT, as it's affectionately known to thousands of hikers, 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 test his own powers of ineptitude, and 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 who accompanies the similarly unfit Bryson on the trail. Once Bryson and Katz settle into their stride, it's not long before they come across the fabulously annoying Mary Ellen, whose disappearance ruins a perfectly good slice of pie, a gang of Ralph Lauren-attired yuppies from whom Katz appropriates a key piece of equipment, and a security guard in Pennsylvania who, for no ascertainable reason, impounds Bryson's car. Mile by arduous mile these latter-day pioneers walk America, along the way surviving the threat of bear attacks, the loss of key provisions, and everything else this awe-inspiring country can throw at them.

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 fragile and beautiful 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, a lament, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature.

Reviews (24)

Not much walking!

Written by Ken S. on February 18th, 2014

  • Book Rating: 2/5

A real disappointment. The author walked only a tiny portion of the Appalachian Trail, blaming his failure on his obese companion. Mildly amusing, barely informative. The author has better books available, such as A Sunburned Country about his travels in Australia, and Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a pretty funny account of growing up in Des Moines Iowa in the fifties.

A Walk in the Woods

Written by Anonymous on June 16th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I really enjoyed this book. It was amazing to hear the tales of hiking the Appalachian trail. Bill Bryson keeps the story interesting with his dry humor.

Walk in the Woods

Written by Anonymous on June 4th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I read this book years ago, but I must say listening to it brings a much fuller dimension. Bryson is both droll and informative and it is a pleasure to experience his adventures. A pleasure to listen to.

Hiking Fan

Written by Anonymous on March 3rd, 2009

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Overall it was a good book. If you like Bill Bryson you will enjoy this story. He tells a good story about the trail and it's quite humerous at times. It's also educational if you are into learning something. Just a fun and interesting story. If you are thinking about hiking the trail and you haven't been out there you should listen.

Entertaining

Written by Susan from Dinuba, CA on July 24th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Very entertaining but Bill's books usually are. I really wish Bill would have someone else read his books. His voice is annoying.

Appalachian

Written by T Morrell from Woodside, NY on June 20th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Interesting when you lookup Appalachian English on Wikipedia it points out that those who are from Appalachia say "App-a-latch-ah" while outsiders call it "App-a-lay-csh-ah." Having grown up in the Smokey Mountains I've known this for all my life. You would think that Bryson would have picked up on this given his Walk in the Woods, but then again. Did he really experience Appalachia, including the "red necks", or just go walking in a modern day wilderness and encounter other well-supplied, comfort technology oriented hikers on an extended excursion. I grew up playing in those woods with the bears and polecats and such. It's a funny book at times but not terribly much about the Appalachian Trail... More really about a novice experience in hiking. Given my background I probably have more criticism than your average bear but I can't, in good faith, fully recommend listening to this book. Keep it for a dry spell.

A Wonderful Walk

Written by Sara Cardella on March 27th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 4/5

I love to hike and have always felt guilty that I wasn't better at it. This book helped me realize that a day hike is really just as wonderful as overnight trips. I loved the discriptions; they really gave me a sense of place. The diversions into wonderings about cars and people and land use were philososphically intriguing. The history lessons illuminated life at that time. Not enough travel books out there!

A walk in the woods

Written by Charlie Dixon on November 26th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 1/5

This book came highly recommended by friends but I found it very slow, drawn out and boring. Funny at times but not worth the time investment to get there. I expected much more from this accomplished writer.

A Walk in the Woods

Written by Anonymous on November 14th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This book is very funny. I'd highly recommend it to anyone that has hiked any portion of the AT. Some of the information/statistics about the AT are a little dry - but interesting.

A Walk in the Woods

Written by Anonymous from Rochester, MN on July 26th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Bryson is an entertaining and humous writer. Fascinating story of the Appalachian Trail. Made me want to do some hiking.

Author Details

Author Details

Bryson, Bill

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of William and Mary Bryson. He has an older brother, Michael, and a sister, Mary Elizabeth.

Bryson was educated at Drake University but dropped out in 1972, deciding to backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with his high-school friend, the pseudonymous Stephen Katz. Some of his experiences from this trip are relived as flashbacks in Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, which documents a similar journey Bryson made twenty years later.

Bryson first visited the United Kingdom in 1973 during a tour of Europe, and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital - the now defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. It was there that he met a nurse named Cynthia, whom he eventually married. The couple returned to the USA in 1975 so Bryson could complete his college degree, after which, in 1977, they settled in England, where they remained until 1995. Living in North Yorkshire and mainly working as a journalist, Bryson eventually became chief sub editor of the business section of The Times, and then deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent. He left journalism in 1987, three years after the birth of his third child. Still living in Yorkshire, Bryson started writing independently and in 1990 their fourth and final child, Sam, was born.

In 1995, Bryson returned to the United States to live in Hanover, New Hampshire for some years, the stories of which feature in his book I'm A Stranger Here Myself, alternatively titled Notes from a Big Country in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 2003, however, the Brysons and their four children returned to England, and now live near Wymondham, Norfolk.

Also in 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, voters in the United Kingdom chose Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island as that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation.[1] In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.

In 2004, Bryson won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book with A Short History of Nearly Everything.[2] This 500-page popular literature piece explores not only the histories and current statuses of the sciences, but also reveals their humble and often humorous beginnings. Although one "top scientist" is alleged to have jokingly described the book as "annoyingly free of mistakes",[3] Bryson himself makes no such claim, and a list of seven reported errors in the book is available online, identifying the chapter in which each appears but with no page or line references. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.[2]

Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language — Mother Tongue and Made in America — and, more recently, an update of his guide to usage, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (published in its first edition as The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words in 1983). These books were popularly acclaimed and well-reviewed, though they received criticism from academics in the field, who claimed they contained factual errors, urban myths, and folk etymologies. Though Bryson has no formal linguistics qualifications, he is generally a well-regarded writer on the subject of languages.

In 2005, Bryson was appointed Chancellor of Durham University,[3] succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov, and has been particularly active with student activities, even appearing in a Durham student film: the sequel to The Assassinator and promoting litter picks in the city[4]. He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities.

In 2006, Bryson ran (as part of a celebrity relay team) in the Tresco marathon, the Scillian equivalent of the London marathon. The same year, Frank Cownie, the mayor of Des Moines, awarded Bryson the key to the city and announced that October 21, 2006 would be known as, Bill Bryson - "The Thunderbolt Kid" day.[5]

In November 2006, Bryson interviewed Prime Minister Tony Blair on the state of science and education.[6]

On December 13, 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to literature.[7] The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.

In January 2007, Bryson was the Schwartz Visiting Fellow of the Pomfret School in Connecticut.[8]

In May 2007, he became the President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.[9][10] His first area focus in this role was the establishment of an anti-littering campaign across England. He discussed the future of the countryside with Richard Mabey, Sue Clifford, Nicholas Crane and Richard Girling at CPRE's Volunteer Conference in November 2007.