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Book Review: A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

Updated on December 22, 2017
MacPharlain profile image

MacPharlain enjoys reading good books from many genres. His favorite is historical fiction and his favorite author is Patrick O'Brian.

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Journey with travel writer Bill Bryson as he sets off to hike the legendary Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid. A thru hike is probably out of the question but I definitely want to hike sections of it. So I was really curious to read a first hand account of it.

Summary of "A Walk In The Woods"

What's this book about?

Home in the US after living abroad for 20 years, Bill Bryson sets out to get to know his country again by hiking the nearly 2,200 mile long Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Joining him on this quest is an old acquaintance, Stephen Katz, who is completely unprepared for starting their hike in Georgia.

Bryson documents the highs and lows of their adventure in a funny and perceptive style. He also offers plenty of information about the trail. Everything from the trail's history and ecology to its modern day environmental threats.

Bryson has many fears about hiking and living in the woods which he shares freely. The biggest is bears and he devotes several pages to summarizing his research on various bear attacks in the woods.

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

A funny and engaging story of hiking the Appalachian Trail for the first time that I didn't want to end.


Thoughts About "A Walk In The Woods"

The first thing I realized is that this isn't a "how to" guide for hiking the AT. It's a comical tale of one guy's journey mixed in with lots of great background on the trail and the country it covers. This book is a must read for anyone planning to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Bryson's very open with his opinions and observations about the trail. He talks about how it's maintained, which states have the best (and worst) trail maps and the impact of the federal government on the trail's usage and the environment. His conversational writing style keeps everything interesting and there's some really good stuff in here for anyone interested in the AT.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is one of those experiences where you know you're going to meet some interesting people. Bryson does a good job of describing the ones he encountered on the trail.

What I Liked Most About "A Walk In The Woods"

  1. An interesting story that brings the experience of hiking the AT alive and motivated me to get serious about doing it myself.
  2. Very witty and funny writing style.
  3. It's an enjoyably easy read. You can read a few pages or a few chapters at a time.

Have You Hiked The Appalachian Trail?

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If you're going to hike the Appalachian Trail - Here's the guide for you...

The Thru-hiker's Handbook 2002: Guide to the Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Maine)
The Thru-hiker's Handbook 2002: Guide to the Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Maine)

Bryson refers to this book as "the one indispensable guide to the AT". Pair it with "A Walk in the Woods" and you'll have all the information you need to successfully hike the trail yourself.

5 stars for A Walk in the Woods

My Rating of "A Walk In The Woods"

This book was fun to read and educational at the same time. I highly recommend A Walk In The Woods for anyone planning to hike the AT.

This book easily gets 5 stars from me and I'm looking forward to reading more books by Bill Bryson.

How Do You Rate "A Walk In The Woods"?

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"A Walk in the Woods" - The Movie Version

In 2015, "A Walk in the Woods" was made into a movie. If you want a sneak peek of what's in the book, then check out the movie trailer below.

Other Books by Bill Bryson

Bryson is a prolific writer with many other books, including other travel memoirs. After reading A Walk in the Woods, I'm looking forward to reading some of his other works.


Thanks for reading my review. Please share your thoughts below on A Walk In The Woods, Bill Bryson or your adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Your Trail Notes...

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    • profile image

      tomoxby 4 years ago

      I love the sense of humour Bill Bryson brings to all his books. This one is no different and makes for great reading.

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      ZombieBodhi 5 years ago

      This book is one of my favorites. I just love Bryson's writing style, filled with a lot of interesting historical anecdotes mixed with witty humor. Not only do I learn a great deal from reading Bryson's books but often find myself laughing out loud... in public :)

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 5 years ago

      I loved this book. I had not read Bill Bryson's books prior to this, it has been several years since I read it and my memory is a wee bit fuzzy yet I do recall enjoying it. I enjoy hiking and have encountered bears, fortunately they were in a friendly mood that day:) I like Bryson's wit and style in weaving his stories.

    • natashaely profile image

      natashaely 5 years ago

      I have never read any of his books as I thought they were just travel guides. Having read your review has intrigued me anough to pick one up, I like that it is funny and not just for those who want to travel there although i am sure by the end of it I will want to. Another well written and personal page.

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      katieross 5 years ago

      Neither Here Nor There is my FAVORITE Bryson book, but that's not to say they're not all wonderful. I was exposed to them in a Travel Literature seminar in undergrad and have been following his work ever since!

    • jackieb99 profile image

      jackieb99 7 years ago

      I love it, it inspired me to hike the AT

    • Peregrina LM profile image

      Peregrina LM 7 years ago

      I'm really going to have to read this book soon! I lensrolled this to my slow journeys lens.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      My husband through-hiked the AT in 2004 -- hard 6 months for me. Hard for him too, but something he's wanted to do his whole life. He was in between jobs, so I suppose it was as good a time as any to go. Anyway, we both read Bill Bryson's book and thought it was a gem.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 9 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I read this book after thru-hiking and really enjoyed it. I'd met some of the people Bryson wrote about. And some of the people he mentions are actually composites or charicatures of hikers he met. But, yes, I agree, definitely a book to have in your A.T. "library."