A Historical Walk In The Woods

Book: A Walk In The Woods 

Author: Bill Bryson

Pages: 289

Who should read this book: People who enjoy hiking, People who enjoy history and anyone interested in the Appalachian Trail.



A Historical Walk In The Woods

I really liked this book. I am a big fan of walking in the woods. My husband and I take a back country camping trip every year for our anniversary. I have always loved hiking and being in the forest. It’s my second favourite place! So overall, I really enjoyed this read. Bryson is a comedian, witty and descriptive.  He uses onomatopoeia like a pro. And he took a walk in the woods with a friend and turned it into a history lesson.

The book is written like a memoir. Bryson wants to walk the whole Appalachian Trail. He lives near part of the trail and has walked that small section before. He hunts for a friend who would be interested in doing it with him and he finds an unlikely companion in Stephen Katz. They make plans to start at the southern end of the trail and hike north. Well, Bryson makes plans, he does a lot of preparation and Katz does not.

As the middle aged pair begin their journey, Bryson realizes that Katz is probably not cut out for hiking such a long trail. Katz starts out his 2,000+ mile hike by throwing things from his pack in a fit of desperation.  An ominous bit of foreshadowing for the duration of the trail.

My favourite part of this book is that each chapter contains a little bit of history about the trail or the towns the trail is passing through. After finishing the book, I know a lot of interesting factoids about the Appalachian Trail. Such as, only about 25% of people that start the Appalachian Trail with the intention to hike the whole thing in one go actually finish it. I know so much more about that amazing trail and the rare accomplishment of completing it. I know the states and towns the trail passes through and little tidbits about each stop they made. It makes the trail story more interesting when it’s not entirely focused on walking.

My second favourite part of the book is Stephen Katz. He’s a grumpy old man, he has no filter, and he makes lot’s of comical mistakes. It was an excellent idea of Bryson’s to accept Katz as his walking companion because it made the book a lot more amusing. One genial man politely walking through the forest would be a little bit of a boring book, but a genial, friendly old man accompanied by a grumpy alcoholic that steals annoying people’s shoelaces, is much better. Katz travels the trail with contempt and anti-social tendencies. However, in one small town he meets a woman named Beulah (not kidding) that agrees to meet him later for sex, made clear by the fact that he buys her a pair of very large underwear. But when he arrives at the meeting spot he find Beulah’s husband instead and hilarity ensues. The unfortunate Bryson is dragged into the conflict as well.

In summary, this is a great, easy read. It’s funny and refreshing. I give it an 8/10. If you want to know why I only gave it an 8 keep reading but be warned:






The duo don’t actually hike the whole trail. They only hike about 40% of it. They decide after a few weeks that they aren’t capable of hiking the whole thing. They skip a big section and then decide to take a break, which causes a short boring section of the book. When they get back on the trail together to hike the last 100 mile section of heading north, Katz has another fit and throws more of his pack contents into the woods. This results in a serious problem that ends with them both leaving the trail without finishing it. I was so disappointed that they gave up. I would have given this book full marks if they had at least completed that last 100 miles together.

Thanks for reading and I hope this review will help you decide whether this is the book for you.

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