Ken-ichi's Reviews > A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
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May 07, 09

bookshelves: travel, naturalism, nature
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: Maggi
Read in May, 2009

Undoubtedly an amusing, breezy read, full of the kind of fun and hilarity all the blurbs lead you to expect. For instance, "Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old." That had me laughing on the train.

I can't say I liked this book quite as much as some of my friends seem to. On the one hand, I've had at least 1 semi-grueling backpacking experience with a companion who was wholly unprepared for a rigorous day hike, let alone several of them on consecutive days, weighed down by tents, bags, and water, except my experience was less hilarious and more infuriating (even in retrospect, though there was certainly some hilarity). I also found Bryson fairly amusing, his fears and hijinks recognizable and diverting. On the other hand, he's kind of an ass. Seemed like every person he met was a subject for mockery. He also went off on these long jeremiads over the ecological devastation we've wrought on the Eastern forests, without citing any sources whatsoever, or recommending solutions. Obviously I agreed with the substance of those rants, but the dripping sarcasm in his indignation was just so annoying. Good researchers cite sources, and good crusaders at least try to find answers to the world's problems. Bryson seemed like more of a gadfly: buzzing, bothersome, but impotent.

In the end, what I really wanted was just more depth. More analysis of what the trail means to Americans, what it symbolizes, a more informed (and documented) record of the Park Service's transgressions, more comparisons to similar trails in other parts of the world.
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Reading Progress

04/29/2009 page 119
43.12% "Breezy and amusing. Still no bear attacks."
05/04/2009 page 199
72.1% "Interesting point about the American tendency to subjugate or deify nature, no middle ground." 2 comments
05/05/2009 page 231
83.7% "Can't believe he LIKED the hideous summit of Mt Washington. Still, cool that he's finally visiting places I've been to."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen I concur. This book annoyed me.


Ken-ichi Haha, yeah, pretty much every single page I thought, "Shifty's eyes would be rolling if she was reading this."


message 3: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Well said! As excited as I was to read an AT account with some humor, the growing feeling I've had while reading is that he definitely doesn't consider himself American anymore, and it's no surprise he moved back. The generalizations about our weight, laziness, and imprudence didn't really bother me as much as the lack of sources, though. All I found when I looked online were whole pages in my Google searches fully comprised of other individuals looking for the sources of his facts.


Beth Dripping sarcasm. Do you think that's a 90's thing? A generational divide that older GenXers can relate to but turns off younger readers?


Ken-ichi Maybe? I think I'm on the generational border, so I probably can't speak for GenXers or Millennials. I appreciate sarcasm, I probably just don't appreciate Bryson.


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