BOOK REVIEW: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

As possibly a lot of you do, we love to read a good book while on the road, on a plane or just while relaxing after work.

To give you ideas of what to read and what’s interesting, we will have book reviews from time to time and we hope to be able to give you ideas on what book you gonna get next.

This time I (Hendrik) want to entrust Bill Brysons book “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” to you.

Bill Bryson is well known for his travel reports and nonfictional literature. He is born in the United States of America but lived in the United Kingdom for some time, that’s why most of his texts take place in these countries.

“A Walk in the Woods” (German title: Picknick mit Bären) is about one of his most impressive trips: he hikes the more than 3500 km long Appalachian Trail through the Appalachian Mountains.

His vision is to hike the trail without interruption within a few months. Alone.

While preparing for his mammoth task he realizes more and more that this trip won’t be like any he did before.

Struggling to find the right equipment and getting advice from an eager outdoor shop assistant he is happy that an old friend called Stephen Katz is contacting him as he wants to join him on his journey. Bill is eased by this, even if he doubts of Stephens qualities in sports, as he was quite excited about beeing all alone on this very long and exhausting hike.

When starting onto the trail from the southern end in Georgia, they both are in a good mood to finish the trail in their planned timeframe, but soon they both get to know their limits. Stephen is overweight and Bill has underestimated the pitfalls of the Appalachian Mountains. After a few days and lots of kilometers of hiking they both begin to be a good team, have a lot to talk about and are getting along with each others oddities. Along their way they meet a lot of people, all of them interesting in their own way.

Are they going to make it all the way to the end of the trail? Do they manage to hike more than 3500 km without any break?

I don’t want to spoiler here, so no worries 😉

What makes this a good book?

Bill Bryson doesn’t let you get bored while reading. Beside writing with a lot of humor he seasons his story with historical and botanical extra information. Aren’t you interested in knowing where they walk through? What happend to the nature in the past? What’s good to know when hiking? All these questions and a lot more are answered in this book. Bill Bryson doesn’t only write about a hiking trip, he writes about the Appalachian Trail and his home country. He talks about the legends, the origins and todays situation of the trail and actually made me consider to go hiking from the very beginning of the book. He spotlights the people he meets and reveals both good and silly habits of Americans and the American administration.

This book actually made me so curious about long distance hiking that I decided to hike the “Bergischer Panoramasteig” here in Germany and already hiked to stages of it (we will for sure be reporting about future hikes we do).

My conclusion: Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” is a really inspiring book. It shows the good and the hard parts of long distance hiking but it’s still interesting and entertaining to read. This book is definitely recommendable, no matter if you like hiking or not.

(The book is published by Bordway Books in English language, the German translation is published by Goldman Verlag [Picknick mit Bären])

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