This is my favorite work by Bill Bryson, not because it is the best written or because it is the most interesting story, but because it feels the most personal out of all his works. Where as in other books, he is a witty and cool oberver of the places he sets out to explore (albeit with very keen insights and appreciation for history, local folklore and compelling statistics), in A Walk in the Woods, he is neck deep in it all: the sufferings in harsh conditions, the hopelessness and bleakness he faces at times, the mesmerizing beauty of the Appalachians and heartfelt appreciation for the little things that one can only gain after being through the rough. It is deeply personal. Remember in the movie, "Castaway" how devastated Tom Hanks was when he lost Wilson? There's a similar moment in A Walk in the Woods, and you've never seen Bill Bryson so vulnerable and so personal. Also, Stephen Catz, Bryson's bumbling companion during this trip, is the most humorous partner Bryson had in any of his adventures in all of his travel narratives; yet even in this, there's a deep sense of companionship that I've never seen in Bryson's other works.
Yes, as a reviewer noted, one of the drawbacks of this whole adventure is that Bill Bryson lacks a strong sense of purpose on why he has embarked on this endeavor and this results in a frustrating stretch of half-hearted day hikes that, for me, was the most unsatisfying part of the whole adventure. Other than this, however, I highly recommend this unique listening experience for fans of Bill Bryson.
It's amazing how Bill Bryson can narrate a relatively dry subject in such a way that draws you with fascination and yearning for more. I've read the book version beforehand and only got the Audiobook because I really enjoyed Bill Bryson's narrations on his other works (such as 'A Walk in the Woods' and 'In a Sunburned Country' -- both excellent and highly recommended) without noticing that it's read by someone else! It was a bit disappointing that it was not Bill Bryson and the narrator has this annoying Hollywood faux-British sounding accent that makes it a bit cartoonish and at times, annoying; kinda like the sex education movie voice acting from the 60's
You certainly get a different appreciation for Austrailia after you listen to this audiobook; Bill Bryson's narratives are filled with historical details and humorous episodes that would help you get an idea of what Austrailia is like outside of the popular images of the Sydney Harbor that most people associate with the country. However, although the author is full of empathy and affection for the country he's writing about, the narrative feels a bit less personal. His emotions are often not as deeply felt as his other works (for example, "Walk in the Woods") and feels somewhat detached and impersonal. Although Bill Bryson's trademark is his unique sense of humor and witty obervations and this work is on par with most of his other books, for me, the lack of STRONG personal sentiments made this a bit dry. It's certainly a good listening and worth your time, as are most of other works by Bill Bryson.
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