A Walk in The Woods: Book Vs. Movie (REVIEW)

I'm embarrassed to admit how long I have been meaning to get around to reading A Walk in the Woods. It took me so long in fact, that I had to repurchase the book because I couldn't find the first copy I had bought! When I first saw the trailer for the movie adaptation, I was filled with excitement, even without reading the book. As a nature lover, A Walk in the Woods was right up my alley. Well, I finally got around to reading the book, and after I finished reading I watched the movie. I love seeing how movies match up to their book counterparts. In most cases, I end up finding flaws within the movie and how well it follows the book. There have been rare occasions in which I ended up liking the movie more than the book, but I'll admit that those moments are rare.

A Walk in the Woods was the first I had ever heard of Bill Bryson. When I found out about his book, it happened to be during a time in which I was just learning about the Appalachian trail. I love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, camping, etc., so books on the subject intrigue me.

The book's full title is A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Now, I have to confess that given the name, I expected far more trail and much less history from this book. Bryson gives a great deal of information on the flora and fauna that inhabit the trail over its 2,190 miles. I truly appreciated this knowledge and would have gladly read a book solely filled with this information. However, I found that the history lessons within the book often distracted from the story of Bryson's journey on the trail, which I felt deserved a greater focus. One minute he would be traversing a bit of trail in Georgia, and the next he was discussing the trees in that space for the next five pages. I will repeat: I did enjoy this knowledge. I just felt that it broke up the flow that the book had. Perhaps alternating chapters of history and first-hand experience might have worked better. I'm not sure. Personally, I felt like I was reading two books at the same time.

Looking beyond the issues I mention above, I did enjoy the book. It was impressive how despite age and perhaps the expectations set out by society, Bryson and his friend Katz were able to traverse such a daunting task. I can say that I had a love/hate reaction toward the fact that they left the trail incomplete. I felt bad for them that they were not able to complete the task they set out to do, but I also found myself agreeing with Katz, that despite not technically finishing, they had indeed achieved their goal of walking the Appalachian trail. I also appreciated in some way, that they were able to find acceptance of their goal being technically incomplete.

Despite not finishing the trail, they still achieved a great deal, experiencing more than many ever will. Something Bryson touches on in the book is how disconnected Americans as a society have become from nature, as well as how cars and other modes of transportation have left walking to be a nearly obsolete task. He talks about how people drive to the gym, only to walk or run on a treadmill. He talks about the rarity, and the challenge of trying to live without a car (something I have personally, always wanted to achieve). There are many scenes where this dependence is highlighted, but one that stood out to me in particular was a scene in which Bryson tries to go to a Kmart to obtain bug spray. He has to traverse highways, bridges and roads that are unwelcoming to pedestrians and by the time he reaches his destination, he is more battered and dirty than following a day on the trail. This scene resonated with me because I live in an area which is in many ways, cut off from public transportation, and largely unwelcoming to pedestrians. Unfortunately, this isn't uncommon in the US and I'm not alone.

Overall I did like reading the book, but I wonder if I set myself up by expecting so much from it. If you enjoy nature, camping, hiking, or learning about America, then I would recommend reading A Walk in the Woods.

Now, onto the movie. Like I said, when I first saw the trailer and found out that A Walk in the Woods was being made into a movie, I was excited. When the movie finally came out on DVD I picked it up and after reading the book, I gave it a watch.

Watching a movie after reading the book has always been tricky to me. Sometimes it frustrates me (like when the Weasleys house was blown up in the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie for example). Sometimes it just solidifies why I loved a book. For me, A Walk in the Woods was a good movie, and there were scenes which I enjoyed very much. For example, the Kmart scene I mentioned above, was done rather well in the movie. I found myself nodding, or laughing at scenes which matched up to my visions well.

But like with any book to movie adaptation, there were parts which I disliked. I found myself surprised when the movie ended because it was different and felt abrupt after reading the book. I also didn't enjoy some of the changes they made from book to movie. I realize sometimes changes are needed but I struggle with them! I have a certain image in my head and when a movie changes that image its difficult for me to appreciate it. Perhaps its my flaw. Perhaps it falls on the movie. Maybe we can meet in the middle?

Like with the book, I still recommend giving the film a go. If anything, the actors are great and it's a fun little movie. I also appreciated how they maintained the humor that was present throughout the book thanks to Bryson and Katz. You can pick up the movie on DVD here.

I'd love to know your thoughts on either the book or the movie in the comments! Also, I'm curious: have you, or would you ever hike the Appalachian Trail?

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