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AWOL on the Appalachian Trail

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, by David Miller, is another personal research book that doesn't really fit my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge, but it does fill in the “book with bad reviews” prompt of my yet-unfinished 50 Book Challenge from last year.


AWOL on the AT


There are quite a few negative reviews on this, and some of their points are valid. I enjoyed the book a lot, though I'm only giving it 3 stars. I'm a huge thru-hiking/AT fan in general though. Non-hiker friends might enjoy it much less, but I do hope folks will give it a chance.

That he wrote articles for the local newspaper is evident. This is not a self-introspective walk in the woods or the Tao of Thru-Hiking. This is a trail journal: 'Hiked so-many miles, such-&-such elevation, met [insert trail name], stayed at [insert shelter or trail town]'. As an aspiring AT thru-hiker (and someone who hiked many portions in my hometown), I quite enjoyed it, and I also enjoyed Miller's (trail name 'AWOL') sense of humor, though it seems some reviewers missed that. Easy to do in the litany of facts, and, honestly, most of his personal introspection seemed snarky &/or just plain passive-aggressive (such as hanging around day hikers while bemoaning his difficulties to try to 'encourage' trail magic or ride offers...very distasteful, but then I'm more of an active-aggressive gal myself), so that did overwhelm the subtle and rarer jokes.

Still, enjoyable and realistic sharing of life on the trail. I do wish that he'd been a bit clearer with dates/seasons, but I imagine much of this is gleaned from his weekly newspaper articles, which would have been dated. I agree with some crits that I'd hoped for much more description of life 'off-grid', or at least more personal introspection/growth. Sadly, all we really see of ~who AWOL really is inside~ is a disgruntled computer programmer with a hate-on for the tax-man. That portion was especially distasteful since he was hiking national parks which are supported by our tax dollars, bemoaning his money woes while eating out and staying at hotels in nearly every town passed.

My other gripe is that this is obviously not edited by a professional editor, a huge peeve of mine when it comes to self-pub. I've seen articles applauding his writing prowess because he wrote for papers, I guess, but there are plenty of errors. Most of them are misused or missing commas, though certainly not as bad as many self-pubbed books, but the biggest peeve for me was his clinging to the double-space after sentences. Yes, I'm old too, and I was taught that way in school, but a computer programmer should know the reasons for double space (type-setting on type-writers vs. more even setting on computers, originally used to make reading easier on the eyes), and anyone publishing a book should be aware of publishing conventions. Seeing such type gaps was extremely distracting for me. Heck, had he searched-&-replaced with a single space, he might have saved enough money on extra printing costs to be able to offer us color, or at least better quality, pictures.

I think it could have been a much stronger book with an editor, especially helping with continuity and grammar issues, but I still found it to be an excellent read. Unfortunately, I fear it will only speak to people already interested in the subject. While it is a somewhat clinical approach to telling the story, he still does so with skill and kept my interest for the course of the book. It will definitely be a helpful resource once I make my own thru-hike. I thought it was a great read that left me with just a small handful of nit-picks.