Reviews

What readers of Hermit say…

The North Woods are filled with quirky characters and wonderful stories. Jeffrey Ryan’s tale of Jim Whyte embodies so much of what makes these characters so appealing—the mysterious signals in the night, the hundreds of books lining the walls of his hideaway, the game of hide and seek with the law. Ryan has crafted a story that you won’t want to put down.

Mills Kelly, Professor of History, George Mason University

Few writers know the backwoods and customs of rural Maine better than Jeffrey Ryan, who brings his deep knowledge of the outdoors to this well-wrought tale and proves to be an adept hand at suspense and pacing.

Everett Potter, Contributor, Forbes.com

Jeffrey Ryan tells an engaging story about a mysterious Maine hermit who lived in the woods of Piscataquis County near the Appalachian Trail. The author takes us back to the mid-20th century in the Maine woods with a descriptive force and a gentle nostalgia that realistically evoke both time and place. “Hermit” will resonate with many readers who have experienced the mystique and beauty of the Maine wilderness.

Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Maine State Historian

I read the book – wow – I could not stop.  It is fantastic! 

Glenn S. Poole, President Monson Historical Society

 

What readers of Blazing Ahead say…

Blazing Ahead Book Graphic

This book is the story of the fathers of the Appalachian Trail and how, like many parents, both envisioned different end goals for their visions. For the history buffs among us, it is a great read and detailed description of the 2,000-plus-mile footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine; an opportunity to learn about the history and hardships that went into the trail’s creation.

— The Trek [Read full review here.]


It is not surprising that an enterprise as monumental as a 2,190-mile hiking trail would be fraught with challenges: conceptual, physical, political, and financial. Blend in strong personalities, deeply held beliefs, and competing interests, and you’ve got yourself quite a story. Jeffrey Ryan has written a tightly researched, well-crafted book that will interest both hiking enthusiasts and history buffs, while also satisfying readers who like their sagas spicy and their heroes flawed.

 Lucille StottAppalachia Magazine, Winter/Spring 2018


I just finished reading “Blazing Ahead, Benton MacKaye. Myron Avery, And The Rivalry That Built The Appalachian Trail.” If you ever wanted to know what went into building the Appalachian Trail this is the book for you.

— 


This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the origins and survival of the Appalachian Trail in its formative years. Just as important, however, is the light it sheds on the sometimes testy relationship between the two most important figures in the early history of the AT. Without the vision of Benton MacKaye and the often abrasive tenacity of Myron Avery, the Trail as we know it today would not exist. Trail enthusiasts and scholars alike will find a lot to love in this book and it should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand how such a visionary and complex project begins and survives.

— Mills Kelly, Professor of History, George Mason University


Jeff Ryan brings hiking to life in both Appalachian Odyssey (his first book) and Blazing Ahead. If you have a sense of adventure, put on a flannel shirt, sit back and read Jeff Ryan. You’ll be entertained, amused, motivated and amazed. He writes clearly and conversationally. He brings to life the story of the making of the AT, the country’s first interstate highway. Do what I did – buy one for yourself and ship a couple of others to friends who appreciate the wilderness, adventure and a story of persistence, conflict and shared dreams.

— William S.


Through in-depth research, Ryan learned that the famous Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-mile footpath stretching from Georgia to Maine, would never have come into existence if it hadn’t been for two men: “The Dreamer,” Benton MacKaye, who had the vision and purpose to conceive of the trail, and “The Doer,” Myron Avery, whose persistence and enthusiasm got it built. The 261-page book, sprinkled with black-and-white photographs, is the story of these two men.

— Aislinn Sarnacki, Bangor Daily News [Read the article]

What readers of Appalachian Odyssey say…

Jeffrey Ryan sets no speed records on the Appalachian Trail, unless it is for the slowest time ever recorded getting from Maine to Georgia. But in a world which sometimes seems obsessed with velocity and superficiality, Ryan’s story is a reminder that the long slow journeys taken with friends are the best—and the most memorable. His Appalachian Odyssey, destined to be a classic of nature and travel writing, will inspire a new generation of readers to follow in his footsteps. 

— Robert M. Poole, executive editor (retired), National Geographic


I’m not much of a hiker, but I found a lot of similarities between what it took for Jeff Ryan and his buddy to hike the Appalachian Trail and what it takes to play a full baseball season, then go on to win a championship. Good health, strength and incredible perseverance can take us to heights we couldn’t imagine. And Ryan makes it feel like he is taking us along for the ride. It’s a home run. 

— Mike Timlin, four time world champion with Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox


Jeff knows the trail as well as anyone that I’ve ever met. I recently had a chance to interview him while he was traveling to promote his book, which is a fun and engaging read. 

—Everett Potter, Contributor, Forbes Magazine


This is an awesome memoir packed with 30 years of trail wisdom. It’s a great read for anyone interested in stories of friendship, perseverance and adventure—as well as hiking and nature enthusiasts. The original photography and sidebars make the book fun and engaging. Highly recommended!

— Georgia B.


This is a great read. In an “ADD” world, the elements included in this book: story, humor, information and history, kept me fully entertained – and I don’t even hike. The point of the book isn’t “Hey man, look at what I did” like so many experiential memoirs – it shows how seemingly unachievable goals can be met one step at a time. In that way, this isn’t a hiker’s-only book. Read it. You’ll see.

—  Mark G.


While Appalachian Odyssey isn’t a “How-to” book per se, it infuses the narrative with enough information about the realities of hiking that it serves that purpose. It is a fun, fine read for the adventure and the musings alone, but add in the details about gear, weather, packing, etc. and it becomes more valuable and more “real”. Beyond that, you get the photos of a wide range of places along the trail, maps, graphs of the terrain, lists and pictures of the gear, etc. It doesn’t try to be A Walk In The Woods, and it doesn’t try to replace it. It stands up well on its own. Excellent read!

— Sandy P.


This is a lovely and warm account of one man’s Appalachian Trail journey, accomplished in intervals over 28 years, and told in a manner which is part trail map, part philosophy lesson=pack thoughtfully, then take it as it comes and be prepared to leave some too-heavy stuff behind. Because he has undertaken the trail over many years, with those stories making up unique chapters, you can appreciate this book slowly while you dream about your own journey. I am still reluctant to turn the last few pages, to be honest. The great fun is that the author is very much an expert hiker; you will pick up valuable tips to make your own treks safer and easier.

Who will love this book? Anyone thinking about hiking The Trail, full on or in sections. There are very important lessons and tips to be gleaned. Anyone who loves the outdoors, and articulate, light and vaguely Thoreau-esque descriptions thereof. Anyone who values friendships, relationships, and synchronicities. The author will invite you to get to know his hiking partner, Wayne, himself, and the many good people he stumbles across along the way. And anyone who might need some inspiration. I’m going to share it with a friend who is approaching a big change in her life. Taken in chunks, anything is possible.

— Anne L.

Although I live near the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, I do not hike as much as I would like. This well- written book with beautiful pictures made me feel like I was doing it. I looked forward to escaping to the trail every time I read it. I don’t feel like the author lingered on the details too much and added just the right amount of humor. He actually made me think for a bit about hiking the trail! 

— Susan (via Books-a-Million website).

Jeff Ryan’s trail chronicle develops a rhythm and a lyricism that draws you in, as it carries you along. While he and his trail mate notch progress section by section, year over year, it’s hard not to ponder your own path: where you were, where you are, and where you’re headed. You also can’t miss all those climbs, dips, and turns along the way. But Ryan’s main message shines through the wit and gratitude in his prose: relish those hard-earned vistas and reap those unexpected rewards as you keep on keepin’ on. And make room for that next jaunt.

— Michael P.


Anyone who has not yet read Jeff Ryan’s book, this is no ordinary book. It is not what i was expecting. It is not a guide book nor an expeditioner’s recollection. The writing is phenomenal, every sentence is useful to the reader, no over embellishments of landscapes, personal hardships on the trail or long windedness that lose the reader’s attention. A vast audience of readers can easily fit into the boots and enjoy the hike. Humor, tips from the trail, personal experiences intersperse the AT geography, history and scenic pleasures well scripted. And be careful, before you know it, Jeff has squeezed in a few lines when you least expect it; introspection takes hold and the reader is looking at trail blazes of life.

Excellent work Mr. Ryan!

— Stephen R.


I read this book at a friend’s suggestion and was surprised at how it drew me in even though I’m not a hiker. Ryan demystifies undertaking such a feat, and frankly inspired me to get outdoors. This is storytelling at its best. Somehow he makes it seem like walking 2,100 miles over a 28 year period with a 75-pound pack is doable. One would think that seeing pictures of some of the most beautiful places on earth would just be cool, but I am inspired to see some of these places first hand. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a great story, but also to anyone who could use a shot of inspiration in perseverance toward a long-term goal.

— Myra O.