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This volume provides a history of walking, exploring the relationship between thinking and walking and between walking and culture. The author argues for the preservation of the time and space in which to walk in an ever more car-dependent and accelerated world.


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This volume provides a history of walking, exploring the relationship between thinking and walking and between walking and culture. The author argues for the preservation of the time and space in which to walk in an ever more car-dependent and accelerated world.

30 review for Wanderlust: A History of Walking

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Expansive and engaging, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust explores the history of walking in the West. Starting with Rousseau and the Romantics, Solnit argues, walking became self-conscious, and against the backdrop of the French Revolution and industrialization, the act started to accrue dynamic, democratic, and subversive cultural meanings it had never before held in Western societies. The author historicizes walking as a conscious cultural act and considers the many forms the act takes today, from Expansive and engaging, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust explores the history of walking in the West. Starting with Rousseau and the Romantics, Solnit argues, walking became self-conscious, and against the backdrop of the French Revolution and industrialization, the act started to accrue dynamic, democratic, and subversive cultural meanings it had never before held in Western societies. The author historicizes walking as a conscious cultural act and considers the many forms the act takes today, from pilgrimages and marches to walkathons and urban strolls; simultaneously, she politicizes the experience of walking, questioning how it’s impacted by the walker’s social identities. All the while, the author analyzes the literature of walking and reviews the role walking played in the lives of famous thinkers and activists. While packed with information, Solnit’s prose is lyrical and moving, her work associative in structure and easy to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    I bought this on a whim, after being stunned by the ethereal beauty and insight of A Field Guide to Getting Lost this summer, which I reviewed HERE. This is good, but more ordinarily so. If you want a literate non-fiction book about the history and philosophy of walking, this may be for you. It turns out that I don’t. But it’s not her; it’s me. Hence, this “review” is just notes on pages 1 to 103 of 291. Thinking Points Walking the way we do is uniquely human. Other bipedal creatures have wings or I bought this on a whim, after being stunned by the ethereal beauty and insight of A Field Guide to Getting Lost this summer, which I reviewed HERE. This is good, but more ordinarily so. If you want a literate non-fiction book about the history and philosophy of walking, this may be for you. It turns out that I don’t. But it’s not her; it’s me. Hence, this “review” is just notes on pages 1 to 103 of 291. Thinking Points Walking the way we do is uniquely human. Other bipedal creatures have wings or tails, or they hop or jump. It frees our hands, but the resulting changes to the human pelvis limit the size of a babies’ heads, so could ultimately cap our intelligence! Image: Evolution of human skeleton to bipedalism (Source.) “Walking begins as delayed falling and the fall meets with the Fall.” That reminded me of a favourite line from Life, the Universe and Everything that the knack of flying is “to throw yourself at the ground and miss”. Walking “as a conscious cultural act” is a remarkably modern phenomenon. First, there were the formal gardens of the eighteenth century, where those who didn’t need to work could exercise (gently) on land not needed for cultivating food. Image: Lady in a Garden by Edmund Leighton (Source.) In Jane Austen’s novels: “Walking provided shared seclusion for crucial conversations” I sometimes find that true myself - though it can be just as true of a car journey or a private meal. Later, William and Dorothy Wordsworth wrote eloquently about their walks/hikes in the Lake District. They inspired other poets, painters, the start of scenic tourism, and the rise of the word “picturesque”. Image: Inspirational daffodils at Glenconyne Bay, Ullswater (Source.) Any sort of walking grounds us in the world more than sitting or using external transport, it becomes a means and an end. “Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them.” Transport technology minimises unstructured travel time, but disconnects us from each other, and the world. “Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors… disconnected from each other.” Pilgrimage is a very specific walk where the end to some extent is the means. But the inherent metaphor of travel, travail, journey through life, is one we all relate to, and common to many religions, especially Buddhism. Memory palaces are a well-worn technique for remembering things by imagining a walk. Most of us rely more on books (or the internet) as repositories of information, but the patterns are similar. Walking can be a liminal state, between one’s past and future identities. “A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.” But there isn’t always one answer: a maze has many routes, but a labyrinth just one. “The maze offers the confusions of free will without a clear destination, the labyrinth an inflexible route to salvation.” Features * A new intro where Solnit brings her nearly 20-year old book more up-to-date, with mention mass protest marches, the obesity epidemic, climate change, and public transport. * It’s dense and detailed, but helpfully chunked into four sections, each of which comprises three to five titled subsections. * Comprehensive index. * References and sources of everyone/thing cited - 26 small-print pages of them. * A single line of quote-after-quote along the bottom of all the pages. You don’t know the source until you reach the end of each one, maybe several pages later.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachelfm

    I really wanted to like this book much more than I did, and kept waiting for it to get good. I want to also acknowledge at the outset that it languished on my Kindle for about 8 months as I got through it 1% of the time at a very plodding pace. Whenever I'd be stuck someplace with nothing else to read and go, "Ugh, fine, I'll work on the dang walking book again." I'm not sure I'd have been so committed if it hadn't been one of my Your Next 5 Books at the Seattle Public Library. I originally got I really wanted to like this book much more than I did, and kept waiting for it to get good. I want to also acknowledge at the outset that it languished on my Kindle for about 8 months as I got through it 1% of the time at a very plodding pace. Whenever I'd be stuck someplace with nothing else to read and go, "Ugh, fine, I'll work on the dang walking book again." I'm not sure I'd have been so committed if it hadn't been one of my Your Next 5 Books at the Seattle Public Library. I originally got it because one of my subgoals last year was to read 60 books written by women. Also, as one who has been car-free or car-lite my whole life, I've got some pedestrian street cred and often want to literarily bump fists with my peeps, as it were. I guess my issues with under-enthusiasm are these: 1) The history of walking seems to start with romanticism. I have uneven feelings about that time, and so it's hard to really jam on that point. 2) There are times when an author's personal experiences and observations on a subject, her own personal encounter with the matter at hand, truly enhance the narrative. In fairness, most of the author's experiences walking describe Paris, San Francisco and the deserts in the American West. I'm not sure that there are three places that I would connect with less on an imaginative level, but I'm sort of a crank. At any rate, I found it a bit distracting to dip into her life after I'd been chewing my cud on the Lake District, so to speak. a) Writing about walking in Paris almost inevitably results in the injudicious overuse of the word flâneur. b) Some of the writing about the desert walking was pretty interesting, especially the AFL-CIO strike in Las Vegas and the walk to Los Angeles. However, (cranky) I'm always hyperaware of anything American desert-y that strays into "the crystals led me to a spirit quest with the Hopi" because OMG, the people you run into in hostels in Santa Fe. 3) One of the author's main points is that walking can be a political and feminist act. There was a lot of discussion of reclaiming public space at the pedestrian scale and to move beyond the idea of women who walk are streetwalkers. That's rad. But this book had SUCH as western perspective. I can't help but think that for the majority of the world's women, walking is NOT an empowering act, because the loads of water and firewood that need to be trekked back home have to be done under the power of women at the exclusion of their own economic and intellectual development. The only really non-western examples that come to mind are some eastern European artists who were walking the Great Wall of China. a)Ugh, also, Philistine alert, but I'm rarely moved by post-modern minimalist performance art. Probably because I'm one of the sheep. But reading about post-modern minimalist performance art about walking was a bit excruciating for my Cro-Magnon brain. b)Isn't this where you'd get some serious mileage (pun intended) waxing poetically about the Montgomery bus boycotts? 4) Some biology about how walking affects us and the differences in bodies of walkers vs. non-walkers would have been interesting. I remember reading a kinesiology study about how the gaits and strides of African women are different, ostensibly because of carrying heavy loads on their heads. 5) It's also possible that when this book was published nearly 15 years ago that ideas about sidewalks and cul-de-sacs and not driving half a mile to do something and public spaces were a bit more fringe-y than they are today. I'm sure I'll give Rebecca Solnit another chance; it's possible that this subject has so many ways to be handled that the path she chose didn't appeal to me. Also, she coined the term "mansplaining," so I'm interested in her cultural commentary.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    I expected a lot more from this book and turns out I was terribly disappointed at how superficial and reductive her views of walking are. I don't understand the title: where's the history? It's more of a crib note guide and encomium to the theme of walking as found in Great Books of the Western canon. As soon as I found myself interested in a topic she covered, whether it was the perils of women walking or the role of walking and thinking/writing/philosophizing, I was whisked away like a harried I expected a lot more from this book and turns out I was terribly disappointed at how superficial and reductive her views of walking are. I don't understand the title: where's the history? It's more of a crib note guide and encomium to the theme of walking as found in Great Books of the Western canon. As soon as I found myself interested in a topic she covered, whether it was the perils of women walking or the role of walking and thinking/writing/philosophizing, I was whisked away like a harried mother navigating her child through a crowded supermarket. yes, she seems v. well read but where's the substance, the argument, the understanding of why we should care about concepts/theories/aesthetics/problematics of walking as seen through the eyes of Western writers (predominantly race and class privileged men of letters)? She only touches on how not everyone gets to be a wanderer or even the notion that walking can be used to oppress, torture, and shame. The author's own perambulations also lack depth, development of character, and understanding of place, they are tableau oriented rather than visceral, exploratory, dirty, gritty, shocking, wondrous, or real. They seem all to be placed in retrospect as a method of writing herself into the Western canon. Descriptions are glossy brochures: they tease only to reveal a shallowness of actual experience of place. Well-read she is but Solnit seems to rely on other writers' ideas to coast her through all the varied topics she takes on. The vignettes of her own walking seem completely separate and whimsical and don't ground the reader as they should in the experience of walking; instead,the prose style obfuscates and dis-orients because it is trying too hard to be lyrical and meaningful. I also dislike the pejorative attitude she has toward the suburbs, communication technologies, car culture, and treadmills. Does she realize what a classist she is? It is an easy target to scoff at people who walk in malls as exercise or go to the gym and use treadmills but it might be better to turn the lens back on one's own freedom to experience walking in Paris as a runaway or camping out in the desert to protest nukes and examine one's own entitlement. Not everyone can live in urban environments nor do they want to. Many new immigrants and working class Americans move to the suburbs to provide better education and opportunities for their chilren--yes it may appear as if the suburbs lack 'culture' in a Matthew Arnold kind of way but surprisingly there are also opportunities for walking and exploring as my own childhood in northern New Jersey attests to. If you read this book, beware of the broad stroke assumptions that underlie much of the discussion. Preferred walking spaces being urban/rural is one of them. that we should take what we know as a walking tradition primarily from canonical writers is another.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    I can imagine that some people are disappointed in this book, because it offers no conventional overview of the history of walking. It's more a collection of musings and digressions about all kinds of cultural-historical aspects of our civilization that are directly or indirectly linked with hiking: protest marches as secular successor of pilgrimages, the care for the environment, the harmful effect of suburbanisation, the relationship between female emancipation and hiking, the relationship bet I can imagine that some people are disappointed in this book, because it offers no conventional overview of the history of walking. It's more a collection of musings and digressions about all kinds of cultural-historical aspects of our civilization that are directly or indirectly linked with hiking: protest marches as secular successor of pilgrimages, the care for the environment, the harmful effect of suburbanisation, the relationship between female emancipation and hiking, the relationship between democratization and hiking, and so on. In between you'll indeed find elements that make possible a reconstruction of the history of walking, but you need to put the puzzle together yourself. I'm sure that Solnit has done this on purpose: her favorite hiking trail is the labyrinth, which she describes as an artificial wilderness and where the final objective also is much less important than the activity of looking and searching itself. I enjoyed this book, because it is so broad and philosophical, with plenty of interesting critical comments on our culture (from a clearly progressive stance). But at the same time, I also regularly was annoyed with the very specific Californian accents and the sometimes very quirky opinions (for example, about the hypocritical attitude of postmodernist artists). On my Kindle I have marked tenths of valuable quotations, of which I offer one of the most interesting: “Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.”. Not everything by Solnit is solid, but she has become one of my favorite contemporary authors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    This was my second time reading this book, and I feel as ambivalent about it as I did the first time through. There is just so much in here that it feels a bit overwhelming. Here are two of the notes I made while reading: June 9 ~~ First chapter was about philosophers and walking. A bit dull. Second was about how and why humans began to walk in the first place, and the debate was still raging at the time she wrote. That was more interesting. Now I am on a chapter about pilgrimages, which is anoth This was my second time reading this book, and I feel as ambivalent about it as I did the first time through. There is just so much in here that it feels a bit overwhelming. Here are two of the notes I made while reading: June 9 ~~ First chapter was about philosophers and walking. A bit dull. Second was about how and why humans began to walk in the first place, and the debate was still raging at the time she wrote. That was more interesting. Now I am on a chapter about pilgrimages, which is another type of walking altogether. And she complains that at a slow pace or just standing still her feet hurt. I hear you, girl! The hardest thing to do is walk at someone else's slower pace. June 12 ~~ Chapters on walking and philosophy. Chapters on how we began to walk in the first place and what it meant. Chapters on pilgrimages. Chapters on Wordsworth and the beginning of walking as a leisure activity. And yet another chapter about Wordsworth, who seems to have been responsible for many things regarding that movement. But honestly, it is all a bit dry. I am a walker. Have been since I was a kid and used to zip down to the corner store on Sundays to buy a paper and lug it home. Three mile round trip and wonderful fun. Since then I have walked many more miles for fun, in competitions, to explore, and to keep myself healthy. And while I can appreciate the author's general idea here, it was very hard to slog through all the information she shared. It was like doing a 6-Day Ultramarathon in an area where the course is a little rockier than is good for you. At first you try to miss the stones but after a time you are tired and end up stomping on them every few strides. It hurts. It's work. And I don't always like to work when I'm walking, or when I'm reading. I have to be in the proper frame of mind to exercise my brain as much as I needed to do for this book. So if I wait until Someday when I am feeling scholarly and intellectual and high-browed, would I like this better? I did enjoy seeing names of some authors I recognized and others who are on my reading lists. This is a very literary walking book, tracing the history of walking by the writing that has been done about it over the centuries. I cannot imagine the amount of research it took to dig up all of this information and tie it all together. So kudos to Solnit for the work. And thanks are due also because I have been introduced to Dorothy Wordsworth, William's sister who kept journals of all the walking she did. Apparently he swiped many ideas and images from her pages for his poetry, and even though I am not as familiar with his work as I probably should be if I were a true intellectual, I am very interested to read Dorothy's journals and see if I can recognize anything there. I also appreciated the introduction to New York poet Frank O'Hara, and I have his poems on my lists now too. So I feel I did get some rewards for keeping myself staggering along to the finish line here. Well, almost to the end. my feet and my brain hurt too much to face the rocky fields of those last few chapters. Maybe Someday I'll give this book one more walk through. Or I might just send it off on a walkabout of its own. We'll see.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Morris

    I know I gave this five stars, but I do have to get my one problem with this book out of the way. Wanderlust, in all that it manages to cover, does not even mention Japanese haibun, a literary form that merges short prose and haiku. This is important because many of these writings came out of long walking tours and travel accounts. Not mentioning Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior seems a crime to me. That omission out of the way, I can still say that this is a terrific book, covering a lot of g I know I gave this five stars, but I do have to get my one problem with this book out of the way. Wanderlust, in all that it manages to cover, does not even mention Japanese haibun, a literary form that merges short prose and haiku. This is important because many of these writings came out of long walking tours and travel accounts. Not mentioning Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior seems a crime to me. That omission out of the way, I can still say that this is a terrific book, covering a lot of ground, surprising even to me as a walker. From the English walking gardens to Las Vegas' disappearing public space, Solnit manages to weave history, literature, politics and more on the subject of walking. Solnit shows that walking was more than a mode of transportation "back then," but part of the method of meditation and rumination for many philosophers, writers, and artists; a form of protest; and the way one most intensely experiences the world. She also looks at the politics of walking and argues persuasively that walking has been denigrated over the years and much rests on the fight, not only for public space, but for the time to pursue this simple, but important act. But Wanderlust is not a manifesto. It is filled with fascinating stories about the people and places where this history continues to be written. And even for me, one who has found great value, in the simple walk, has inspired me to make it not just part of the exercise routine, but an integral part of lifestyle.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Thanks to my upbringing, to summers in the woods and weekend forest walks all year long with Father and the dog, I've always enjoyed walking, particularly in nature, especially over new terrain, but even through the neighborhoods of cities. Thanks to the ageing of my peers and, with such, their increased responsibilies and increasing incidences of disability, I've had less opportunity to do so in company and, so, less inclination. A dog, a good dog, would help, but I live in an apartment, in a c Thanks to my upbringing, to summers in the woods and weekend forest walks all year long with Father and the dog, I've always enjoyed walking, particularly in nature, especially over new terrain, but even through the neighborhoods of cities. Thanks to the ageing of my peers and, with such, their increased responsibilies and increasing incidences of disability, I've had less opportunity to do so in company and, so, less inclination. A dog, a good dog, would help, but I live in an apartment, in a city, the cabin in the woods is gone, and having the kind of dog who'd be a good companion would not be appropriate for these urban environs. Thus I borrow dogs and children, if I can get them, and try to find new friends as interested in adventure as I am. It's not just the walking, nor is it simply the adventure of new routes and new sights, it's also conversation. One can listen to almost anything on a good walk and not become bored--and if the conversation flags, there are always the sights, the impulsive decisions to alter direction or duck into a new storefront. Besides, a good walk is a matter of hours, even a whole day, and is consequently conducive to sufficient treatments of subjects, something which rarely happens in ordinary, chair-bound, oft-distracted conversation. This book was given me by a cafe friend, cafes being my home-away-from-home and the primary place where I make new acquaintances--and read for that matter. She's done three (she claims more--see note) walks with me, both purposive, neither long enough, but still most appreciated. Out of pity, perhaps with some sympathy, she gave this book to me as a consolation. Author Solnit understands all this and much more. Wanderlust ends with an appreciation of walking--and indictments of atomized suburban car-culture--but the bulk of it consists of meditations on themes related to walking. There's a history of a sort of one aspect of environmentalism, a history of sorts of parks, of street demonstrations, of street walkers, of peripatetic philosophers and of mountaineering--none of them exhaustive, none of them quite long enough, but all suggestive. I hadn't, when I received this book, thought to expect much of it. "Walking? What is there to say about walking?" I wondered. Now I wish Solnit had said more, a bit about arctic trudges perhaps, about the travels and travails of the disabled, about the riparian rights of strollers... Note: In Woody Allen's Annie Hall there's a representation of the respective visits of himself and his girlfriends to their therapists. He complains about the lack of sex. She complains of the constant sex.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    I labored through it. I am a walking addict, and expected a more personal connection with the author. While Ms. Solnit did include numerous examples of personal walks, I was not able to hang with her and see the countryside, inner or outer. This is more a book about philosophers and famous literary and artistic personalities that just happened to be walkers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    El

    I don't believe much in New Years' Resolutions as I prefer to do my self-improvement periodically throughout the year and not limit myself to a specific time in which to accomplish a goal. However, we are about 25 days away from moving into a new neighborhood, a safer neighborhood, and I am looking forward to being more active again - my boyfriend bought me a bike for Christmas 2007 and I have yet to be able to take it out, we'll be a few blocks away from a dog park, we can walk to the tennis co I don't believe much in New Years' Resolutions as I prefer to do my self-improvement periodically throughout the year and not limit myself to a specific time in which to accomplish a goal. However, we are about 25 days away from moving into a new neighborhood, a safer neighborhood, and I am looking forward to being more active again - my boyfriend bought me a bike for Christmas 2007 and I have yet to be able to take it out, we'll be a few blocks away from a dog park, we can walk to the tennis courts and not have to drive, and I'll be walking distance from everything I need which is ideal as I am a non-driver. Rebecca Solnit's history of walking drew me in. She took a cultural, historical, philosophical, literary, social, political, feminist, green and eco-friendly approach to the dying art and experience of walking. When put in contexts such as those I found it to be very interesting and I am even more eager to move and begin walking. At times her lengthy essay seemed to be a bit of a stretch in order to flesh out her thesis, though the individual chapters were fascinating in and of themselves. Unfortunately as a whole in the light of walking I felt myself zoning out mentally from time to time. Still I mostly forgive her thanks to her references to Dante, Edith Wharton, Emma Goldman and the Prague Spring revolution of 1968. If she would have thrown in Bon Jovi, my heart would have been hers wholly.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Phenomenal. Discursive, well-read, full of broad and rambling scholarship. Some chapters are literary criticism, some scientific, some urban planning history, some religious. One heartbreaking moment made me realize the book was published in precisely 2000—no later, no earlier. Less personal than A Field Guide to Getting Lost, but that's not this book's purpose. Phenomenal. Discursive, well-read, full of broad and rambling scholarship. Some chapters are literary criticism, some scientific, some urban planning history, some religious. One heartbreaking moment made me realize the book was published in precisely 2000—no later, no earlier. Less personal than A Field Guide to Getting Lost, but that's not this book's purpose.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    More than a history of walking, this is an excuse for Solnit to write about things she's interested in: literature she enjoys, turn of the century prostitutes, urban planning, landscape painting, National Parks, shrubberies. The book itself is an unplanned walk, following trails that often veer off in unexpected directions or circle back to themselves, and thus feels less like a history than a collection of essays inspired by the act of walking. There are gems to be taken to heart, such as... Thin More than a history of walking, this is an excuse for Solnit to write about things she's interested in: literature she enjoys, turn of the century prostitutes, urban planning, landscape painting, National Parks, shrubberies. The book itself is an unplanned walk, following trails that often veer off in unexpected directions or circle back to themselves, and thus feels less like a history than a collection of essays inspired by the act of walking. There are gems to be taken to heart, such as... Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. and... Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors — home, car, gym, office, shops — disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it. It makes me want to really enjoy walking. Sometimes I do. I recently moved closer to work and I walk on the pleasant days and when I do that, I get what Solnit is saying, about occupying the world rather than just several disconnected interior pods. Even more so when you take a walk in the woods. When you run out of gas on a highway in the flat part of Colorado, it's frightening how much you feel that you are occupying the world. But in the three-quarters of each Louisville year that are inhabited by terribly high or low temperatures (and being the large, sweaty man that I am), I'm reminded that walking really sucks. And I know this is the opposite of what I should come away from this book saying, but walking suuuucks.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "Walking, ideally, is a state of mind in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes finally making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without our being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being lost in our thoughts." "Wanderlust's real pleasures resemble the pleasure of walking. It doesn't systematically press on toward a goal, but savors detail and varied pe "Walking, ideally, is a state of mind in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes finally making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without our being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being lost in our thoughts." "Wanderlust's real pleasures resemble the pleasure of walking. It doesn't systematically press on toward a goal, but savors detail and varied perspectives, stopping to consider the nature of mountaineering, the life of the London streetwalker, the conflict between public right of way and private property in nineteenth-century England and twentieth-century Las Vegas." .....The New York Times

  14. 4 out of 5

    anna marie

    a mixed bag, and definitely a disappointment. i think it is higher than three stars rly but i feel weird giving it 4. main issues include - wish some focus on disabled ppl making space & marching [or not] was present - the class analysis needed to be deeper!! the whole way, she talks so vaguely about some issues when the problem is capitalism clearly - in the chapter on gender solnit writes "other categories of people have had their freedom of movement limited, but limitations based on race, class a mixed bag, and definitely a disappointment. i think it is higher than three stars rly but i feel weird giving it 4. main issues include - wish some focus on disabled ppl making space & marching [or not] was present - the class analysis needed to be deeper!! the whole way, she talks so vaguely about some issues when the problem is capitalism clearly - in the chapter on gender solnit writes "other categories of people have had their freedom of movement limited, but limitations based on race, class, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are local and variable compared to those placed on women..." which is a. inaccurate in her own book [bc the sanctions placed on working class women for example are literally discussed] and b. one hell of a claim to make lol.... solnit's [in]attention to race is especially obvious in the chapter about gender and her not total but sort of patronising half-dismissal of the fears and treatment of women of colour as well as black people in general and also lgbt ppl. she makes a load of assumptions that are just untrue!! i come away wishing i could read this book again but this time if it had been made with a more rigorous anticapitalist, anticolonial, intersectional approach. bc it's really beautifully written and definitely great in some parts!! and walking is a medium/+ activity that has such ~potential for revolutionary politics, earth loving and joy oh but it was cool that she quoted sarah schulman's sexy dykey novel girls, visions and everything!!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Don Gagnon

    From English gardens to the wilderness, from French arcades to American shopping malls. . . . Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust A History of Walking” is an entertaining read, an erudite guide for pilgrims, promenaders, and wanderers, for all those who walk for travel and leisure, health and pleasure. In a series of well written essays, the author explored the contemplative, practical, and literary experiences of many who have contributed to the rich history of a universal pastime. Whether one has enj From English gardens to the wilderness, from French arcades to American shopping malls. . . . Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust A History of Walking” is an entertaining read, an erudite guide for pilgrims, promenaders, and wanderers, for all those who walk for travel and leisure, health and pleasure. In a series of well written essays, the author explored the contemplative, practical, and literary experiences of many who have contributed to the rich history of a universal pastime. Whether one has enjoyed hiking, meandering, parading, promenading, rambling, roaming, skulking, strolling, traversing a landscape or trekking across the countryside, wandering the streets, paths, and walkways of a small town or a big city, wandering to and fro, here and there, farther and farther, through gardens, in a forest, in the mountains, or over the heath, this book will deepen and expand the readers enjoyment of walking.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aravindakshan Narasimhan

    Never thought walking had such a history. We may be familiar with gandhi, martin Luther king's marches. Various protest for various reasons, but the cultural phenomenon of walking from its supposedly Greek origins in peripatetic schools through aristocratic garden walks, to countryside walks by Rousseau, Wordsworth , Thoreau, to latest walkathon it has changed its form and metamorphosed completely. Pilgrimages of christians in new mexico ( santa fe) , paseo and corso ( Spanish speaking parts of Never thought walking had such a history. We may be familiar with gandhi, martin Luther king's marches. Various protest for various reasons, but the cultural phenomenon of walking from its supposedly Greek origins in peripatetic schools through aristocratic garden walks, to countryside walks by Rousseau, Wordsworth , Thoreau, to latest walkathon it has changed its form and metamorphosed completely. Pilgrimages of christians in new mexico ( santa fe) , paseo and corso ( Spanish speaking parts of America and italian respectively ) , flaneurs of Parisian world, mountaineering in sierra niveda to protect the nature from government's so called development agenda, surrealist literature on walking paris to map the body of city through as the female personification, shugendo sect of Buddhism ( banned in 19th century ) - which propounds a philosophy of walking round the mountain as a process to go through six realms of existence, fight for free space in privatised lands by landowners in Uk of 19th century, female vs male history of walking, how suburban planning embodies in it an aversion for a free space to walk( this was one of the best chapters as in it opened my mind to my own surrounding, never saw suburban in this light which is true too).. This is a just a few drops from the book. Starting from paleontology, biology , philosophy , history, literature, politics and many other diverse fields this book investigates the declining phenomenon which has defined the humanity for its entire breath. P.S: As myself a bit of romantic and flaneur type, While this whole week I got up early and strolled my dull and bustling locality early morning and discovered idyllic sites which evoked the peace of nature in me ( the crimson red sunrise falling on the river as I first discovered the place) as well the dull suburban spaces ( very near to the above, the above is anomally perhaps) which intimidates walkers even as early as 6 am. Also paced back and forth in the home( like Wittgenstein and Wordsworth and child Kierkegaard) daily while reading the book , to the extent that only 2 hours at the maximum were spent in sitting. So that I could orient myself to the rhythm of the topic of the book. While walking for hours together You body rejoices the momentary standing While the body is standing without end You yearn and bask when the moment allows you to sit When you sit for hours together You may want to lie back and rest And then ? I will leave you with a quote: A few years earlier another insurrection found a square for its stage. The saga of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo began when these women started to notice each other at the police stations and government offices, making the same fruitless inquiries after children who had been “disappeared” by agents of the brutal military junta that seized power in 1976. “Secrecy,” writes Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, “was a hallmark of the junta’s Dirty War. . . . In Argentina the abductions were carried out beneath a veneer of normalcy so that there would be no outcry, so that the terrible reality would remain submerged and elusive even to the families of the abducted.” Mostly homemakers with little education and no political experience, these women came to realize that they had to make the secret public, and they pursued their cause with a stunning lack of regard for their own safety. On April 30, 1977, fourteen mothers went to the Plaza de Mayo in the center of Buenos Aires. It was the place where Argentinean independence had been proclaimed in 1810 and where Juan Perón had given his populist speeches, a plaza at the heart of the country. Sitting there was, a policeman shouted, tantamount to holding an illegal meeting, and so they began walking around the obelisk in the center of the plaza. There and then, wrote a Frenchman, the generals lost their first battle and the Mothers found their identity. It was the plaza that gave them their name, and their walks there every Friday that made them famous. “Much later,” writes Bouvard, “they described their walks as marches, not as walking, because they felt that they were marching toward a goal and not just circling aimlessly. As the Fridays succeeded one another and the numbers of Mothers marching around the plaza increased, the police began to take notice. Vanloads of policemen would arrive, take names, and force the Mothers to leave.” Attacked with dogs and clubs, arrested and interrogated, they kept returning to perform this simple act of remembrance for so many years that it became ritual and history and made the name of the plaza known around the world. They marched carrying photographs of those children mounted like political placards on sticks or hung around their neck, and wearing white kerchiefs embroidered with the names of their disappeared children and the dates of their disappearances (later they were embroidered instead, “Bring Them Back Alive”). “They tell me that, while they are marching they feel very close to their children,” wrote the poet Marjorie Agosin, who walked with them. “And the truth is, in the plaza where forgetting is not allowed, memory recovers its meaning.” For years these women taking the national trauma on a walk were the most public opposition to the regime. By 1980 they had created a network of mothers around the country, and in 1981 they began the first of their annual twenty-four-hour marches to celebrate Human Rights Day (they also joined religious processions around the country). “By this time the Mothers were no longer alone during their marches; the Plaza was swarming with journalists from abroad who had come to cover the strange phenomenon of middle-aged woman marching in defiance of a state of siege.” When the military junta fell in 1983, the Mothers were honored guests at the inauguration of the newly elected president, but they kept up their weekly walks counterclockwise around the obelisk in the Plaza de Mayo, and the thousands who had been afraid before joined them. They still walk counterclockwise around the tall obelisk every Thursday. Post P.S ( first time came across the word in this book): I wish I had a written a detailed review. This book deserves one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    I loved this book. If I was told 20 years ago that 20 years later I would be reading a book about the history of walking and giving it 5 stars I would have told my future self to get a life! The book is a study of walking from the past to the present. It looked at walking in a number of different angles (walking as a form of demonstration, walking for pleasure, fitness, walking as art etc) but ultimately it made me get of my butt and do some walking myself much to my wife’s annoyance who has bee I loved this book. If I was told 20 years ago that 20 years later I would be reading a book about the history of walking and giving it 5 stars I would have told my future self to get a life! The book is a study of walking from the past to the present. It looked at walking in a number of different angles (walking as a form of demonstration, walking for pleasure, fitness, walking as art etc) but ultimately it made me get of my butt and do some walking myself much to my wife’s annoyance who has been telling me to do the same things for years! This is what I love about books like these; they make you act / react and in that they change you. The book was really well written and very easy to read. Rebecca is a clearly gifted writer. The book covered other interesting topic areas such as the link between thinking and walking, the use of walking by poets and great writers, labyrinths, gardens, mountain walking, walking clubs, and walking in cities not designed for walking, night walkers, walking in gay Paris and treadmills. Some of my best bits from the book: • GM Trevelyan said that “I have 2 doctors, my left leg and my right.” • A lot of large American cities are becoming more and more focussed around commercial activities and where cities would have plazas at the centre which encouraged walking and were designed in the past with the pedestrians in mind, the rise of the automobiles has led to the eradication of these walking zones. Where people could walk from one place to another and meet and interact as we have been designed to do, we have now been replaced with automobiles who only beep at each other and occasionally flash a light in anger. • The Mothers of Plaza Mayo in Argentina was an exquisite example of the power of walking and the effects that had on the country and even globally now. When a brutal military junta had seized power in Argentina in 1976 a lot of children started to go missing. On April 30 1977 a group of 14 mothers gathered in the plaza de mayo in the centre of Buenos Aires and began walking around an obelisk in the centre. They would get intimidated and even arrested by the junta police but they didn’t give up and slowly over time their anti-clockwise walking in the Plaza attracted more and more mothers. They came there every Friday and now their walk is known around the world and they still walk around there even though the junta fell many years ago. • Women in Greek times were not apparently allowed to walk as much as the men were. It says that women were thought to lack self-control and could not maintain secure boundaries for themselves which was therefore controlled by the physical walls in which they were contained. Roman women on the other hand were given a lot more freedom and tended to have a much greater role in society. It said that women in Greek times, were not able to maintain these internal boundaries because of their fluid sexuality which endlessly overflowed and disrupted not only themselves but men also. This sounded partly Islamic in the thinking and I couldn’t help thinking that the walls of the house in Greece would have been the equivalent of the Burkini today. • On 15 September 1830, the first steam engine took off between Manchester and Liverpool. I find it hard to believe but on this pivotal day a member of parliament was killed and run down on the opening ceremony! • The most mind blowing story of the whole book was about the performance artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay. They both started at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and had initially decided to meet at the centre of the 4000 km distance and get married but their relationship had deteriorated so they decided to meet at the centre and then go their separate ways. The walk took place in 1988. They didn’t meet again till march 31st 2010, 22 years later, when this happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0Tg... Stunning book; massively recommened.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shira

    Edit 11-01'18: make that 3 * for sure! After reading another book, partly about walking, that used Solnits book as a source & inspiration, I couldn't help not to think about this book and value all that research that was done. Unfortunately I'm quite happy to be finished with this book. I won't get into much detail of all that Rebecca Solnit discusses here. Parts were interesting and fascinating, sure. Especially how walking can be, and is used as political and social criticism (and how the act Edit 11-01'18: make that 3 * for sure! After reading another book, partly about walking, that used Solnits book as a source & inspiration, I couldn't help not to think about this book and value all that research that was done. Unfortunately I'm quite happy to be finished with this book. I won't get into much detail of all that Rebecca Solnit discusses here. Parts were interesting and fascinating, sure. Especially how walking can be, and is used as political and social criticism (and how the act of walking (I can't even give a good definition of what is implied by 'walking' here) is threatened by many factors). While reading Wanderlust I quickly realised that maybe I wasn't all too eager to read about the history of walking to start with. That doesn't help to get through a very information dense book! I wanted to abandon it many times but purely to proof to myself I could finish this (and because I thought it was a waste to stop halfway... why?), I finished. And honestly, I'm not unhappy about that, afterwards. For I've came across new facts, writers, and ideas - and for that, it was worth a read. I blame my not particularly enjoying the read also for how I read (historical) non-fiction. Word for word, slow, wanting to understand every single phrase (without willing to look up every unknown word - maybe I should). It makes me focus too much on things that might've been clear to me had I read quicker, trying to just grab the main points. Hopefully I'll find myself more comfortably reading books like this in the future. For Wanderlust passed by more as a chore than as a source of new information. Mostly. Some things stuck. If not, I don't know what I would've done with myself (probably go on just the same). 2* (plus a little) - but please go ahead and read it! (If you're interested in the (mostly social and western) history of walking.) Something I thought beautiful and want to remember: "[...] In 1985 and 1986, the Palestinian-British artist Mona Hatoum used the street as a performance space, stenciling footprints containing the word unemployed down streets in Scheffield, as if to make visible the sad secrets of passersby in that economically devastated city [...]" p.273

  19. 4 out of 5

    Desi

    At last! (Of course it took me a few days to be able to mark it read as well.) I appreciate this book so much, in no small part because it brought together so many different facets of my own life and how I think about the spaces I move about in the world. One night, last week, as I was nearing the end, I put the book down and turned out the light, and so many thoughts were swirling in my head that I couldn't fall asleep. My internal orientation as a walker didn't happen until I was a young adult, At last! (Of course it took me a few days to be able to mark it read as well.) I appreciate this book so much, in no small part because it brought together so many different facets of my own life and how I think about the spaces I move about in the world. One night, last week, as I was nearing the end, I put the book down and turned out the light, and so many thoughts were swirling in my head that I couldn't fall asleep. My internal orientation as a walker didn't happen until I was a young adult, and I didn't understand it at the time, but while I was on my semester abroad in Moscow, a fellow student talked about how he just liked to pick a neighborhood or area of the city and walk it. I thought, what an interesting idea, and I tried it. And since then my most favorite thing to do in a city is to simply walk it and to be in it. When I have been able to travel for work, to NY, London, Montreal, Philadelphia, I use what free time I have simply to walk. But it is not just the city either, and this book engaged me for the way it framed my orientation toward being in and walking through natural environments as the result of a cultural evolution. I'm not doing any of Solnit's insights justice in my early morning ramblings, frantically trying to get these thoughts down in the space between when my son wakes up, F emerges from the shower, and the house guest rambles upstairs to chat. So I will leave my thoughts with a few passages I flagged along the way. "A lone walker is both present and detached from the world around, more than an audience, but less than a participant. Walking assuages or legitimizes this alienation: one is mildly disconnected because one is walking, not because one is incapable of connecting." (p. 24) "As the walls come down, the proposes that there is already an order in nature and that it is in harmony with the 'natural' society enjoying such gardens. The growing taste for ruins, mountains, torrents, for situations provoking fear and melancholy, and for artwork about all these things that suggests that life had become so placidly pleasant for England's privileged that they could bring back as entertainment the terrors people had once strived so hard to banish." (p. 91) -->N.B. HG is now sitting with me at the table going on about his reading habits and his lit professor in college even though I am typing and trying my best to focus on the thing that I am doing. But it now appears my detached state and not-so-timely-nods have compelled him elsewhere. But dammit, the cat is now sitting right next to my hand and will likely scratch me .... AND now my kid is awake..... "There is a subtle state most dedicated urban walkers

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leah Rachel von Essen

    Wanderlust: A History of Walking is a simply magical book by Rebecca Solnit tracing the concept of walking across disciplines, from philosophy to city planning to biology (how did we become bipedal anyway, and why?) Solnit discusses everything from the pilgrimage to the march, studying how we’ve conceptualized walking, wandering, exploring, from competitive drives to courting to a specific connection to a landscape to protesting and collective action. She discusses how women are fundamentally li Wanderlust: A History of Walking is a simply magical book by Rebecca Solnit tracing the concept of walking across disciplines, from philosophy to city planning to biology (how did we become bipedal anyway, and why?) Solnit discusses everything from the pilgrimage to the march, studying how we’ve conceptualized walking, wandering, exploring, from competitive drives to courting to a specific connection to a landscape to protesting and collective action. She discusses how women are fundamentally limited in their ability to inhabit and explore public space (the book also introduced me to names I didn’t know, from activist Josephine Butler to 1950s climber Gwen Moffat); without overly condemning modernization, she discusses how a car-based and suburban culture has eroded our desire and space to wander. As a lover of walking myself, it was a joy to read and walk with this book. It spoke to my love of wandering new cities, and the chapter on the ways that the world limits women’s ability to explore hit me deep in my soul. When I go back to the suburbs, there are places to walk, but only if I drive to them. Here, I walk to work every day, and I find that people are often astounded by this even though it’s only a 30 minute walk and taking a bus would make my commute longer. I walk at least 15 miles a week, partially because I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with park space to roam and wide sidewalks to read-and-walk down (I wonder what Solnit would say about my reading and walking). Walking is a regular joy in my life, that I never wish to relinquish, and this book unpacks the concept’s history and tells me in many ways why I adore it so much. This is one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sunil

    An amazing testament to and on Walking. Perhaps the best book on walking I have read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Elizabeth

    I didn't finish this one before I had to return it to the library. I love to walk, and to read, just not so sure about reading about walking. I didn't finish this one before I had to return it to the library. I love to walk, and to read, just not so sure about reading about walking.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yigitalp Ertem

    The book starts with 24 epigraphs, you estimate how many references would be given in the actual essays. It’s the far most comprehensive text I’ve read on the history of walking. The last collection of essays I’ve read was David Le Breton’s In Praise of Walking which cannot draw near to Solnit’s book. She contains and surpasses Le Breton. Wanderlust starts with a pretty subjective form in the first chapter where Solnit opens up her personal passion for walking as an action in her personal life tha The book starts with 24 epigraphs, you estimate how many references would be given in the actual essays. It’s the far most comprehensive text I’ve read on the history of walking. The last collection of essays I’ve read was David Le Breton’s In Praise of Walking which cannot draw near to Solnit’s book. She contains and surpasses Le Breton. Wanderlust starts with a pretty subjective form in the first chapter where Solnit opens up her personal passion for walking as an action in her personal life that reaches up to the anti-nuclear protests, spatio-temporal contemplations, resistance against productivity-freak society, critique of anti-democratic city planning that subjugates the public spaces and coop people up in private ones. However, there were so many descriptions and prose about the roads Solnit walks which made me think of the rest of the book as a referenced-travelogue which combines some attributions to the famous walkers while telling her own, personal walking history. I noticed that I was wrong, as the book unwraps, Solnit leaps from the philosophers to wanderers; history of gardens (one of my favourite historiography as a non-European) to mountain tops; walking-related record holders to marches, protests, pilgrims; from the evolutionary discourses on walking humans (weirdest part); from Dickens to Abramovic; combinations of trains-cars-planes and suburbs-sun tanning-treadmills, from New Mexico to England and then to Paris and finally reaches Las Vegas. Solnit’s historical analyses of walking in relation to class, gender, mode of production gives great insights about how we think about walking today and what are the sources of these ideas. The hazard of that wide and loaded compilation is chucking away the reader with some subjectively non-interesting passages. For example, the parts about mountaineering did not interest me that much because I’m mostly interested in urban walks. Nevertheless, someone else may think the opposite and the reader always has the right to skip -which I didn’t. Last but not least, I enjoyed and learned a lot while reading Solnit’s feminist interventions after referencing twenty male authors about a subject. First she criticizes the authors with a witty and dark tone and proceeds with a political, historical and intellectual analysis of the era where referenced authors live and produce their ideas. The part where she criticizes and makes fun of the authors who both love walking and preaching sermons to the readers (i.e. ‘one should always walk alone’) and the pages where she subverts male authors’ memoirs (Kerouac) by replacing them with a female wanderer are exhilarating. With a hope to encounter with Solnit in a crowded, rainwashed, neon-lit city at night, --- Second read: The book still works as a candid walking companion.

  24. 4 out of 5

    KimberlyRose

    Attracted to this title because I'm a committed, contented walker, one who is anti-suburbia and never drives, I ordered it from my library straightaway. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I was bored more times than engaged by this author's narration style and views, and often her selected topics were so specific to her locales as to appeal only to locals or those interested in visiting. Topics are vast and, depending on the personal interests of each individual reader, range from fascinating Attracted to this title because I'm a committed, contented walker, one who is anti-suburbia and never drives, I ordered it from my library straightaway. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I was bored more times than engaged by this author's narration style and views, and often her selected topics were so specific to her locales as to appeal only to locals or those interested in visiting. Topics are vast and, depending on the personal interests of each individual reader, range from fascinating to skip-skip-flip-flip, move along, lady. (For myself, I enjoyed the theories behind humans gaining a two-legged, upright POV; the evolution of different social views about walking (noun and verb) in England--that was insightful and supported many historical novels I've read. It was also refreshing to hear the voice of someone who understood my frustration with the modern world cutting off pedestrians, sometimes making it impossible to live in a community without a car.) The narrator's voice rings a tad annoying (pretentious? dogmatically western?) on occasion. Generally, this is a "it comes and goes" sort of book, one to pick up and read a paragraph or five whenever you feel like a passably stimulating non-fiction thought about walking to ponder. 2.5 stars. Rachelfm has a detailed review, one I found myself nodding enthusiastically along with as I read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    The best part of this book is the early section, which covers the topic of walking in philosophy and literature. Things degrade and wander a bit as things go on, and Solnit's politics start to become obtrusive - she got into thinking about walking as a part of "nuclear freeze" activities, and late in the book is an entire section of abuse directed at suburbs; besides the fact that yes, suburbs are more difficult to walk, it's not really fully at place in this book. Tyler Cowen noted while reading The best part of this book is the early section, which covers the topic of walking in philosophy and literature. Things degrade and wander a bit as things go on, and Solnit's politics start to become obtrusive - she got into thinking about walking as a part of "nuclear freeze" activities, and late in the book is an entire section of abuse directed at suburbs; besides the fact that yes, suburbs are more difficult to walk, it's not really fully at place in this book. Tyler Cowen noted while reading another of Solnit's books that "the ratio of information to page was too low" and that probably applies here too. Still, some decent stuff in here and it certainly seems to be an exhaustive interdisciplinary treatment of the subject.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Goldenberg

    If there's one thing I enjoy as much as reading, it's walking, so a book about the history of walking is right up my street. Although, this is not so much a history (at least in chronological terms), more a gently meandering wander through both the highways and bye ways of the subject. And you are travelling with a very erudite enthusiast. So, we go by way of walking philosophers (Rousseau and Kierkegard), obviously Wordsworth and the romantics, a con side ration of the various theories of how, If there's one thing I enjoy as much as reading, it's walking, so a book about the history of walking is right up my street. Although, this is not so much a history (at least in chronological terms), more a gently meandering wander through both the highways and bye ways of the subject. And you are travelling with a very erudite enthusiast. So, we go by way of walking philosophers (Rousseau and Kierkegard), obviously Wordsworth and the romantics, a con side ration of the various theories of how, when and why Homo sapiens began to walk upright, walking in Jane Austen novels, a history of formal garden design, walking in cities like San Francisco, New York, London and Paris and so much more. Just like a really good walk, at almost every turn of the page, there's something new and interesting to experience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Risa

    i start reading this & then i stop becuase it creates an unbearable urge to walk. I think this is the consumate book for the walker/thinker/synesthesia (sp?) stricken saunterer.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Philip Cherny

    I enjoyed this read as a great provider of inspirational source material for a subject as banal and ubiquitous as walking, though I am very much already in Rebecca Solnit’s “pro-walking” camp, as I imagine most people who pick up the book would be, so her attempts at persuasion felt gratuitous, preaching to the choir. Fortunately her personal agenda only figures in as a minor aspect of the book, which appears more like an attempt to trace a sort of non-linear history of walking as a cultural and I enjoyed this read as a great provider of inspirational source material for a subject as banal and ubiquitous as walking, though I am very much already in Rebecca Solnit’s “pro-walking” camp, as I imagine most people who pick up the book would be, so her attempts at persuasion felt gratuitous, preaching to the choir. Fortunately her personal agenda only figures in as a minor aspect of the book, which appears more like an attempt to trace a sort of non-linear history of walking as a cultural and bodily phenomenon. I wish I could have been Solnit’s editor for this book (which probably would not have been great for sales, since I never know the meaning of concision and would turn this light read into an unwieldy tome, rife with footnotes!) I couldn’t avoid the nagging sense that this text was substantially lacking content, due to lack of research and/or editor’s paring choices. She did cover much of the basics that I would have included: the development of walking as a leisure activity during the burgeoning of the bourgeoisie, the emergence of pleasure gardens as places to walk in, Ramblers clubs treating walking as an anarchistic political act in response to increasing privatization of land at the turn of the Industrial Revolution, the contentious feminist issue of women in public and the unfortunate lingering vulnerability of women walking at night alone, walking and hiking as a way of appreciating nature, the tradition of walking as a spiritual and religious journey, etcetera. But somehow, her coverage of these topics often felt either cursory or needing more emphasis or assessment of the examples provided. Walking is such a multifaceted topic, so deeply part of the basic human experience, that a comprehensive discussion would prove impossible, but I still feel like this book left a lot of crucial topics to be desired: Topics missing (+ many more links to 99% Invisible): * Race, class, and the black body in public space!!! * Forced marches (the trail of tears, displaced refugees, concentration camps, as depicted in Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl” (1981), or Ballard’s Empire of the Sun ), death and injury from walking as torture, zombified walking, sleepwalking * Fitness walking or competitive race walking (though she did discuss gyms, mostly in the pejorative) * Architecture and design of walking, architecture designed for walking: shopping malls, ambulatories, theme parks, attempts of architects to make public spaces more conducive to public gatherings, etc. * Controlling traffic flow, tourism, phenomena such as: overcrowding as in the 2010 Love Parade disaster, the development of traffic signals and crosswalks to coordinate with pedestrians (e.g. “jay walkers” coined by PR guru E. B. Lefferts of automotive interest groups to change the culture around cars, pinning the safety onus on pedestrians), the much-fraught implementation of turnstiles in Venice to curb overflow of tourists * Virtual “walking” in VR, how this disembodied spatial relation of navigation differs from actual walking * Ableist assumptions about walking as a bipedal experience: how ADA added ramps and curb cuts, and how the deaf are advocating for wider sidewalks for more space to sign while walking. * Art of trails and paths (see Robert Moore’s On Trails: An Exploration ) * Nomadic life: jewish peddlers, train hoppers, hitchhikers, nomads, hunter-gatherers, vagabonds, gypsies, carnies and rennies, Celtic clans, etc. Topics needing expansion: * Her chapter on the science of walking, what it does to us neurologically, how/why it developed anthropologically, walking and the body * Her assessment on the connection between walking and religious rites. She did discuss Celtic labyrinths and pilgrimages, but she didn’t mention daily walking meditations of the Benedictines, or how they developed the ambulatory specifically for these walking prayers or recitations. She kept mentioning the Buddhist monks as spiritual walkers, but I wish she went into more detail about the importance of walking in Eastern traditions. * Her expansion on the different types of walking and different reasons for walking (e.g. aimless wandering verses purposeful walking) * Her discussion of the use of walking in modern and contemporary art. Walking is a political act that extends beyond the question of walkable amenities and pedestrian accessibility. In urban spaces it’s often a question of public access: the black body in public space is still controversial in some places, the homeless bum walking into Whole Foods escorted out by security because of the discomfort of his unsightly presence with customers (compare this to the more privileged “vagabond hipster” stereotype), the fact that the first act of violence of all colonialist powers upon a nomadic peoples–be they Native Americans, Irish, Australians, or Africans–is to allot land as private property that can be bought and sold, the vulnerability of women at night walking alone (which she did cover extensively). To her credit, Solnit does mention race and class in her chapter on women in public space, but then she underplays it by arguing that women are the only category of people that are universally discriminated against. It feels to me like the author deliberately avoids discussions of race and class, though she is clearly aware of their existence, and I don’t think she’s merely circumambulating a politically fraught issue out of political correctness. In her section on political marches, she never mentions arguably the most famous historical march of all–MLK’s 1963 March on Washington. Perhaps she just wanted to discuss more obscure political marches, since most of her readers would already be aware of its significance and might find the Velvet Revolution or the mothers of Plaza de Mayo more fascinating (and they are). She does mention MLK much later on in the book, but only as a passing afterthought. I found myself fascinated by some of the questions raised in her chapter on “The Theorists of Bipedalism,” but unfortunately, Solnit discusses more meta-discourse on the personalities of the anthropologists covering the subject of theories as to why humans began to walk on two legs rather than addressing the actual question itself. I also wish she covered more on this body-thought connection, on the neurological associations between motility and thought, and how we think spatially with our kinesthetic-cognitive organ, the brain. We may think with our body as much with our mind, if not more so. I’ve read from Dr. John D. Rately that our "higher" brain functions in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes (the areas of mind associated with reflective thoughts and judgments) have evolved from movement, and this idea says potentially a lot about the interaction of thoughts and actions, how our sense of objects form our interaction with them. Then there’s this counterintuitive and surprising finding which suggests that actions precede thoughts (e.g., see Bandura, 1986; Locke & Latham, 2002; Neumann et al., 2003 all in the Unconscious Mind article) which seems to undermine our concept of free will, at least cognitively speaking. Also we have the notion of bidirectional feedback, such as the idea in neurology that if you activate a lower level of the brain, you will be priming an upper level, and if you activate a higher level, you will be priming a lower level. E.g. smiling makes you feel happier (motor cortex affecting emotional state) and feeling happier makes you smile. Amy Cuddy writes about this in her research on body language, though I’m a bit of a skeptic of facile quick fixes like starfish pose boosting confidence (and apparently, repeat studies have not been able to replicate her findings). There’s also fascinating research of the physical body as a guiding force for the higher level functions we usually associate with culture. Anthropologists have been theorizing that rituals and image/art-making may precede the development of formal languages in human history. More recently Laura Kehoe at Humboldt University, Berlin discovered different chimps throwing rocks at the same tree in Guinea (leave aside the references to Space Odyssey 2001) and have built what appears to be a cairn around the tree; one (controversial) hypothesis of this strange behavior is that the chimps have developed a ritual around a sacred tree. In sociology Pierre Bordieu’s notion of habitus also puts forward a theory of social practice as governed by the daily embodiment of habits (e.g. the “Fake-it-til-you-make-it” strategy of belief: perform the actions and the thoughts will follow). Similarly Marxist scholar Louis Althusser’s notion of interpellation explains how ideology is reinforced through bodily action, and language: e.g. the very act of hailing one in a street means they take part in a system as a subject. We’ve long been under the spell of Descartes, and his dualistic notion that the body is simply an extension of Cogito, but these examples demonstrate that the body and brain are inextricably bound. If walking stimulates thinking, it’s because thought and action are intimately bound, or at least a confluence occurs. The legacy and tradition of artists who’ve made walking a key component to their work is so exhaustive that it would seem virtually impossible (or at least redundant) to supply a wholly comprehensive list, but I feel the author could have expanded more in her section on art to give readers a better appreciation for the rich breadth of ways that artists incorporate walking (both as act and representation) into their work. She only mentioned in passing the Impressionists and their novel adoption of en plein air techniques (i.e. new technologies in paint which allowed them to leave the studio, which meant artists traversing parks to capture idyllic scenes.) She mentioned Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 painting Paris Street; Rainy Day but could have also gone more at length in her discussion of urban street scenes as an emerging subject matter in modern art. E.g. contrast that painting with Pissarro’s street scenes from the rooftop (which resonate in the world’s first photographs–Niépce’s Window at Le Gras (1826) and Daguerre’s Boulevard du Temple (1839)–both street scenes of Paris captured on rooftop), analogous to the way Michel de Certeau contrasts the intimate scenes of walking in the city with the view of the city from atop a skyscraper in The Practice of Everyday Life . Or compare the street scenes of Caillebotte (or better yet, Jean Béraud) with those of the lonely, suicidal expressionists, Van Gogh and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: artists who were deeply affected by a sort of culture shock, feeling alienated in their simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from the crowd of anonymous pedestrians/consumers–a relatively new phenomenon brought about by modern development. Most of the examples Solnit provides remain confined to walking as an act of performance art and yet even there, she neglected mention one crucial performance and conceptual artist, Bruce Nauman, who has done several series of walking exercises as iterative performances, some of which involve exaggerated pratfalls or satirical emulations of contrapposto posturing. Oddly, she only briefly mentions photography in passing (“artists like Weegee”), when walking serves as a crucial component of the artistic process for most photographers, who often wander through an environment differently than a typical spectator, scanning an environment for the perfect shot or waiting for the right moment. As far as I can recall, she never mentions Ansel Adams, one of the most famous photographers in history, who traversed hitherto untraveled landscapes to capture beauty of the American wilderness (a legacy that dates back to American Romanticism and the imagination of the frontier depicted in Hudson River Painters such as Thomas Cole and writers such as J. F. Cooper). She mentions the French Situationists, but in a different chapter, not in the context of art, when they were arguably as much an avant-garde art collective as a Marxist social group. Another category excluded from her book is artists that notice details on their walks and subtly tweak or tamper with the environment while on their excursions. Gabriel Orozco comes to mind, taking consumer products in convenience stores and rearranging them in misplaced locations to make odd juxtapositions for the photograph. Graffiti artists also do a great deal of walking while scouting the urban environment for their next surface to tag. Solnit rightly discusses the British Earth artist Richard Long at length, but ignores Andy Goldsworthy who takes long hikes to remote locations in Scotland to conduct similar subtle interventions in a natural setting. Walking serves as a way of relying on unexpected chance, happenstance, the process of selection lying somewhere between the given and the chosen in the creative process, which would not come about as easily to the artist confined to the studio. Lastly, there is the tradition of the so-called “found object” in modern and contemporary art, with a whole host of artists bringing curios they’ve collected from their various walks in nature or in the streets to the gallery space. The Nouveau Realistes would be an obvious choice with their use of junk to form compositions, but also Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau, his inhabitable “collage” which functioned like a living repository of the city. Then you have surrealists, like Joseph Cornell with his diorama-like displays, or those bizarre, almost shrine-like works of Annette Messager obsessively collecting strange intricate things from her walks, such as dead birds which she swaddles in crocheted mini-sweaters and arranges on a mountable canvas for display. This reliance on found objects and materials lives on outside the art world, in publications like Found Magazine, which consists entirely of discarded letters found in the street. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    I managed to read fifteen pages of this book on several occasions without gaining enough momentum to continue, and now, having read it with ever-growing enthusiasm, I wonder what my problem was and how many other great things I've omitted for want of the least speck of commitment. If you have a little commitment to spare and you, like me, have ever been warned about the dangers of walking and reading at the same time, you should probably give this one a try. Some Things p. 5 "doing nothing is hard I managed to read fifteen pages of this book on several occasions without gaining enough momentum to continue, and now, having read it with ever-growing enthusiasm, I wonder what my problem was and how many other great things I've omitted for want of the least speck of commitment. If you have a little commitment to spare and you, like me, have ever been warned about the dangers of walking and reading at the same time, you should probably give this one a try. Some Things p. 5 "doing nothing is hard to do. It's best done by disguising it as doing something and the something closest to doing nothing is walking." Not that either author owns this train of thought (I imagine both would reject such a premise), but reading this book definitely placed Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing as an ideological descendant of this book (Odell cites Solnit several times in her book, though not this work specifically). p. 15 chautauqua (n): late 19th / early 20th century traveling events in America that blended lectures and entertainment. p. 24 Solnit quotes Kierkegaard as writing, "my imagination works best when I am sitting alone in a large assemblage, when the tumult and noise require a substratum of will if the imagination is to hold on to its object" to describe how he would do much of his thinking amid the supposed distractions of city life. I often feel the same "substratum of will" when working in a coffee shop vs at home and I assume that influenced open floor plan office design and the somewhat more modern tech trend of offices that look more like coffee shops. I also find it curious that there's a fine and fuzzy line between the beneficial distractions of Kierkegaards chance encounters and your phone vibrating in your pocket every ten seconds. When does beneficial distraction turn detrimental? Or maybe it isn't a question of degree and instead, meeting someone on the street or the general background hum of public life simultaneously places us in a larger context and sharpens the boundaries of our selves and our purposes. In contrast, the attention economy attacks that boundary by inflating our sense of self to encompass everything, as if we could and should be experiencing everything because we are entitled to it. Solnit writes, "Perhaps it was that the city strolls distracted him so that he could forget himself enough to think more productively, for his private thoughts are often convolutions of self-consciousness and despair," which torpedoes my self-defining theory in Kierkegaards case. Reminds me of Michael Pollan's recent explorations of self-dissolution through psychoactive drugs. p. 85 "walking is natural, or rather part of natural history, but choosing to walk in the landscape as a contemplative, spiritual, or aesthetic experience has a specific cultural ancestry" pp. 95-96 This description of William Gilpin's popularization of the word "picturesque" in the 18th century, "which originally meant any landscape that resembled or could be perceived as a picture," is so amazingly evocative of our present world of "doin' it for the 'gram." Is there a word for the opposite of FOMO, when you're actually experiencing something and you realize it's not as pretty as the pictures? What about the experience of realizing your experience is ineffable and/or impossible to represent in an image or something you could share on social media? p. 104 Solnit quotes Thomas De Quincey describing William Wordsworth: "His legs were pointedly condemned by all the female connoisseurs in legs that I ever heard lecture on that topic." p. 167 "And this is the great irony–or poetic justice–of the history of rural walking; that a taste that began in aristocratic gardens should end up as an assault on private property as an absolute right and privilege." This is such a great and fascinating interpretation, though I suspect you could easily argue that such a taste was only a distillation of a pre-existing land ethic, and that much private property rights only became absolute with Enclosure, so claiming right of access is really a reclamation of something fundamental. I think it might also have been worth considering the Tragedy of the Commons: what paths and lands have been ruined by public access? Ruined for whom? p. 192 I read this Frank O'Hara poem about "the wind blowing softly" on his genitals while sitting next to my partner on SF MUNI between Castro and Van Ness. I chuckled and asked her if she'd ever heard of this O'Hara guy and she confessed she had not, which immediately prompted an exclamation of exasperated disbelief from the man seated in front of us, a short discussion of the value of poetry, and a recommendation to start with Shakespeare's sonnets before diving into O'Hara. SF isn't all absentee investors and tech bros just yet. p. 228 I'm interested in protests and their effects, mostly because I've always struggled to understand what they achieve beyond catharsis. Solnit's description of protest marches as a kind of walking is fascinating, but again I found her descriptions of "our streets" frustrating. When protestors temporarily control a piece of public infrastructure, I have no doubt that they feel like they speak for a majority, maybe even the entire polity, but doing so doesn't prove that. Protest is never meaningless, but to assume it means The People want change seems presumptuous, even though they might. p. 258 "the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are usually for injured or missing limbs, the auto-prosthetic is for a conceptually impaired body or a body impaired by the creation of a world that is no longer human in scale." I love the implication that most tools both enable and disable us, that they follow a path from empowerment to prosthesis and that this change comes with loss as well as gain. p. 263 "The body that used to have the status of a work animal now has the status of a pet: it does not provide real transport, as a horse might have; instead, the body is exercised as one might walk a dog. Thus the body, a recreational rather than utilitarian entity, doesn't work, but works out." This whole section on exercise is both delightful and deflating and makes me never want to exercise ever again. p. 264 I couldn't get enough of this. "I remember evenings strolling by Manhattan's many glass-walled second-floor gyms full of rows of treadmillers looking as though they were trying to leap through the glass to their destruction, saved only by the Sisyphean contraption that keeps them from going anywhere at all–though probably they didn't see the plummet before them, only their own reflection in the glass."

  30. 5 out of 5

    PhebeAnn

    2.5 stars. I just didn’t find this book as interesting as I thought I would. It is an extended meditation on walking as a mode of transportation, spiritual practice, protest, artistic form, athletic activity, measures of social status and more. I liked the *idea* of this book. I love to walk and I had romantic visions of myself listening to this book on audiobook while walking, which I did. It’s written competently enough (is verbosely) and there were parts of it I really enjoyed (debates within 2.5 stars. I just didn’t find this book as interesting as I thought I would. It is an extended meditation on walking as a mode of transportation, spiritual practice, protest, artistic form, athletic activity, measures of social status and more. I liked the *idea* of this book. I love to walk and I had romantic visions of myself listening to this book on audiobook while walking, which I did. It’s written competently enough (is verbosely) and there were parts of it I really enjoyed (debates within evolutionary science as to how and why our species came to walk; the evolution of women’s ability to walk in the public sphere; how walking became a recreation in the 19th century rather than just a means of transportation). But on the whole, this book was terribly slow moving, long, and superfluous. I guess there’s only so much to say about walking, proper, but the thing is, I’m interested in walking but not so much many of the things that involve walking to which Solnit devotes chapters (eg. mountaineering, pilgrimages, the history of charity walks). The amount of technophobic pearl clutching she does towards the end about the supposed decline of walking in favour of driving and going to the gym (I’m not sure I buy this either/or claim) really had me rolling my eyes.

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