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The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism Paperback – Nov 3 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (Nov. 3 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594484031
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594484032
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.8 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #388,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A leisurely, entirely delightful ramble through the history and lore of walking."
-"Washington Post Book Review"

"This book is no mere miscellany, but the story of a man's love affair with the oldest means of locomotion: one foot in front of the other..."
-"The Economist"

"Perfect for the armchair walker."
-"The New York Times Book Review"

"Anyone who enjoys excellent nonfiction should enjoy."
-"Chicago Sun-Times"

?A leisurely, entirely delightful ramble through the history and lore of walking.?
?"Washington Post Book Review"

?This book is no mere miscellany, but the story of a man's love affair with the oldest means of locomotion: one foot in front of the other
?"The Economist"

?Perfect for the armchair walker.?
?"The New York Times Book Review"

?Anyone who enjoys excellent nonfiction should enjoy.?
?"Chicago Sun-Times"

About the Author

Geoff Nicholson is the author of twenty books, including Sex Collectors, Hunters and Gatherers, The Food Chain, and Bleeding London, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. He divides his time between Los Angeles and London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars 20 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A ramble Feb. 27 2009
By Jay C. Smith - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism
If you have about four free hours available you could either read this book or go for an extended walk. Provided your surroundings are sufficiently inviting and it is a pleasant day, you may prefer the walk.

Nicholson is not promoting walking as a social cause. He believes we cannot expect grand changes in people's willingness to walk when they have more convenient alternatives available. He says that he himself walks not because it is environmentally correct, but because it keeps him sane and it helps him write.

The book is a ramble, a wandering. Do not expect systematic accounts of the history, science, philosophy, or literature of pedestrianism, as the subtitle suggests. Instead, what you will get is a potpourri of ruminations, many only tangentially related to walking, held together only by the thread of Nicholson's own idiosyncratic preoccupations.

Fortunately, Nicholson seems to be an interesting fellow, one you might want to accompany on a good walk. His polished and lightly humorous essay style keeps things moving.

Some of the author's material comes from his own walks. I found his chapter on walking in Los Angles more compelling than those on New York and London, perhaps partly because walking in Los Angeles is not an activity that is often commended. It will help sustain your interest if you are at least vaguely familiar with his featured locations.

Nicholson also draws from literature, film, music, photography, and painting. A few of his choices may enhance your understanding or appreciation for walking; most likely will not. He writes in an ironic tone about several concept art endeavors that have involved walking, in some cases only marginally, at best.

There is a chapter on the accomplishments of several notable obsessive walkers, the kind whose achievements we might read about in a book of world records (I think it is to Nicholson's credit that he resisted entitling this chapter "Walking Feats"). Unless you are quite well-versed in this history of eccentric walkers already, you will probably be amused or astounded (or both) by at least a few of them.

The book includes a possibly useful bibliography. Nicholson provides the web address if you would like to view over 60 photos (of people, mostly) he has taken on his walks.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful ramble through the pedestrian landscape Dec 28 2008
By S. McGee - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Don't look for some great hidden message in Geoff Nicholson's lively and all-encompassing survey of the ways we undertake one of the most fundamental human actions: walking. There isn't one. Instead, this gifted writer, who admits that he goes for walks wherever he finds himself -- Los Angeles, the southwestern desert, London -- to both ward off depression and help him to write, takes his readers on a compelling journey through the world of walkers.

Starting with the nature of the word "walk" itself, and ending with significant journeys of all kinds (from epic walks across Africa and walking on the moon to how Albert Speer kept himself sane during his years in prison by pacing off the distance between Berlin and Heidleberg), Nicholson's book is a joy to read. It is crammed full of the kind of anecdotes and tales that make your eyes open wider (did you know that an avid walker discovered the idea behind Velcro because of his walks?) and sometimes cause you to laugh out loud. He points to his favorite "walking songs" (and notes that Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' is really about sex, not walking), and his favorite walks in movies (Fred Astaire strolling through Paris in Funny Face makes the grade, for instance.) Street photography and psychogeography come in for their share of attention, too. His knowledge feels encylopaediac, but he never sounds pompous. Rather, the reader ends up feeling Nicholson's urge is to share these tidbits to spread the enjoyment around rather than to show off.

Particularly intriguing is the lost art of competitive pedestrianism, a phenomeonon of the 18th and 19th centuries during which its practitioners undertook such feats as walking one mile an hour (and only one mile each hour) for a thousand straight hours. Nicholson explores these characters and then tries his own 15-hour challenge in the English countryside, despite fearing that his neighbors may summon the police or conclude he is insane.

Ultimately, Nicholson does draw some kind of lesson out of his ruminations on walking; that it is a kind of metaphor for life itself. "There'll be missteps and stumbles, journeys into dead ends; the reluctant retracing of your steps. And you have to tell yourself that's just fine, that it's a necessary and not wholly unenjoyable, part of the process. It's an exploration." But as with any good walk, this unsurprising revelation isn't the point -- it's all about the journey. And Nicholson has taken us on a delightful one.

Overall, one of the best in what I think of as the "Who Knew?" genre, books devoted to quirky subjects that people didn't even know they were interested in until they read them.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ THIS FASCINATING, AMUSING BOOK!! July 28 2009
By Josie Jean - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Geoff Nicholson's exceptionally well-written book is a fascinating compilation of every aspect of walking. He enthralled me with tales of literary, eccentric, competitive, political, moon, inventor, artistic and recreational walkers...detailing many of their remarkable feats. His walking experiences and unusual people/things he's seen were delightfully described. I was intrigued by interesting walking tours, expeditions, journeys, songs with "walk" and walking scenes in movies. Mr. Nicholson astounded and entertained me with his impressive knowledge of walking! Amusing stories and trivia provided many laugh-out-loud moments. I really, truly loved this book because it greatly enhanced my cognizance of walking. Many of Mr. Nicholson's insightful comments gave me alot to think about. My favorite is...simply going for a walk is an invitation to a surprize! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS READ!!
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring Feb. 6 2009
By artgolfer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am 70 and like books on walking. I started out a few years ago with a pedometer and a desire to walk 10,000 steps a day. Then I raised it to 10,500 and now to 11,000. I was looking for any book that might give me a new slant and encourage me to walk even more and enjoy it by employing a new approach, etc., etc. But this book (to me) was a complete waste of my money and time. It was rambling and incoherent but, more important than that, I found it so boring I didn't even finish it. I'm not an accomplished writer or reviewer but I do have a short message if you're trying to decide whether to get this book or not--DON'T!!!! I'm a voracious reader and for me not to finish a book is very unusual. I'm probably not being totally fair but I feel ripped off.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars everything relating to walking Oct. 24 2013
By lindapanzo - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this look at everything relating to walking, subtitled "the history, science, and literature of pedestrianism." Besides talking about his own walks, and how he broke his arm while walking near his L.A. home, the author looks at walking in fiction, walking in the movies, walking in music. You get the picture.

Walking in L.A., walking in New York City, and walking in London are also covered. Beyond that, almost any walking topic you can imagine, such as walking on the moon or labyrinth walking, are also touched on.

This may all sound rather dull but it isn't. Nicholson has a lively writing style, though he does get bogged down in a few places. This book is quite fun.