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Wanderlust: A History of Walking Paperback – Jun 1 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; New edition edition (June 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140286012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140286014
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

The ability to walk on two legs over long distances distinguishes Homo sapiens from other primates, and indeed from every other species on earth. That ability has also yielded some of the best creative work of our species: the lyrical ballads of the English romantic poets, composed on long walks over hill and dale; the speculations of the peripatetic philosophers; the meditations of footloose Chinese and Japanese poets; the exhortations of Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman.

Rebecca Solnit, a thoughtful writer and spirited walker, takes her readers on a leisurely journey through the prehistory, history, and natural history of bipedal motion. Walking, she observes, affords its practitioners an immediate reward--the ability to observe the world at a relaxed gait, one that allows us to take in sights, sounds, and smells that we might otherwise pass by. It provides a vehicle for much-needed solitude and private thought. For the health-minded, walking affords a low-impact and usually pleasant way of shedding a few pounds and stretching a few muscles. It is an essential part of the human adventure--and one that has, until now, been too little documented.

Written in a time when landscapes and cities alike are designed to accommodate automobiles and not pedestrians, Solnit's extraordinary book is an enticement to lace up shoes and set out on an aimless, meditative stroll of one's own. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Walking, as Thoreau said and Solnit elegantly demonstrates, inevitably leads to other subjects. This pleasing and enlightening history of pedestrianism unfolds like a walking conversation with a particularly well-informed companion with wide-ranging interests. Walking, says Solnit (Savage Dreams; A Book of Migrations), is the state in which the mind, the body and the world are aligned; thus she begins with the long historical association between walking and philosophizing. She briefly looks at the fossil evidence of human evolution, pointing to the ability to move upright on two legs as the very characteristic that separated humans from the other beasts and has allowed us to dominate them. She looks at pilgrims, poets, streetwalkers and demonstrators, and ends up, surprisingly, in Las Vegas--or maybe not so surprisingly in that city of tourists, since "Tourism itself is one of the last major outposts of walking." Inevitably, as these words suggest, Solnit's focus isn't pedestrianism's past but its prognosis--the way in which the culture of walking has evolved out of the disembodiment of everyday life resulting from "automobilization and suburbanization." Familiar as that message sounds, Solnit delivers it without the usual ecological and ideological pieties. Her book captures, in the ease and cadences of its prose, the rhythms of a good walk. The relationship between walking and thought and its expression in words is the underlying theme to which she repeatedly returns. "Language is like a road," she writes; "it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read." Agent: Bonnie Nadell. 4-city author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I walk, which is often, I like the serendipity of the experience, the unknown that meets me, the new perspective that greets me, the unexpected that grows from the experience. Reading this book has been like a walk.
At times I was enthused at what I read (on how Las Vegas is becoming more of a walker's world). At times I was encumbered with laborious literary chronicling of walkers and walking (the writings of Rousseau and Wordsworth). At times I was ecstatic with a simple relationship (the mind at three miles per hour). At times I was educated (the role of walking in the Paris revolutions). And at times I was given a new perspective (how women have dealt with the male's use of walking to control them).
While not quite knowing what to expect when I first saw this book, I thought it would be a great read because a history of something so common as walking could be so interesting. And this book is that. The author looks at the relationship between walking and thinking, between walking and culture, between walking and history, between walking and nature. And she delves into the interplay between walking and how the body uses it to jar the imagination and creativity to enable the walker to see the world around her in a different way.
The book drags at parts because I don't have a particular interest in that subject, just like at times a walk will become tedious. But, overall, this book is much like a walk: a discovery by accident.
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Format: Paperback
The history of walking is unwritten. Walking allows us to be in our bodies in the world. The motions of the mind cannot be traced, but the feet can. The author walks us through an old Nike missile range. She protests with others at a Nevada test site. With Thoreau, Rebecca Solnit is both a poet of nature and a critic of society. Walking as a conscious cultural act begins with Rousseau. Nietzsche turned to solitary walks for recreation. In Rousseau's ideology walking is the emblem of the simple man. Rousseau portrays walking as both an exercise of simplicity and an opportunity for contemplation. Walking encourages a kind of unstructured associative thinking. A lone walker is both present and detached. Kierkegaard found himself in such a state. He proposed that the mind works best when surrounded by distraction. Husserl claimed that by walking we understand our bodies in relationship to the world. Walking upright preceded the development of the large brain in man. The pilgrimage is one of the basic modes of walking. There is a symbiosis between journey and arrival in pilgrimage. The Civil Rights Movement was tempered with the imagery of pilgrimage more than most struggles. The first fund-raising walk, a walkathon for the March of Dimes, began in 1970. On a religious pilgrimage in New Mexico the author encountered a Cadillac with the stations of the cross painted on it. The promenade is a subset of walking. Then there is the customized car and the cruise--low riders.
William and Dorothy Wordsworth were vigorous walkers. Wordsworth and his peers seem to be the founders of a tradition. The English landscape garden asked to be explored. The emphasis on the pictorial and the existence of scenic tourism were invented in the eighteenth century.
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Format: Hardcover
The worst that can be said of this piercing inquiry is that the broad forest of walking it depicts -- walking's effects on the pilgrim, the protester, the gawker in Las Vegas; its evolution from garden to countryside to modern city; its relation to writing and thinking itself -- left some readers bumping into the trees, and seeing only stars and not the bigger picture. But the bigger picture is here, laid out in stunning detail (she doesn't just say that labyrinths have made a recent comeback, but describes their makers and impacts in a variety of disciplines(art, garden design, spirituality) and countries, and what it feels like to walk on a replica of the Chartres labyrinth). I cannot recall reading a work that so seamlessly melded personal experience with a broad but profound reading of literature and history. Reminds me of Terry Tempest Williams, and in some of the same terrain. I'm headed back to read Solnit's earlier work "Migrations," about Irish history. I'll bet it's another forest well worth meandering through.
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By A Customer on May 4 2000
Format: Hardcover
Eagerly anticipating reading this book, I found myself repelled by an endless pastiche of regurgitated "clippings" from other writers and micro-histories and interesting little facts from ever so many sources and ever so many points of the compass arranged around an artificial framework with the result that the mind is numbed by superficiality. I found myself asking why anyone should read this kind of feuilletonism rather than reading Benjamin, or Wordworth or Rousseau or Nietzsche, all of whom (and countless others) are served up in little quotes or rehashes. Why should one wade through an endless succession of tidbits doubtless collected with great industry and indicative of fine interests, when there is so much good stuff out there to read? A buffet for grazers, but no intellectual meal. And how could it be? The fruits of walking are not to be found in an anthology of interesting facts and asides about walking but in coherent works produced perhaps with the aid of the thinking walking can stimulate. This is a book magazine. I suppose we could next have a history of indigestion, or better yet a history of non-walking, with an equally edifying collection of interesting little facts and quotes. Please.
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