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Wanderlust; a History of Walking by Rebecca…

Wanderlust; a History of Walking (2000)

by Rebecca Solnit

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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. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
A cliché is inevitable to describe how Ms Solnit take her time to get into her stride and tails off a little tired and disoriented at the end. In between times she scales the heights and has wonderful views of the landscape. A history of walking is in reality a political manifesto. An environmentalist's call for a slower, more human scale world. To her credit she refuses to look back for a rose tinted future. Good at describing the walking done by others surprisingly incoherent and disjointed when it comes to her own perambulations. A writer who walks rather than a walker who writes. ( )
  Steve38 | Mar 27, 2015 |
Interesting as history of walking as recreation, nature appreciation escape from city life, etc. Feminists will be appalled by chapter on women--the assumption that any woman on the streets is there for sexual purposes backed up by laws allowing women to be arrested on mere suspicion. Also history of walkers associations in England enforcing traditional right of way across private property to maintain network of trails.
  ritaer | Mar 7, 2015 |
Skipped around a bit . . . viewed the chapters more as long-form essays that are interconnected by a single theme, and I focused on those areas that interested me the most. Loved entering some of the literary rabbit holes - now I have a stack of books and essays to tackle. ( )
  beckydj | May 28, 2014 |
There’s plenty to like here — a chapter reviewing the anthropology of bipedalism, little bit on Rosseau, Kierkegaard, a mention of Kant (unimportant because he walked for exercise: “Frail Immanuel Kant took his daily walk around Königsberg after dinner — but it was merely for exercise, because he did his thinking sitting by the stove and staring at the church tower out the window.”). A little Husserl. A paragraph, actually, followed by a condemnation of the entire sweep of postmodernists because they don’t treat walking. A good, lengthy treatment of Wordsworth, some stuff about walking clubs, including the Sierra Club. Most memorably some personal essays about her own excursions.

Although there’s plenty to like, I didn’t like it. I kept hearing a tone of smugness throughout (like in the bit about Kant) that constantly put me off. I’m not a fan of the Personal Essay and that may be behind my irritation, but the author doesn’t seem to enjoy walking much, except to the extent that the practice marks her moral superiority her to condemn people who don’t walk. The book reminded me of a joke my (vegan) daughter tells:

Q: How many vegans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: I’m better than you.

I ride a bike for transportation and often notice a “cone of smugness” that surrounds some bicyclists, mostly recreational riders in Spandex. This book reminded me of them. ( )
  steve.clason | Feb 18, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140286012, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:19 -0400)

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