I've been doing lots of walking lately--more than usual and mostly outside and was thinking maybe a book about walking might be in order. I've got most of these on my own shelves, and a few on my wishlist. I have only read a very few (are you surprised?). I love walking and take a walk of one sort or another every single day. Sometimes it is only a matter of practicality--the need to get to the bus to get to work or walk home in the evening, but sometimes (mostly weekends) I look for new areas and trails to explore. Recently I discovered an old trail hidden away not too far from my house that lots of other walkers and runners use. And I have walked a tiny bit along the riverfront (the Missouri River), which I think I would like to spend much more time on. And then there is armchair walking (is there such a thing? why not, right?) . . .
Wanderlust: a History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit -- "Drawing together many histories-of anatomical evolution and city design, of treadmills and labyrinths, of walking clubs and sexual mores-Rebecca Solnit creates a fascinating portrait of the range of possibilities presented by walking."
On Foot: a History of Walking by Joseph Amato -- "In this fast-stepping history, Joseph A. Amato takes us on a journey of walking - from the first human migrations to marching Roman legions and ancient Greeks who considered man a "featherless biped"; from trekking medieval pilgrims to strolling courtiers; from urban pavement pounders to ambling window shoppers to suburban mall walkers."
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Hunt -- "In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America. Hoping to win the wager and save her family’s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Clara’s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. Their route would pass through 14 states, but they were not allowed to carry more than five dollars each. As they visited Indian reservations, Western boomtowns, remote ranches and local civic leaders, they confronted snowstorms, hunger, thieves and mountain lions with equal aplomb."
The Walking Tour by Kathryn Davis -- "A woman in Maine seeks the truth regarding her mother's mysterious death and discovers infidelity and betrayal. Officially, the mother had a fatal accident while on a walking tour in Wales. The tour was with her husband, his colleague and the colleague's wife."
A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube by Patrick Leigh Fermor -- "At once a memoir of coming-of-age, an account of a journey, and a dazzling exposition of the English language, A Time of Gifts is also a portrait of a continent already showing ominous signs of the holocaust to come."
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson -- "In A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson tackles what is, for him, an entirely new subject: the American wilderness. Accompanied only by his old college buddy Stephen Katz, Bryson starts out one March morning in north Georgia, intending to walk the entire 2,100 miles to trail's end atop Maine's Mount Katahdin."
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce -- "Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning a letter arrives, addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl, from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. But before Harold mails off a quick reply, a chance encounter convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry embarks on an urgent quest. Determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice, Harold believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live."
Walking by Henry David Thoreau -- "Originally given as part of a lecture in 1851, "Walking" was later published posthumously as an essay in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. Now being a chief text in the environmental movement, Thoreau's "Walking" places man not separate from Nature and Wildness but within it and lyrically describes the ever beckoning call that draws us to explore and find ourselves lost in the beauty of the forests, rivers, and fields."
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert McFarlane -- "Macfarlane’s journeys take him from the chalk downs of England to the bird islands of the Scottish northwest, from Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas. He matches strides with the footprints made by a man five thousand years ago near Liverpool, sails an open boat far out into the Atlantic at night, and commingles with walkers of many kinds, discovering that paths offer a means not just of traversing space but also of feeling, knowing, and thinking."
Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien -- "In Tim O'Brien's novel Going After Cacciato the theater of war becomes the theater of the absurd as a private deserts his post in Vietnam, intent on walking 8,000 miles to Paris for the peace talks. The remaining members of his squad are sent after him, but what happens then is anybody's guess . . ."
Tracks: One Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson -- "Robyn Davidson's opens the memoir of her perilous journey across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian desert to the sea with only four camels and a dog for company with the following words: 'I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there's no going back'."
In a Strange Room: Three Journeys by Damon Galgut -- " . . . a young loner travels across eastern Africa, Europe, and India. Unsure what he's after, and reluctant to return home, he follows the paths of travelers he meets along the way."
On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz -- "On Looking begins with inattention. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived 'ordinary.' Horowitz encourages us to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities. Even when engaged in the simplest of activities like taking a walk around the block, we pay so little attention to most of what is right before us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives."
Of course I am always happy to get ever more suggestions. I am especially curious about fictional books that have to do with walking. I was surprised I came up with the few on my own list, but surely there are more. And I like the idea of reading about walkers who do extraordinary things like Helga Estby. So, please feel free to add titles (or take away suggestions as well!).