Read Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit Online


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....

Title : Wanderlust: A History of Walking
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ISBN : 9781859843819
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 328 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Wanderlust: A History of Walking Reviews

  • Venessa
    2019-04-20 06:37

    Affirmation of PedestrianismFor those of you who don't know me as well as you think you do, I'll start by saying that I have never owned a car, and have not been behind the wheel of one in over 12 years; I bicycle in nice weather but my preferred mode of transportation is walking.So, I just finished the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit and think it is one of the greatest books ever written. I was partial to two of the last chapters, one about women and walking and the other about the decline of pedestrianism due to automobilization and suburbanization but really, the whole damn book is great: a work of art from start to finish.Solnit does exactly what the sub title describes: traces a history of walking from the early philosophers and romantics to modern peripatetics like myself, who are disturbingly and increasingly in decline. In this modern world we inhabit nowadays, I knew walking is considered subversive, nonconformist, and even controversial, yet until I read Wanderlust I didn't realize it was even more so back in the day: walkers were often {and still are} seen as lower and working class because, heaven forbid, why would you choose to walk among and in the filth of the city {or the mud of the country} when you could be enclosed and away from it in a horse drawn carriage or the modern carriage that is called the automobile? Women who walked were often arrested, as no respectable woman would go un-escorted into the mean streets of midnight; some women were thus victims of "surgical rape" as doctors forcibly inserted medical instruments to make sure their hymens were intact and they weren't lying about not being street walkers {throughout the book Solnit peppers her prose with numerous terms that have originated with walking, not just those relating to women who have throughout history tried to take back the night}. Members of the counterculture walked and still walk, from Whitman and Ginsberg, to prolific protesters who march for their numerous causes. Artists use walking to express themselves visually, such as Robert Smithson's 1,500-foot-long Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake.Famous cities of walkers such as New York and Paris are explored, as well as the entire country of England; famous solitary walkers such as Thoreau and Rousseau are celebrated as well as companion pedestrians such as Dorothy and William Wordsworth. Urban and rural walking and their unique characteristics are covered but not contained.Inspired by this book, I have checked out books from the library by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and have continued my proud walks around the city of Buffalo, welcoming Spring and impatient for Summer, when my wandering without purpose rambles will become more frequent, as I walk with purpose daily, but it's undeniably more pleasant to walk without purpose in warmer weather.

  • Rachelfm
    2019-03-30 08:40

    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.

  • Doreen
    2019-03-31 06:24

    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.

  • Erik Graff
    2019-04-06 02:44

    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.

  • Marc
    2019-04-21 05:18

    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. 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 post modernist 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.”

  • Michael Morris
    2019-03-28 00:20

    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.

  • Max
    2019-04-16 07:37

    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.

  • Thomas
    2019-03-28 02:26

    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.

  • Christopher
    2019-04-03 07:31

    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.

  • El
    2019-04-14 02:37

    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.

  • Sunny
    2019-04-16 03:40

    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: Stunning book; massively recommened.

  • Desi
    2019-04-19 06:42

    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

  • Yigitalp Ertem
    2019-04-08 08:29

    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,

  • Magdelanye
    2019-03-26 02:25

    Anyone truly possessed by wanderlust will find a compelling companion in the slightly rambunctious, delightful perambulation through the archaeology of walking. RS strikes a crisp rhythm, interlacing backstories, personal anecdote and historical reference, never lingering overlong but leaving intriguing signposts for the interested reader to follow.I suppose I could sigh over routes not covered, but by the end of this journey I felt enriched and glad for the erudite and generous company.I did have a hard time with the ribbon that unwinds at the bottom of each page, like a scroll on a television. At first I tried to keep up with it but abandoned it before too long as a distraction. In theory a fun idea but not so functional a side path.

  • Sunil
    2019-04-10 02:30

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

  • Shira
    2019-04-14 05:40

    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

  • KimberlyRose
    2019-03-31 08:41

    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.

  • Jeff
    2019-04-02 01:19

    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.

  • Risa
    2019-04-15 01:18

    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.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-25 04:16

    As someone who takes every opportunity to walk, in part as a way to keep fit and as something I find makes me more meditative, I was very surprised to learn that so much could be said about it. But in "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" the author, Rebecca Solnit talks it in relation to the development of early human ancestors, politics, protest and civil disobedience, social status and much more. It has also given the author an opportunity to cover topics which she is very much interested in.She talks about for instance, how developments in many modern cities have removed public spaces making the process of walking more an issue and by doing so establishing a form of social control. Whilst some parts of the book were if less interest to me, it is still an excellent history of a process which is central to our lives.

  • Janelle
    2019-04-13 05:32

    This will be the first book discussed for walking book club.

  • Kend
    2019-04-16 01:26

         Have you ever been out on a walk, one of those aimless rambles, and found yourself wondering "What the heck am I doing?"  Well, if you have--and I'm not implying you're missing out if you haven't--then Rebecca Solnit can tell you.  The only problem is, she might take 291 pages to tell you.      Other reviewers have written that Solnit's Wanderlust is "propelled by abandon yet guided by a firm intelligence" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "studded with arresting insights that will make you want to throw the book down and hit the open road" (Elle).  However, if you take, as I did, a class of undergraduate students as a kind of litmus test for a book's ability to work on the popular imagination, then you might hear rather less flattering reviews.  I might qualify that the class in question is populated entirely by honors students from a variety of (primarily) technical fields, educated and erudite, although perhaps imperfect experts on literary nonfiction.       If I could summarize their responses down to a single statement, it would be this: Wanderlust has a lot to say that is worth considering, but it is inefficient, disorganized, often frustrating, and even, occasionally, downright boring.  I am perhaps more forgiving than they are, but I share many of their sentiments.     As a collection of nonfiction essays circling in on the theme of walking, Wanderlust does quite a lot that is admirable.  Solnit's command of classic philosophers (particularly Rousseau) is excellent; her knowledge of philosophy, history, art, and idiomatic English is finely tuned; and often, her language borders on the truly beautiful.  The problem with this book, if I'm qualified to observe one, is that it feels too much like a collection and too little like a book with a strong developmental through-line.       There simply isn't anything holding the chapters together or giving them momentum, except for the general theme of walking.  I even agree with my students that it is confounded by internal chaos--and not in a good, or artistically effective way.  Some chapters dabble in the personal anecdote, and some with formal structures like braided narratives, subheadings, and that ubiquitous but easy-to-ignore strip of quotes running along the bottom of every page.  For the most part, however, these formal structures never fell into a rhythm, never made sense, and never stuck around long enough for me to enjoy.  My students wanted the personal anecdotes to go somewhere, and I happen to want the same thing.     Perhaps Solnit's introductory acknowledgements are the key to unlocking this book.  She writes, "I owe the origins of this book to friends who pointed out to me that I was writing about walking in the course of writing about other things and should do so more expansively" (ix).  And truthfully, this book does feel like a patchwork of references to other subjects, almost as if Solnit's mind was never really fully devoted to the topic at hand, but merely wandering the margins.  Wanderlust is a collection of anecdotes, each of which blossoms into a myriad of beautiful shapes, each following a different sun across a different sky.       Much of what Solnit has to say is truly fascinating, but ultimately forgettable, because so few of her ideas are tethered to each other, or to an overarching narrative structure.  This book spurred some good in-class discussion, but mostly for its flaws.  I will look for alternative texts that touch on the same subject to teach the same class in the Fall.

  • Philippe
    2019-04-07 03:45

    Solnit's "history of walking" is a surprising excursion in a vast and unsystematised subject area. Indeed, like eating and playing, walking is one of these emblematic human activities that are invested with wildly different cultural meanings. I picked up the book because I am an avid walker and mountaineer and, as I learned, an adherent to the British walking tour ethos. For me there is something fundamentally cleansing, wholesome and right about spending time in the great outdoors. However, this smug romanticism, this adhering to an "established religion for the middle class" is sternly criticised by the author of this book.For Solnit walking is a quintessentially political activity. And the politics play out at different levels. First, walking is a bulwark against the erosion of the mind by the incessant contemporary rethoric of efficiency and functionality. The walker exposes herself to the accidental, the unexpected, the random and unscreened, and by doing so rebels against the speed and alienation endemic in our postindustrial world. Second, walking is also a reclamation of a physical and public space that is increasingly suburbanised and privatised. Solnit discusses how the early 20th century city was an arena for aesthetic experimentation and political agitation. Walkers and flaneurs, starting with De Quincey in London and Baudelaire in Paris, experimented with an urban underground culture suffused with eroticism and desire. Protest marchers all over the world and throughout the ages have relied on the democratic functions of the street to make their voices heard. Today, the scope for these kinds of trespasses are increasingly rare due to encroaching private property rights and a soulless, panoptic urban architecture. Hence, thus Solnit, we need to revitalise a counterculture to walk in resistance to the post-industrial and post-modern loss of space, time and embodiment. Last and perhaps not least, walking is and will remain the domain of the amateur. It is one of these few areas of human activity where a hierarchy based on expertise makes very little sense. Everyone, barring physical disabilities, is in principle able to be an expert walker.Beyond the political, there is also a phenomenological dimension to walking which is quite deftly described by Solnit as an "alignment between mind, body and the world". Whoever has spent a couple of days on the trail knows that once the rhythm has been established, one becomes much more alert to minute variations in sensory input (smell, colour, temperatur). Meanwhile, the mind starts to wander much more freely. Solnit writes: "This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it."Solnit's smart and cogent survey of 3 centuries of walking is appropriately brought into relief by her supple and subtle prose which is a real pleasure to read. Her writing is warmly personal - with a tone that modulates unexpectedly between stridency and vulnerability - as well as erudite. There is none of the pedantic selfconsciousness that spoils the discourse of many academic writers and popularisers alike. After "Wanderlust" I went on to read Solnit's "Field guide to getting lost" which, although not in the same league, confirms her qualities as an engaging personal voice.

  • Philip Dyson
    2019-04-09 05:28

    Rebecca Solnit is an excellent writer, not only because of her beautiful prose but also because of the way she manages to extract significant messages from what might otherwise be seen as dull. In 'Wanderlust', Solnit captivates the reader with diverse and extraordinary tales while always bringing it back to an important message that many of us are only subliminally aware of in day to day life: we are distancing ourselves from our bodies. The restriction of walking places and the anti-walking culture of speedy transportation both contribute to reducing walking - an activity that links both the mind and body with the world around it - to an undeserved and potentially catastrophic obsolescence. Forceful but at the rambling, wonder-filled pace of a true walker, Solnit knits together the story of human walking to a compelling and stirring message: remember our bodies, for it is with these bodies that so many freedoms, meditations, artworks have been gained. The only reason I give this book 3 stars is because of the horrible typesetting, which like a dawdling walker in front of you on a narrow road, really obstructed me from reading this at a normal pace. The kerning was incredibly wide, while the margins are so slim you almost have to crack the spine to see some of the words. I'm surprised that Granta books published a book with typesetting such as this, as they usually produce good quality typesetting. I hope they bring out a better designed book in the future.

  • Ammie
    2019-03-23 07:33

    Rebecca Solnit is clearly my new literary crush. She writes beautifully (!) about things that interest me, like deserts and history and memory and art (!!), and now she's gone and written a book about one of my all-time favorite activities, walking (!!!). Tracing walking through its various uses (thinking, political protest, religious pilgrimage, and so on) and considering the role that walking assumed in various times and places, Solnit brings us eventually to the present day, where walking has been overtaken by other forms of transportation or, just as often, lack of transportation. I was genuinely alarmed by the statistics on how few people walk, on how the increasingly anti-pedestrian structures of many cities and towns and (presumably) the rise of technology of various sorts has made us mentally and physically mobile in ways that ever more rarely involve our feet. As an avid walker myself, I can't overestimate how much I've learned about both myself and my surroundings on long sojourns. After reading this book, I'm paying more attention than ever.

  • Abby
    2019-03-25 01:18

    Beautiful book about the reasons (and intellectual and cultural ramifications) of why people walk. Inspiring to me, as walking is one of my primary joys in life (especially when accompanied by my dogs and husband). Solnit does a great job pulling from a variety of societal and historical anecdotes, and I especially enjoyed her references to artists and writers who revered the beauty of a good walk (Woolf naturally crops up a few times). The running marquee of quotes in the footer was a little distracting to me, but that's my only quibble. It's beautifully written and engaging all the way through. I'm looking forward to reading more by Solnit.

  • Cristina Vega
    2019-03-22 04:21

    Tedioso, largo, demasiado descriptivo. Le sobran 200 páginas.

  • Mark
    2019-04-17 05:39

    “The history of walking is an amateur history, just as walking is an amateur act.”“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters, finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.”“Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”“Walking is, after all, an activity essentially unimproved since the dawn of time.”^Yes, I love these quotes, but these four all happen, in the first twenty pages. The rest of the narrative, is more hit or miss. I had to keep reminding myself, that this is a history of walking and all the events mentioned here do not fit snugly into, everything I like about this basic mode of transportation, (I am a mailman for crying out loud!). That said, I found much of this history of walking, a bit dry. Yes, I can be selfish. Sue me, but please, do not get me wrong- Solnit is a fine writer, super smart and has really done her homework here, with meticulous precision. She did leave out bird walking, which has really helped spark my interest in strolling through various meadows and woods but there I go again, being self-absorbed. To her credit, she does close it out, beautifully:“This constellation called walking has a history, the history trod out by all those poets and philosophers and insurrectionaries, by jaywalkers, streetwalkers, pilgrims, tourists, hikers, mountaineers, but whether it has a future depends on whether those connecting paths are traveled still.”

  • Chris
    2019-04-11 02:24

    Wegens omstandigheden las ik dit boek nogal gefragmenteerd, als een wandeling die door de meest uiteenlopende hindernissen en ontmoetingen onderbroken werd. Maar dat was ok. Dit boek leent zich daartoe en het bleek nooit moeilijk om de draad weer op te pikken. Want het pad dat de auteur uitstippelde, door haar lange, elegante essays te ordenen en aan elkaar te lassen - minder als een geschiedenis, eerder als een denkdraad waaraan ze haar brede scala aan ideeën en kennis rond het thema kan ophangen - mag dan wel onmiskenbaar Rebecca Solnits pad zijn, de landschappen die ze oproept waren erg afwisselend en bleven boeien. Het boek krioelt van de intrigerende bruggetjes die ze maakt en waarmee ze zaken verbindt die je kijk op het onderwerp (en alles wat daartoe gerekend kan worden, van pelgrimages tot demonstraties, van flanerende filosofen tot fitness-waanzin, van Wordsworth tot Benjamin enz. ... maar waar bleef Sebald?) verruimen. Die alerte blik in combinatie met haar stijl en haar persoonlijkheid, loodsen je als lezer ook vlot genoeg door de (naargelang je interesses) minder interessante hoofdstukken. Zo vond ik persoonlijk de bergbeklimmers-passage wat te lang, maar ook daar stuitte ik op van die uitdagende kruisbestuifgedachten die me meer van Solnit willen doen lezen. Een blikverruimend boek ... of wandeling.

  • Ángel
    2019-03-21 07:32

    I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book so much, but Rebecca Solnit definitely has made me want to read more (of her) essays. Philosophy, feminism, class struggles, culture, technology - all of them have a place in the history of walking, and the design and architecture of the cities shape our way of living and thinking. It's opened my eyes to how and why some places are designed. As I'm recently having a lot of thoughts about free times and what it means, I want to highlight this quote on page 10:"The multiplication of technologies in the name of efficiency is actually eradicating free time by making it possible to maximize the time and place for production and minimize the unstructured travel in between."