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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot Paperback – 30 May 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141030585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141030586
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003), won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge with his family.

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Review

A wonderful book: Macfarlane has a rare physical intelligence, and his writing affords total immersion in place, elements and the passage of time -- Antony Gormley A naturalist who can unfurl a sentence with the breathless ease of a master angler, a writer whose ideas and reach far transcend the physical region he explores The New York Times Book Review [Mountains of the Mind is] a distinguished book that jolted my heart. Adventurous, passionate, intensely romantic ... fizzes with insights -- Roger Deakin A new naturalist to set beside the classics in our literature Evening Standard --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Robert Macfarlane won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for his first book, Mountains of the Mind (2003). His second, The Wild Places (2007), was similarly celebrated, winning three prizes and being shortlisted for six more. Both books were adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 157 people found the following review helpful By The Fisher Price King on 29 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book completes Robert Macfarlane's trilogy of exploratory works of nature writing. If you are familiar with his previous work, it's worth my saying that in tone and content this is somewhere between The Wild Places and Mountains of the Mind. It is a personal exploration, but also contains a great deal of history and research.

In The Old Ways Macfarlane examines the routes that mark - and in many cases lie submerged within or beneath - the British landscape. And not just the British landscape, but Spain and Palestine too. He draws out the connections between pathways and stories, reflecting on the different kinds of thinking and writing there have been inspired by travelling on foot.

Macfarlane is a lyrical, eloquent writer, whose portfolio of interests encompasses art, geology, map-making, poetry, environmentalism and adventure. As he goes about this he is guided by the spirits of many who have gone before him; perhaps the most significant of these is the poet Edward Thomas, with the artist Eric Ravilious another.

This is both a book about journeys and a journey in its own right - into the past, but also into the self. It is scholarly, informative, moving and thought-provoking. Highly recommended to existing fans, and it will probably create a new fanbase, especially among those who admire really finely crafted writing.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By R. Newton on 15 Jun 2012
Format: Hardcover
To begin with I found this a disapointing read. I expected to be impressed and enthralled - I love mountains, I love walking, and I like erudite writing, but I found this a little difficult to get into. The writing flows, but the contents don't always work. I think this is because Macfarlane quotes from too many different sources, and it seems as if he is wanting to show you all the clever stuff he has read without saying anything himself. If you find this I say persevere, because it settles down and one or two pieces are excellent and moving (especially the penultimate chapter). This is not quite the materpiece it could have been, and whilst a good writer with some excellent passages which just float over you, MacFarlane is occasionally heavy handed. Sometimes he takes you with him, but on other occasions you are a more distant observer. Also, whilst there is a general topic of walking it does not quite hang together as a coherent whole. It is shame in a way, because had more of it been like the end of the book and less like the start and this could have been a masterpiece. However, it is still worth four stars and my criticism is less that it is not good, but not as good as it could have been. I would still recommend it as a pleasing, intellectual and yet generally easy read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mara Greenwood VINE VOICE on 29 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book has taken me a good long while to read my way through, mainly because it is so beautifully written but can be quite hard going at times as well! Part travelogue, part history book, part anecdotes, all fascinating, this is a really great book to add to the shelf of anyone with a love for travel and local history, especially where the travelling is done on foot!

Beginning and ending in the UK, the book covers the author's travels through places as diverse as the Icknield Way, the Broomway and Scottish and Hebridean sea travels, all the way over to Israel, Spain and the mountains of Sichuan to name but a few, and is full of musings on the nature of man and mankind and where we intersect with the land, and what walking on the land means to us. A wonderful, moving and lyrical book that really changes your perspective on the world and where you fit into it, and makes you itch to put on your walking boots and reconnect with the land around you.

Highly recommended, but not easy reading - I read a chapter, then mulled it over for a few days, then read another chapter and so on and so forth. Keep a dictionary to hand when you read, and a notebook, because you will almost certainly find references to other authors, historians and poets that you will want to go away and read after this book!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Andreas Eigenmann on 10 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Old Ways is a poetic book - whatever that means: lyrical, elegiac, figurative; the writer walks, and the reader follows, but the images conjured up by our footfall on ancient paths, slow us down, as we try to make sense of their meaning.

Macfarlane doesn't walk to get from point A to B, nor is he a "pilgrim" concerned with himself. He's not "testing his limits" - yet his walks can be very demanding. His first journey on foot takes him up the ancient Icknield Way. He cracks a rib or two even before starting his trip, but this only seems to him a minor impediment to walking - a entrance fee for admission onto a mythical path: He considers this to be his "entry fee" to the old way, "charged at one of the usual tollbooths".

The fact that he covers a hefty thirty miles a day and sleeps rough, Macfarlane only mentions in passing. And while other foot travel writers can go on for pages describing the slog of finding a place to sleep, Macfarlane simply notes: "I slept that night in a Neolithic dormitory on a seabed of chalk".

Neolithic - the New Stone Age. For Macfarlane, who estimates to have walked 6000 to 7000 miles on foot paths in his life so far, walking the old ways is about connecting with a landscape and its history - crossing over into a forgotten world.

If footpaths and walking them is not just an ordinary activity for you, but a profound, and, at times, even a mystic experience, this book is for you.
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