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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot [Paperback]

Robert Macfarlane
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 May 2013

The Old Ways is the stunning new book by acclaimed nature writer Robert Macfarlane.

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize 2012

Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world - a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations.

'Really do love it. He has a rare physical intelligence and affords total immersion in place, elements and the passage of time: wonderful' Antony Gormley

'A marvellous marriage of scholarship, imagination and evocation of place. I always feel exhilarated after reading Macfarlane' Penelope Lively

'Macfarlane immerses himself in regions we may have thought familiar, resurrecting them newly potent and sometimes beautifully strange. In a moving achievement, he returns our heritage to us' Colin Thubron

'Every Robert MacFarlane book offers beautiful writing, bold journeys . . . With its global reach and mysterious Sebaldian structure, this is MacFarlane's most important book yet' David Rothenberg, author of Survival of the Beautiful and Thousand Mile Song

'Luminous, possessing a seemingly paradoxical combination of the dream-like and the hyper-vigilant, The Old Ways is, as with all of Macfarlane's work, a magnificent read. Each sentence can carry astonishing discovery' Rick Bass, US novelist and nature writer

'The Old Ways confirms Robert Macfarlane's reputation as one of the most eloquent and observant of contemporary writers about nature' Scotland on Sunday

'Sublime writing . . . sets the imagination tingling . . . Macfarlane's way of writing [is] free, exploratory, rambling and haphazard but resourceful, individual, following his own whims, and laying an irresistible trail for readers to follow' Sunday Times

'Macfarlane relishes wild, as well as old, places.He writes about both beautifully . . . I love to read Macfarlane' John Sutherland, Financial Times

'Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again' Metro

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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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141030585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141030586
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,470 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.

Product Description

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 the Hardcover edition.

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and evocative, but dense reading 29 April 2013
By Mara Greenwood VINE VOICE
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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146 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great work of nature writing (and more) 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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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It worked for me .... in the end 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Walk to Connect with Ancient History 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic and connecting!
This is a wonderful intelligent read for anyone interested in walking and nature. Well written with a sensitive understanding of landscape and it's historic connection. Read more
Published 17 hours ago by MarkT
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book. A great writer. What a gift.
Absolutely delicious, every page a vision, a vista...thank-you for taking the reader on such magical journeys. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Siam Siam
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than travel writing
As you might expect from a fellow of a college of Cambridge University this is an intelligently written book, so not only the subject matter but also the writing itself is a... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Sally Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Product great price will buy from again !
Published 14 days ago by Henry William Hubball
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Super Book
Published 17 days ago by thinkingpositive
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book, but what a shame about the maps
Nice book, but what a shame about the maps. They need to be in far higher resolution as they are completely unreadable, even on my 27" iMac screen. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Ms P. Holden
5.0 out of 5 stars MACFARLANE
GREAT BOOK
Published 21 days ago by mrmacu@hotmail.com
5.0 out of 5 stars lyrical
i have been reading this slowly, and with enormous pleasure for the last few weeks. I must say i am also filled with envy and regret, that i have not walked the broom way or... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Viktor Wynd
5.0 out of 5 stars The Old Ways - A Review by Barry Van-Asten
Published in 2012, ‘The Old Ways’ is a poetic pilgrimage to the pleasure of walking in which the author follows the ancient tracks, drove-roads, sea paths and Holloways through the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. B. P. Van-asten
4.0 out of 5 stars The writing is still good, but the story has lost something in the ...
Very promising start. Felt very inspired and excited by the introduction and the opening chapter, but the writing has tailed off a bit and it's lost it's sparkle a little. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Miss D Green
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