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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot [Paperback]

Robert Macfarlane
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 6.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 900 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
142 of 151 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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9 of 9 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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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped? 3 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I picked this up (admittedly as the third item in a 3 for 2 deal at a physical bookshop--somehow this review will appear for the kindle edition, though) on the strength of the four pages of eulogistic review extracts at the front, many from writers I respect and have enjoyed.

And I can understand the appeal. One quoted review (from Metro--what difference does that make?) includes, "Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again". I am a sucker for books which aspire to change one's perspective on something. Macfarlane does so aspire, and he is erudite and generally engaging and refreshing. To begin with.

I found the book easy and relaxing to read, notwithstanding the occasionally esoteric vocabulary (there is an interesting glossary, though). But about half-way through, I realised why. It made no demands whatever. There is no argument to follow, there is no narrative to remember, apart perhaps from a few characters who pop up for a chapter early on and then get referred to by name only with no clue as to their role. It is a series of essays--no harm in that--and great to read for an hour, but easy to put down.

Edward Thomas pops up and recedes. (I was interested to learn about his relationship with Robert Frost, and possibly being the seed of "The Road less Traveled", and the impact of that on him in turn pp. 343-4) Interesting, but his role as a kind of "spirit guide" doesn't come off--Macfarlane is too opportunistic in his use of Thomas. He uses him to bolster points, but not to test them.

It washes over one, a warm bath of smug celebration of superior sensitivity.

(I overstate of course. It's just that all these sweet reviews need a little balancing sour!)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not THAT good 14 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a bestseller and has great reviews. It was OK, just. Lots of unnecessary flowery language, which I suspect is there for padding. If you were to take away the verbiage and some other unnecessary descriptive matter, this would be a rather short book. I'm a member of the Icknield Way Society, and even that was not covered that well. Buy, read, take to charity shop.
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40 of 43 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a magical book. Following the tracks, ...
This is a magical book. Following the tracks, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast, ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond the author... Read more
Published 20 hours ago by Mrs. Rosemary J. Clayton
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
An enjoyable read whilst on holiday. Wish I had the writers energy.
Published 1 day ago by Christine
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about paths!!?? Do yourself a favour - try it
Ask me or anyone if we'd be prepared to read a description of a path let alone a whole host of different paths and you'd get a confident no. Read more
Published 18 days ago by drrobc
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a superb read.
This is a superb read. You are transported there.
Published 27 days ago by Philip McWalter
5.0 out of 5 stars The Old Ways are the best.
For someone who has always loved the countryside and history this book is just right! A fascinating exploration of some wonderful hidden places. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas Richards
3.0 out of 5 stars The Old Ways
Started so well wonderful use of words and phrases but soon lost my interest, not enough for a complete book, make a decent Sunday paper article
Published 2 months ago by PW BRADNAM
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for walkers
This book works on many levels: the descriptions are exquisite, it is almost mystical,covers many journeys and has pen-portraits of many walkers alive and in the case of Edward... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Elaine
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful book
A book that will on the shelf, I know I will reread it when I find myself travelling a different path or when I need to get inspiration for a journey.
Published 3 months ago by Melody
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking
Aware inspiring and amazingly well written. So much so that I have no tracked down and purchased his other books.
Published 3 months ago by Granny to Beeeeeeeee
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a life time! Truly inspiring!!
I am currently studying this book for A level English Literature. It is truly a remarkable book full of wonders! Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bethany Titterington
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