I have always enjoyed walking: I walk to work every morning and back home in the evening, I adore walking in the mountains and the outdoors in general, when we still had a dog I used to take him out for a walk twice a day, ... but somehow, I never gave this a second thought. After all, what could be more natural for 'bipedal mammals' such as ourselves than to walk? But Rebecca Solnit's wonderful book utterly convinced me that there's loads to be said about walking. In the very first chapter of 'Moby-Dick', Melville claims that 'meditation and water are wedded for ever.' Well, I am now convinced (or perhaps I should say 'have become conscious of the fact') that walking can claim the very same.
'Wanderlust' was a real eye-opener to me. Solnit covers a myriad different aspects of the history of walking: I discovered how the act of walking can express dozens of different things and serve dozens of different purposes, how the meaning attributed to walking changed over time and differs from one nation to the other, how modern cities are designed to accommodate primarily cars instead of people (people walking, that is), and loads of other things. I never imagined how so simple an act could have such a deep connection to the very essence of being human.
Clearly, Solnit has done her research thoroughly, and knows her subject in and out. On the upside: what you get is an astonishingly wide and knowledgeable discussion of walking in every shape, colour and texture. The downside (perhaps logically) is that this is no easy reading: the language is, at times, very learned, and you need to keep your wits about you when reading about people 'less acculturated to the northern European romantic tradition' or 'the spatial and sensual engagement with the terrain'. However, that is a minor quip of mine, and undoubtedly largely due to the fact that I am not nor ever will be a native speaker of English.
All in all, a very good book, one of the kind that suddenly gives you completely new insights into what was until then just an everyday act. Heartily recommended!