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A Unique and Wonderful Achievement
on 18 November 2003
This book is rather humbly subtitled a history of walking. But it is much more than that, this is a wonderful work of philosophy, imagination and wonder.
A history this book is rich and wide ranging. Yes we do get an almost Chatwin-esque detail of how walking has entered the western consciousness, but we also gain some wonderful insights into both the society of yesterday and today.
Consider just one little fragment: the significance of womens' love of shopping! Apparently, walking to the shops was virtually the only activity which Victorian society felt it appropriate that allowed women to venture out of the home on their own. So 'doing shopping' is about liberation, about revolution and gentle rebellion. Radical walking is certainly a feature of this book.
For me, there is nothing like walking hiking or treking. As Chatwin used to suggest, it is the most natural means of movement and transport. Even Bruce Chatwin at his most fantastical would have been astonished by the scope of this book.
Since Wanderlust's publication I have bought this for several walkers and the first thing they have done after finishing it is to have bought another copy for a friend. If you are a walker then this is an essential text.
But just because this is about walking doesn't mean that this is somehow boring or of a certain nice. Consider some of the Chapter headings. yes they include titles like 'The Legs of William Wordsworth' and 'Of Walking Clubs and Land Wars'. But here there is also 'Paris, or Botanizing on the Ashphalt', 'The Mind at Three Miles an Hour', 'Walking After Midnight: Women, Sex and Public Space' and, lastly, 'Las Vegas, or the Longest Distance Between Two Points'.
This is unique. It is fascinating, authoritative, quirky and entertaining.
If you like walking, over mountains or just strolling after lunch, than this is a book for you. Truly original.