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

4.2 out of 5 stars 287 customer reviews

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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 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for "The OldWays"
With a steady command of the literature and history of each place he visits, [Macfarlane] tries to read landscapes back into being. His sentences bristle with the argot of cartographers, geologists, zoologists, and botanists. "The New Yorker"

Macfarlane explores the meditative aspects of being a pedestrian not so much a travelogue as a travel meditation, it favors lush prose, colorful digressions if you ve ever had the experience, while walking, of an elusive thought finally coming clear or an inspiration surfacing after a long struggle, "The Old Ways" will speak to you eloquently and persuasively. "The Seattle Times"


A backpack of assorted expeditions charted by a writer whose poetic and scientific skills are equal to one another there are some splendid set pieces. "The Wall Street Journal"


A wonderfully meandering account of the author s peregrinations and perambulations through England, Scotland, Spain, Palestine, and Sichuan Macfarlane sparticular gift is his ability to bring a remarkably broad and varied range of voices to bear on his own pathways and to do so with a pleasingly impressionist yet tenderly precise style. Aengus Woods, "themillions.com"

"Macfarlane seems to know and have read everything his every sentence rewrites the landscape in language crunchy and freshly minted and deeply textured. Surely the most accomplished (and erudite) writer on place to have come along in years." Pico Iyer


"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


In Macfarlane, British travel writing has a formidable new champion Macfarlane is read above all for the beauty of his prose and his wonderfully innovative and inventive way with language he can write exquisitely about anywhere. William Dalrymple, "The Observer"
In this intricate, sensuous, haunted book, each journey is part of other journeys and there are no clear divisions to be made the walking of paths is, to [Macfarlane], an education, and symbolic, too, of the very process by which we learn things: testing, wandering about a bit, hitting our stride, looking ahead and behind. Alexandra Harris, "The Guardian""

Praise for The OldWays
With a steady command of the literature and history of each place he visits, [Macfarlane] tries to read landscapes back into being. His sentences bristle with the argot of cartographers, geologists, zoologists, and botanists. The New Yorker

Macfarlane explores the meditative aspects of being a pedestrian not so much a travelogue as a travel meditation, it favors lush prose, colorful digressions if you ve ever had the experience, while walking, of an elusive thought finally coming clear or an inspiration surfacing after a long struggle, The Old Ways will speak to you eloquently and persuasively. The Seattle Times


A backpack of assorted expeditions charted by a writer whose poetic and scientific skills are equal to one another there are some splendid set pieces. The Wall Street Journal


A wonderfully meandering account of the author s peregrinations and perambulations through England, Scotland, Spain, Palestine, and Sichuan Macfarlane sparticular gift is his ability to bring a remarkably broad and varied range of voices to bear on his own pathways and to do so with a pleasingly impressionist yet tenderly precise style. Aengus Woods, themillions.com

"Macfarlane seems to know and have read everything his every sentence rewrites the landscape in language crunchy and freshly minted and deeply textured. Surely the most accomplished (and erudite) writer on place to have come along in years." Pico Iyer


"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


In Macfarlane, British travel writing has a formidable new champion Macfarlane is read above all for the beauty of his prose and his wonderfully innovative and inventive way with language he can write exquisitely about anywhere. William Dalrymple, The Observer


In this intricate, sensuous, haunted book, each journey is part of other journeys and there are no clear divisions to be made the walking of paths is, to [Macfarlane], an education, and symbolic, too, of the very process by which we learn things: testing, wandering about a bit, hitting our stride, looking ahead and behind. Alexandra Harris, The Guardian" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Robert Macfarlane is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times. He is currently working on an illustrated children's book about the natural world in collaboration with illustrator Jackie Morris.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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By Sentinel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was very pleased to get this proof copy to review, as walking is probably my favourite exercise (mind as well as body!). I've also enjoyed reading Roger Deakin, and had just finished Kathleen Jamie's haunting new collection Sightlines. As if I wasn't ready enough to love this book in advance, Macfarlane's vast canvas embraces East Anglia, where I now live, the Hebrides, the Cairngorms, the South Downs, Himalaya,and many other locations, plus a large dollop of Edward Thomas, as 'guiding spirit', all important touchstones for me. Yet I write this review with a sad heart. How can this be possible?

One of my fundamental problems was that I felt oddly distanced by the author's structure and language. I wanted to enjoy his company as guide, and to 'feel' the experience through his eyes, but was only occasionally successful. Partly this was because whenever his walk started to develop some momentum, he would detour into a name-checked digression about aspects of journey/pilgrimage which became increasingly repetitive over time, or would introduce one of a cast of characters/artists/eccentrics, who failed to illuminate/enrich the experience for me.

Nor does his language help the reader share his vision, as too often I felt it unnecessarily complex ("the boustrophedon motion of a path" or "everywhere..were pivot-points and fulcrums,symmetries and proliferations; the thorax points of a winged world"). This combination of excess and unnecessary complication also bedevils many of his metaphors and similies, with sunlight being a "thin magnesium burn-line". For me, these erected barriers causing me to scratch my head, distancing me from the setting, and my sense of companionship.
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