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Wanderlust: A History of Walking Paperback – 19 May 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (19 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675580
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675586
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A history of walking that is about time and space and consciousness of the world as much as about putting one foot in front of the other." --The Times "A writer of startling freshness and precision." -- New York Times Book Review

From the Back Cover

'Solnit walks, but her prose soars. This is a stunningly original account of the simple, subversive activity that keeps us human. Pedestrians of the world, unite!' Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz

'Through landscapes of pleasure, over the hills and dales of politics, Wanderlust is a long, sweet walk through history in very good company. With her unique combination of erudition, lyricism, and irreverence, Rebecca Solnit has written a book for those who trespass with both mind and body.' Lucy R Lippard, author of On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place

'Solnit certainly knows her subject, as some famous and not so famous walkers move across the page. She knows how and where they move. She knows why they take to the road in the first place. It's a pleasure and an education to follow them.' Duncan Minshull, editor of The Vintage Book of Walkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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'.
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Format: Paperback
Where can one start in reviewing this excellent, wide-ranging, and fresh perspective on something as basic as walking?

The author writes with tremendous enthusiasm on something that many of us take for granted. In the process she draws some deep insights going to the heart of what it is to be bipedal in the world that the human race has created for itself. Parallels are drawn between the ability to walk upright and the evolution of the human intellect. Great philosophers and writers are mentioned who themselves walked as a means of stimulating their ideas and writings. Great thinkers such as Rousseau, Kierkegaard, and writers like William Wordsworth, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen to name but a few of those cited in the book who have walked and thought and wrote. Rebecca Solnit provides rich food for our imagination and understanding of walking in all its forms: from pilgrimage, procession, revolutionary marches and protests, urban street walking, rural walking, mountaineering (vertical walking!), walking as an art form; and more.

Indeed walking is seen as integral to our humanity - a basic 'right' to identify with, and explore our surrounding landscapes and cityscapes. The author identifies the conflict between this right and the 'privatization' of public space, and the spread of suburbia. Walking is the common language that animates our cities and streets, without which they would die.

This is a very personal view of walking, with many deep insights and marvellous quotes. One of my favourites is by the historian G M Trevelyan (1913):

"I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. When body and mind are out of gear (...) I know that I shall have only to call on my doctors and I shall be well again.
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