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."
It is gratifying also, that the Scottish Rights of Way Society is acknowledged within the book as being the oldest surviving society contributing to safeguarding the public right of access.
This is a fascinating and thought provoking read, which will challenge whatever assumptions you may have about the subject matter. Expect to negotiate the "meadowlands of your imagination."