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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008. ISBN: 978-1-59448-998-3.

That subtitle is a little ambitious for a book of only 275 pages, and the book fulfills that expectation only lightly, and casually, certainly not in any encyclopedic or even systematic fashion. Rather, it is a series of loosely linked essays and perambulations through its topic, organized somewhat informally around the three major cities where the author has done much of his walking, namely Los Angeles, London, and New York.

In between we do get a nice historical summary of some of the more famous walkers of the past and the present, people who became celebrity walkers, and some who even made their living by walking. Another chapter discusses the obvious sound track for walking, famous songs about walking, with numerous anecdotal bits about musicians, composers, musical genres, and any relevant connections to walking. Another chapter takes on the topic of walking in nature, and particularly, in the desert, while yet another focuses on the propensity of folks to walk and take photographs.

All in all, a nice compendium, informally and entertainingly written, devoted to nothing more profound than walking. And walking is both profound and prosaic, all at once. As someone who does a fair amount of walking in my current life, it was a welcome chance to reflect on not only the deeper meanings within this most human of activities, but also to revel in the lore and trivia of other walkers, including the author himself.

If you love to walk, and you love to read, how could you not enjoy this book?

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