Wanderlust: A History of Walking
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Wanderlust: A History of Walking

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,050 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Drawing together many histories-of anatomical evolution and city design, of treadmills and labyrinths, of walking clubs and sexual mores-Rebecca Solnit creates a fascinating portrait of the range of possibilities presented by walking. Arguing that the history of walking includes walking for pleasure as well as for political, aesthetic, and social meaning, Solnit focuses on...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Penguin Books (first published 2000)
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Venessa
Affirmation of Pedestrianism

For those of you who don't know me as well as you think you do, I'll start by saying that I have never owned a car, and have not been behind the wheel of one in over 12 years; I bicycle in nice weather but my preferred mode of transportation is walking.

So, I just finished the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit and think it is one of the greatest books ever written. I was partial to two of the last chapters, one about women and walking and the othe...more
Erik Graff
Feb 27, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Emma Lowes
Shelves: history
Thanks to my upbringing, to summers in the woods and weekend forest walks all year long with Father and the dog, I've always enjoyed walking, particularly in nature, especially over new terrain, but even through the neighborhoods of cities. Thanks to the ageing of my peers and, with such, their increased responsibilies and increasing incidences of disability, I've had less opportunity to do so in company and, so, less inclination. A dog, a good dog, would help, but I live in an apartment, in a c...more
Michael Morris
I know I gave this five stars, but I do have to get my one problem with this book out of the way. Wanderlust, in all that it manages to cover, does not even mention Japanese haibun, a literary form that merges short prose and haiku. This is important because many of these writings came out of long walking tours and travel accounts. Not mentioning Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior seems a crime to me.

That omission out of the way, I can still say that this is a terrific book, covering a lot of g...more
Jeff
The best part of this book is the early section, which covers the topic of walking in philosophy and literature. Things degrade and wander a bit as things go on, and Solnit's politics start to become obtrusive - she got into thinking about walking as a part of "nuclear freeze" activities, and late in the book is an entire section of abuse directed at suburbs; besides the fact that yes, suburbs are more difficult to walk, it's not really fully at place in this book.

Tyler Cowen noted while reading...more
MightyMaeve
Attracted to this title because I'm a committed, contented walker, one who is anti-suburbia and never drives, I ordered it from my library straightaway. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I was bored more times than engaged by this author's narration style and views, and often her selected topics were so specific to her locales as to appeal only to locals or those interested in visiting.

Topics are vast and, depending on the personal interests of each individual reader, range from fascinating...more
Rachelfm
I really wanted to like this book much more than I did, and kept waiting for it to get good. I want to also acknowledge at the outset that it languished on my Kindle for about 8 months as I got through it 1% of the time at a very plodding pace. Whenever I'd be stuck someplace with nothing else to read and go, "Ugh, fine, I'll work on the dang walking book again." I'm not sure I'd have been so committed if it hadn't been one of my Your Next 5 Books at the Seattle Public Library. I originally got...more
El
I don't believe much in New Years' Resolutions as I prefer to do my self-improvement periodically throughout the year and not limit myself to a specific time in which to accomplish a goal. However, we are about 25 days away from moving into a new neighborhood, a safer neighborhood, and I am looking forward to being more active again - my boyfriend bought me a bike for Christmas 2007 and I have yet to be able to take it out, we'll be a few blocks away from a dog park, we can walk to the tennis co...more
Tom
I labored through it. I am a walking addict, and expected a more personal connection with the author. While Ms. Solnit did include numerous examples of personal walks, I was not able to hang with her and see the countryside, inner or outer. This is more a book about philosophers and famous literary and artistic personalities that just happened to be walkers.
Risa
i start reading this & then i stop becuase it creates an unbearable urge to walk. I think this is the consumate book for the walker/thinker/synesthesia (sp?) stricken saunterer.
Alex Sarll
Combining sharp analysis and reverie is no small matter, but then Solnit is very, very good. Her rhapsodies never preclude wry intrusions of reality, and while she's evangelistic about the benefits of walking, she also includes a chapter on the various reasons of race, gender &c which can too easily make it a much less attractive proposition. I especially enjoyed the chapter on Paris, which supported my own experience that the cradle of the flaneur is now an automobile-friendly sepulchre. Re...more
Doreen
I expected a lot more from this book and turns out I was terribly disappointed at how superficial and reductive her views of walking are. I don't understand the title: where's the history? It's more of a crib note guide and encomium to the theme of walking as found in Great Books of the Western canon. As soon as I found myself interested in a topic she covered, whether it was the perils of women walking or the role of walking and thinking/writing/philosophizing, I was whisked away like a harried...more
April
Apr 05, 2008 April rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to April by: Megan
It is difficult to write a history book that is not specific to a place, time, event, or person. While Wanderlust strives to a be historical examination of walking, it seems to me more an extended essay (in the French meaning of the term 'to try' as an English professor once explained). However, such an essay generally leaves the conclusions to the reader—having examined the topic thoroughly from many angles. While neither impartial history nor essay, this book includes much examination of walki...more
Ammie
Rebecca Solnit is clearly my new literary crush. She writes beautifully (!) about things that interest me, like deserts and history and memory and art (!!), and now she's gone and written a book about one of my all-time favorite activities, walking (!!!). Tracing walking through its various uses (thinking, political protest, religious pilgrimage, and so on) and considering the role that walking assumed in various times and places, Solnit brings us eventually to the present day, where walking has...more
Madzia
This is not a review, but a note of one of the paths the book led me down (pun intended).

Although Solnit writes of walking, she came very close to answering some questions that I'd been asking myself ever since I'd gone sailing, an act which my family and friends tried hard to support, but could never quite understand. The ship is now gone, lost to the sea, and its tragedy interrupted my reading of 'Wanderlust' with several weeks of overpowering depression. The book demanded a love and wonder f...more
Malcolm
Good cultural history is a real challenge – it is about getting to the events and to their meanings. Solnit has finished up being reflective and meditative than perhaps she needs to be, but for something as banal as walking, something that is almost inexplicable, she has given us a good sense of the meaning it has, the ways we use and abuse it, and of walking as liberatory. It is a demanding read, but much of it worthwhile.
Patty
At some point this year, Rebecca Solnit's name and books came to my attention. I wish I could remember how or why this happened. All that really matters is that I gotten to read some fascinating books. This is my second, No Ordinary Land by Laura McPhee included an essay by Solnit.

Microhistories, detailed books about one subject have probably existed for a long time, but the genre has grown like crazy in the last decade. Who knew that a whole book on salt, pencils, turquoise or walking could be...more
Abby
Beautiful book about the reasons (and intellectual and cultural ramifications) of why people walk. Inspiring to me, as walking is one of my primary joys in life (especially when accompanied by my dogs and husband). Solnit does a great job pulling from a variety of societal and historical anecdotes, and I especially enjoyed her references to artists and writers who revered the beauty of a good walk (Woolf naturally crops up a few times). The running marquee of quotes in the footer was a little di...more
William Crosby
Essays about walking.

I walk to get places (no car by choice).

I enjoyed reading this book.

That's the basics.

If you want a little bit more substance, then here below:

Essays placing walking within the context of history, culture and politics and include a wide-ranging discussion of ancient Greek schools of philosophy, English gardens, poetry, education, religion, fairs & carnivals, literature themes, mountains, prostitution, protests, city planning, cars, harassment, feminism and others.
Shel
Rebecca Solnit is my author crush of the year. Wanderlust does not have the lyrical inventiveness of The Faraway Nearby. It's a straightforward nonfiction read by someone who has nerded out on research — more along the lines of Solnit's "A Paradise Built in Hell," but it's fascinating nonetheless.

While I was reading it I kept wondering, "Could there really be this much to say about walking?" but there was.

And then, "Am I really interested enough to read more?" but I was (fervently highlighting p...more
Heather
This book is really smart and satisfying; it's an excellent blend of the personal and the historical and the philosophical. I kept writing down really pleasing sentences while reading, like: "Walking the street is what links up reading the map with living one's life, the personal microcosm with the public macrocosm; it makes sense of the maze all around" (171).

Or: "To me, the magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany" (178).

Or this, at the end of the chapter on walking...more
Marjorie
I'm interested that other people have commented that they've read this book more than once, as I plan to as well, for two reasons. First, it is so dense with so much good writing and so many interesting thoughts that I feel I could read it again and get more out of it the second time. Second, there are so many references that I would like to follow up with my laptop at hand. I really appreciate books like this, that expand my horizons significantly. Also, the book makes you want to go out and ta...more
Philippe
Solnit's "history of walking" is a surprising excursion in a vast and unsystematised subject area. Indeed, like eating and playing, walking is one of these emblematic human activities that are invested with wildly different cultural meanings. I picked up the book because I am an avid walker and mountaineer and, as I learned, an adherent to the British walking tour ethos. For me there is something fundamentally cleansing, wholesome and right about spending time in the great outdoors. However, thi...more
Adam
Feb 05, 2009 Adam rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adam by: Bart
Beautiful and infinitely relevant, I'm humble before the power of writing this good. I read this in many small doses over a long period. Once or twice a week, square in the middle of winter, I would brave a bike ride through 3 neighborhoods to my favorite coffeehouse and spend a few hours reading. Like Solnit describes walking and thinking, my mind would race as my wheels would race. My thoughts were filled with ideas form the book as I rode to and from the coffeehouse. So often the joy of walki...more
Kendra
Have you ever been out on a walk, one of those aimless rambles, and found yourself wondering "What the heck am I doing?" Well, if you have--and I'm not implying you're missing out if you haven't--then Rebecca Solnit can tell you. The only problem is, she might take 291 pages to tell you.


Other reviewers have written that Solnit's Wanderlust is "propelled by abandon yet guided by a firm intelligence" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "studded with arresting insights that will make you want to th
...more
anthony e.
Really Pretty Marvelous. Solnit's book is about walking, so right there it has, for me, a leg up (no pun intendedd). But what Solnit manages to do is craft a really thought-provoking, moving study of all the ways walking matters as a cultural enterprise, oftentimes putting into words sensibilities larger than the Self, but which heretofore have lacked the right expression.

It gets a little preachy at times, though. Solnit, obviously, is a passionate protester, and while I don't have any *particu...more
Kimberly
Prior to going to graduate school, I rarely acquired books, preferring to get them from the library instead. But for the last decade or more I've done more book collecting than reading. When I needed a study break while a student at UCLA, I'd slip over to one of the wonderful thrift shops in Los Angeles and browse through their bookshelves, acquiring the titles that piqued my interest. That permitted me to enjoy thinking about books even when I didn't have time to read books unrelated to my stud...more
Cheryl
I really wanted to love this book, and it is a wonderful history of walking, but the title was misleading to me. Wanderlust is a spiritual word, I think, no one talks about someone walking the dog at 5 am as fulfillment of wanderlust, although it could be for some. So there was a chapter missing fron the book, about the bliss and zen-like meditation and peace from walking. I love walking, on a hiking trail, in the desert, in the forest, on the beach, in a city, around my lake, holding hands, lin...more
Carol Smith
This is a history of walking, but also much more. It's a series of meditative essays on the meaning of walking, far-ranging but grouped into broad themes. It's a book to be savored and read slowly, especially if you are one of those, like me, who find walking as much a necessity as eating, drinking, and sleeping.

Given the range of topics the author dips into, all readers will enjoy some chapters more than others. I was less interested in her reflections on urban walking, although there was stil...more
Jennifer
Oh man, the reason it took me so long to finish this book was because I absolutelysavored every page of it. I was introduced to Wanderlust by a book about readerly disobedience on Sebaldian literature by Deane Blackler (which Idon'treallyrecommend,herargumentsareprettysimplistic),andwowamIgladIpickeditup.Ilovethewaythebookissetup,oneessayaboutonefacetofwalkingperchapter:mountainclimbing,walkinginthecity,inthesuburb,revolutions,Whitman'stravails.It'sadensecollectionthatdoesn'trepeatitselftoooften...more
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Rebecca Solnit (b. 1961) is the author of numerous books, including Hope in the Dark, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. In 2003, she received the prestigious Lannan Literary Award.
More about Rebecca Solnit...
A Field Guide to Getting Lost The Faraway Nearby Men Explain Things to Me River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

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“For [Jane Austen and the readers of Pride and Prejudice], as for Mr. Darcy, [Elizabeth Bennett's] solitary walks express the independence that literally takes the heroine out of the social sphere of the houses and their inhabitants, into a larger, lonelier world where she is free to think: walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.” 63 likes
“Walkers are 'practitioners of the city,' for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” 46 likes
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