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The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  413 ratings  ·  107 reviews
How we walk, where we walk, why we walk tells the world who and what we are. Whether it's once a day to the car, or for long weekend hikes, or as competition, or as art, walking is a profoundly universal aspect of what makes us humans, social creatures, and engaged with the world. Cultural commentator, Whitbread Prize winner, and author of "Sex Collectors" Geoff Nicholson ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Riverhead Books (first published 2008)
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What got lost? After spending a couple evenings with The Lost Art of Walking (2008) you'll probably conclude that walking as a medium of expression is anything but defunct. Nicholson has gathered a thick bundle of quirky walking tales and interlaced them with stories of his own curious pedestrian habits. How he's told and re-told these anecdotes will tempt you to put your feet up for a few hours.

Have a little patience with the first chapter. Nicholson leaves the gate without any of the earnestne
A delightful, easy to read, essay on walks Geoff Nicholson had taken, and the walking achievements of others. I had heard of people doing walks across America, along the Appalachian Trail, I watched the first moon walk, I've even done charity walks, but I had never heard of psychogeography or the organization Situationist International.

Sometimes it's fun to read stuff just to find out what strange things humans can find to occupy their time. Now I love to walk, but I don't think I'll be walking
An odd book. Sometimes autobiographical, sometimes historical, sometimes a catalog of walking showing up in movies, books, music. I'm not entirely sure why I read the whole thing, or whether I think it was worth it or not. My guess is mostly not. All the same, a few notes:

p. 11: "... an academic by the name of Sherington did experiments with decorticated cats. He removed their brains and found they were still able to walk perfectly well." gross.

In the chapter "As I Tripped Out One Morning: Music
If Geoff Nicholson said something about the lost part of the art of walking, I missed it. It seems pretty thriving from all he writes. And while there is a historical perspective on some aspects of walking (the competitive, eccentric part, for one) and some thoughtful musings related to literature, science, and some (again eccentric) philosophic takes on the subject of walking, the subtitle too is as misleading as the main title is made to be by inclusion of the word lost. So ignore the inaccura ...more
Kristin B
I have to admit.
I’m sort of at a loss for words.
(which for those who know me, is oft not the case)

I had high hopes for this book.
High hopes for a book entitled “The Lost Art Of Walking” & what it could inspire & reflect of the world.

But then, just as it began.

A book about walking written by an author who willingly lives in LA?
But nobody fucking walks in LA.
In fact, I’ve been led to believe that walking in LA is considered a criminal act.

What on earth can an author from LA say ab
I'm a person who gets sudden solutions in the shower, but walking can produce the same absorption in physical sensation, the mindlessness, that allows for openings in the well-worn channels of thought.

Geoff Nicholson enjoys walking, and uses it to focus his thoughts and solve problems even before he realizes that walking also keeps him from lethargy and depression. He is interested in why and where and how others walk.

This entertaining and informative tour covers walkers famous and infamous, ecc
This seems like an odd topic to write a whole book about, but Mr. Nicholson manages to make it both informative and entertaining. I have never thought to look at walking in such a diverse way. Mr. Nicholson not only discussed walking in art, movies, songs, literature and history, but also writes about phenomenal feats of walking. All that interspersed with his personal anecdotes. Although about two very different forms of foot travel I think I can safely put this book on par with Born to Run by ...more
As an avid walker, I looked forward to this book, but my ultimate response was "Meh." Nicholson's book is basically lots of anecdotes about white men walking, some interesting, many boring at best and annoying at worst. His tendency to make broad generalizations and his self-satisfied tone added to my dislike of the book, and I abandoned it after several chapters.
The subtitle, "The history, science, philosophy, and literature of pedestrianism," just about sums up what this book is all about. I consider this one of my serendipitous library finds. Knowing nothing of Nicholson's other writings, I chose this volume simply because I do love to walk.

I would recommend it for other reader/walkers. The impressive bibliography provides ample suggestions for a variety of titles on various aspects of walking from the 1780s to the present day. Although the author is
I really like walking.
Lauren Albert
This book grew on me as I read it. I really liked the chapters on walking in songs, movies and books. I loved his section on his visit to the psychogeographical "convention" in NYC. Anyone who has been in the midst of academia or "art-emia" knows the self-inflated verbiage that can come out in these circumstances. As an example, I give the woman whose art project is sweeping in front of the building--her sweeping is limited because it's hard for her to sweep and hold her umbrella in the rain.
Jan 04, 2011 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: Megan
Shelves: nonfiction
Despite its (fairly frequent) snarkiness, and despite the fact that several sections read like strings of facts or anecdotes connected only loosely, I did enjoy this book, which is as much about Nicholson's own walking experiences and philosophy as it is about, as the subtitle puts it, "The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism." It's not my favorite book about walking—that's still Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit—but it was often interesting and full of things I didn't know. ...more
Paul Kiczek
Mar 11, 2011 Paul Kiczek rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: walkers, hikers, anyone
Recommended to Paul by: google search
With a keen and wizened eye for dissecting the world around us, Nicholson draws us into a kaleidoscopic world built on something natural yet ephemeral to all of us. Walking, to Nicholson, is both the puzzle and the answer. He's our guide in an Alice-In-Wonderland-type stroll through human nature, history, cultures and personal lives that leaves us breathlessly climbing the last steep hill with his Mother on her own last journey.

Granted, the title of the book, "The Lost Art of Walking: The Histor
Shaz Goodwin
The book starts with, what I thought, was a very interesting introduction. It hooked me in and made me want to keep reading.

I found myself becoming involved in the theories of why we walk on two legs and the way we view walking. I’ve always liked things like this – studies show this and that and then someone else has a counter-theory or there are new findings. I think it would be a good topic to debate! There’s even a brief dip into the environment argument and health benefits.

I have to confess
Nick Sweeney
One of my favourite ever books is Charles Sprawson’s The Haunts of the Black Masseur. It’s a book about swimming – the whys, hows and wheres and whens, swimming as a pastime, as a sport, as a lifestyle choice. I recommend it highly. I was glad to find that Geoff Nicholson has come up with a work of equal quality that focuses on walking. You’ll find crazy adventurer walkers like Harry Bensley, who took on a bet that he could walk around the world fulfilling all kinds of weird conditions, includin ...more
Stewart Monckton
I worked my way slowly through this book over a much longer time than I would have normally taken for 250-page book. It was just about interesting enough to keep me going, despite the fact that I kept thinking “this is not really working”.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, and I could not put my finger on why I didn’t.

In the end it was a single sentence that that described a hill in Sheffield as having “sidewalks” that made me see what the problem was. For all the authors’ efforts (and it
As a devoted urbanist who walks or cycles almost everywhere, I nticipated this book, especially given comparisons to Bill Bryson. Big disappointment. This is no "Walk in the Woods."

I was hoping Nicholson would do for the human stride what Eadweard Muybridge did for the equine lope. Not so, either.

First clue: the author, though a Brit (the land where walking vacations are common), lives in Los Angeles. The book is more of a compendium of eccentric walkers who ... well, I read this a couple of m
I plucked this book off a library shelf at random and was pleasantly surprised. Rather than a dry account of walking (not an exciting subject to begin with), it's a humorous, detailed exploration of the subject. Competitive walking, performance art walking, contemplative walking, street photographers and their walking habits, health walking--it's pretty exhaustive.

I had no idea such a thing as competitive walking even existed! Did you know that someone could actually be described as "one of his
The subtitle to this book is fairly accurate: "The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism." Add "Movies" and "Other Random Musings," and it's spot-on. The problem is that it's essentially just a drive-by view of all these things: Nicholson just lists and describes various examples of Western art and literature that contain pedestrianism, sometimes shares an opinion on them, but never steps into true analysis, synthesis, or philosophical mode. He purports to be a serious wa ...more
I would love to have drinks with Geoff Nicholson because he must be a fascinating conversationalist given all his observations and wry personal anecdotes and encounters with curious people. However, an entertaining conversation in a bar doesn't necessarily translate to a well crafted book. A laundry list of various movies that reference walking is simply not interesting - it's packing peanuts in a giant box containing one tiny gem, and the book is full of these literary packing peanuts. The Lost ...more
Scott Baxter
Picked it up based on a recommendation from Nancy Pearl in her book Book Lust to Go. I was intrigued to read a book or two on the topic of walking. It is, after all, something that very few animals do other than humans. Although one wonders whether computers, chairs, cars, and the widespread use of electricity is leading to humans slowly losing their ability to walk. Nicholson did inspire me with many stories of people and their long and unusual walks.
Mikey B.
This is a look at walking through the last twenty years. Some of the stories are interesting, but at times it can be repetitive or similar to a catalogue. It is like reading a summary of a novel or movie that you have not seen – the walk described is somewhat abstract or distant.

Nevertheless Geoff Nicholson is captivating, opinionated and at times humorous. The best sections and the most intimate were his own walks in Los Angeles, London, New York and his nature walks.

As Mr. Nicholson points ou
This book starts out with promise: getting hurt while walking, walking in L.A., and a discussion of Richard Long's walking art. Seems interesting. Turns out this author has a bit of a chip on his shoulder that his was book #3 on the subject of walking, coming out in very short succession after Rebecca Solnit's wonderful Wanderlust, and Joseph Amato's On Foot, which I've yet to read. There are a few interesting points in here, but mostly Nicholson seems to believe that walking is to be undertaken ...more
anthony e.
A pretty palpable book about walking that covers areas less traversed by other books on the subject. Nicholson's approach is itself noteworthy: he charts a vague history of walking in terms of walks he himself has taken (an idea I myself was toying with writing), and threads in other literature on the subject in largely deferential ways.That being said, Nicholson is a bit snarky about certain aspects of walking culture (particularly religion), and seems wildly dismissive of the other texts on th ...more
Not in any way a comprehensive history, but instead an idiosyncratic exploration of walking, especially in cities (London, L.A., and NYC in particular) and is full of stories reeking of the personal, the particular, and the peculiar. The chapters pretty much stand alone and were good fun. They also made me want to walk.
Mar 27, 2014 Art marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport listed this title in its bibliography. Sounds interesting.
Wonderful book!! I love to walk and this book puts a great spin on casual walking, planned walking, and everything in between. It's not an exercise book. It truly is a history of walking. Famous people are noted for their walking habits. I was introduced to a new word, 'pedestrianism'. Walking is so's good for the heart and joints....the time can be used to reflect on a pressing problem or to reflect on a happy can simply breathe and enjoy can be used as a ...more
I liked the idea of this book and found much of it of great interest. However, not to sound too prissy, I didn't like the author's tone. He just seemed so dismissive, which bothered me. Walking is a subject about which much can be said, and indeed the book did not claim to say all that there is to say about it. Nonetheless, the level of dismissiveness (for example, of 'Mrs Dalloway', an absolutely wonderful novel) struck me as impolite. I appreciated the breadth of references, but wished they we ...more
You know, I wish I could rate a book that, in the first three chapters, mentions Thoreau, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and the Leatherman (my three personal heroes) higher than 3, but that's all I can give it. Nicholson is at times funny and irreverent, and obviously has done a great deal of walking and research on walking. Towards the end of the book, though, it just feels like Nicholson is stretching to say something--anything--about walking, and that involves just stringing along anecdote ...more
Assembling a perambulating cast of characters in a literary peregrination, Nicholson's homage to the humdrum and humorous and humbling art of walking read like a stroll down the street. Documenting feats of moving feet, he presents a rather eccentric group of people - in which I'm sure he would include himself, and in which I also claim inclusion - who have walked in weird ways, in weird places, for weird reasons, with weird intentions, with weird restrictions, having weird notions, and weirdly ...more
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Geoff Nicholson is a British novelist and non-fiction writer. He was educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Essex.

The main themes and features of his books include leading characters with obsessions, characters with quirky views on life, interweaving storylines and hidden subcultures and societies. His books usually contain a lot of black humour. He has also written three works of non-ficti
More about Geoff Nicholson...
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“Walk some night on a suburban street and pass house after house on both sides of the same street each with the lamplight of the living room, shining golden, and inside the little blue square of the television, each living family riveting its attention on probably one show; nobody talking; silence in the yards; dogs barking at you because you pass on human feet instead of wheels.” 9 likes
“Your own exploration therefore has to be personalized; you're doing it for yourself, increasing your own store of particular knowledge, walking your own eccentric version of the city. ” 4 likes
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