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

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  615 ratings  ·  133 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 Geoff Nicholson offers his fascinating, definitive, and personal ruminat
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Riverhead Books (first published 2008)
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3.25  · 
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 ·  615 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Walking, for me is a total meditation. I rarely walk to go from point A to point B, but more out of the enjoyment of the process of leaving the front door and not sure what direction I will go. That, to me, is pure walking. As a walker, I like to read books by other walkers. Geoff Nicholson's "The Lost Art of Walking" is very much the ultimate 'walking' book. It not only deals with the author walking in Los Angeles, New York City, London, and his home town of Sheffield in the U.K., but also the ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london, walks, 2000s
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
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author relates his own walking experiences together with those of others, both historical and contemporary. This is an interesting and witty collection of tales.
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
Kathy Riley
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed this informative and sometimes irreverent non-fiction stroll through walking history. The author, an inveterate walker himself, organizes the book thematically, such as walks in key cities (L.A., New York), walking in music, and some of the odd achievements in walking history. People have known about the benefits of walking for centuries, and before the motorized age, found some ingenious ways to compete. In the early 19th century, to be a pedestrian meant racing on foot. “G ...more
Will Simpson
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful thesis on walking. Very personal and at the same time general enough to hold my interest. Maybe that didn't come out right. Just saying that there was a good mix of history and antidotes intermixed with philosophy. Geoff writes about the weird and often comical nature of the bygone era where walking was a spectator sport. A gamblers dream and a social event. He writes about some of the longest, most unique, dangerous, complicated walks imaginable. He writes about his own adventures a ...more
Kris McCracken
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Geoff Nicholson, I'm a walker from way back. Yes, I've strolled and wandered, pottered and tottered, dawdled and shuffled, mooched and sauntered and meandered. I’ve ambled and rambled. I’m not afraid to say I've also shambled, and now and again, gamboled.

Thus, any book that wishes to delve into the delights of a good walk is welcome to me. Highly recommended!
Apr 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mikey B.
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogue
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
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
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
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
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.
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like walking.
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Trivia at random and ramblings at length. In dire need of an editor.
Dave Courtney
If you ignore the subtitles, "The Lost Art of Walking" might be a more apt representation of what this book accomplishes. And I use the word "might" rather loosely here, because for as much as the book is an anecdotal look at walking from the perspective of his personal meanderings littered with stories of a few very eccentric individuals (such as the Mudman), there is still a ton in this book that is either shoe horned in or has very little to do with walking at all.

Once you bring in the subti
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
sort of a rambling walk of a book rather than goal-oriented or particularly organized. I suspect you could randomly rearrange the chapters without loss of readability -- some walks he's taken and things/people he saw in NYC, in LA, in London; some movie scenes involving walking; a time he tripped and fell; song lyrics pertaining to walking; the old competitive super-long-distance walking scene that seems to have existed to attract gambling;..........

now that I look at it, it sounds absurd as the
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what I expected from this book, but what I got wasn't it. Maybe I was expecting some accounts of how people got around on foot, used it as their primary mode of transportation, but I feel like most of this book was about the author's, and others' past and present, ultrawalking expeditions. There were some truly interesting tidbits, such as a paragraph about a man in Los Angeles with no legs--nothing below the hips-- would would get around on handpads. And I *SWEAR* this is THE SAME ...more
Marty Sartini Garner
Nicholson has strong research skills and manages to find an interesting thread, but he's largely (not entirely, but largely) dismissive of the idea that walking might have any kind of internal or spiritual value beyond what I guess you'd call mental pain relief. He glosses over the _long_ history of pilgrimage (though he does engage with hajj and remains respectful, which is good), and he pours great contempt out on what he calls "new age" thinkers for whom walking is a kind of spiritual good on ...more
This is one of those books filled with odd facts and information about the most common of things: walking.

What made this not a five-star read was the organization of the book. It needed more cohesion, and more focus on the topics listed in the subtitle. That's a bit of a misnomer. A few times a topic would be mentioned and quickly followed by, but more on that later, which was a bit annoying.

The writing style is conversational and easy to read, with bits of humor tossed in here and there. If it
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting anecdotes about walkers and walking, interspersed with some dull bits. What concerned me most was the author's apparent obliviousness to the politics of walking and public space accessibility. While his intention isn't to explore every aspect of walking, Nicholson does mention multiple times feeling unsafe or walking in a manner designed to deter others. I found it hard not to read these moments in a tone of "well I haven't ever had trouble, so trouble must not exist" despite my will ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The cover represents this book as "The History, Science, Philosophy, Literature, Theory And Practice Of Pedestrianism" - well I found little of any of this. This is a set of chapters about the authors self-immersion in his own strolls. Oh sure, there is a bit of history, science, etc thrown in but it's extremely superficial considering the breadth and depth of opportunities a discussion on "walking" could encompass.
Donating my copy to the second-hand shops.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, rambling book about the author's experiences walking in, mostly, urban settings like New York and London. Anecdotes about books, films, people etc. round it out. I've done a lot (LOT) of walking in my time so I enjoyed reading about it and the mysterious urge to ramble all over the place. Intrigued by psychogeography - never heard of that before!
David Allen
Like most rambles with friends, Nicholson's book doesn't stick to the path, takes a lot of digressions and lightly touches on various conversational subjects with humor and without getting too deep. I was expecting something more, say, a section on walking in literature. But as a collection of anecdotes and musings, it was an easy read and Nicholson is a witty, entertaining guide.
Rod Hunt
I ambled through this interesting sidetrack from my normal reading diet. While at times I found the pace -pedestrian - and the author a bit too clever it was a good exercise. Now I’m out of this cul de sac and keen to get back to my usual tracks - which may be well worn but a bit more diverting than this.
Nick Swarbrick
Three stars is mean, I know; it’s just that this wasn’t quite what I was after: too personal for my taste but lacking the lyricism Macfarlane brings. Is this about the urban landscapes the author explores? I’m not sure. At any rate, not the book I was looking for it to be.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robin Petty
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't at all grabbed by the personal anecdote at the heart of chapter one and thought I was going to struggle with this book. However, when the author is writing about 'famous walkers' it becomes an absorbing, lighthearted, informative read. By two-thirds-in I was wholly enjoying it and looking forward to picking it up again. A book that 'gets into it's stride'.
Paul Kiczek
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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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
“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.” 15 likes
“It occurred to me, not exactly for the first time, that psychogeography didn't have much to do with the actual experience of walking. It was a nice idea, a clever idea, an art project, a conceit, but it had very little to do with any real walking, with any real experience of walking. And it confirmed for me what I'd really known all along, that walking isn't much good as a theoretical experience. You can dress it up any way you like, but walking remains resolutely simple, basic, analog. That's why I love it and love doing it. And in that respect--stay with me on this--it's not entirely unlike a martini. Sure you can add things to martinis, like chocolate or an olive stuffed with blue cheese or, God forbid, cotton candy, and similarly you can add things to your walks--constraints, shapes, notions of the mapping of utopian spaces--but you don't need to. And really, why would you? Why spoil a good drink? Why spoil a good walk?” 6 likes
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