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Wanderlust: A History of Walking

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  3,048 ratings  ·  395 reviews
This volume provides a history of walking, exploring the relationship between thinking and walking and between walking and culture. The author argues for the preservation of the time and space in which to walk in an ever more car-dependent and accelerated world.
Paperback, 328 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Verso (first published June 1st 2001)
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,048 ratings  ·  395 reviews

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Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites, kindle
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

Expansive and engaging, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust explores the history of walking in the West. Starting with Rousseau and the Romantics, Solnit argues, walking became self-conscious, and against the backdrop of the French Revolution and industrialization, the act started to accrue dynamic, democratic, and subversive cultural meanings it had never before held in Western societies. The author historicizes walking as
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Debbie Zapata
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dar
This was my second time reading this book, and I feel as ambivalent about it as I did the first time through. There is just so much in here that it feels a bit overwhelming. Here are two of the notes I made while reading:

June 9 ~~ First chapter was about philosophers and walking. A bit dull. Second was about how and why humans began to walk in the first place, and the debate was still raging at the time she wrote. That was more interesting. Now I am on a chapter about pilgrimages, which is anoth
Erik Graff
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I can imagine that some people are disappointed in this book, because it offers no conventional overview of the history of walking. It's more a collection of musings and digressions about all kinds of cultural-historical aspects of our civilization that are directly or indirectly linked with hiking: protest marches as secular successor of pilgrimages, the care for the environment, the harmful effect of suburbanisation, the relationship between female emancipation and hiking, the relationship bet ...more
Michael Morris
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Discursive, well-read, full of broad and rambling scholarship. Some chapters are literary criticism, some scientific, some urban planning history, some religious. One heartbreaking moment made me realize the book was published in precisely 2000—no later, no earlier. Less personal than A Field Guide to Getting Lost, but that's not this book's purpose.
More than a history of walking, this is an excuse for Solnit to write about things she's interested in: literature she enjoys, turn of the century prostitutes, urban planning, landscape painting, National Parks, shrubberies. The book itself is an unplanned walk, following trails that often veer off in unexpected directions or circle back to themselves, and thus feels less like a history than a collection of essays inspired by the act of walking.

There are gems to be taken to heart, such as...

Cheryl Kennedy
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Cheryl by: Maria Popova
"Walking, ideally, is a state of mind in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes finally making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without our being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being lost in our thoughts."

"Wanderlust's real pleasures resemble the pleasure of walking. It doesn't systematically press on toward a goal, but savors detail and varied pe
Aravindakshan Narasimhan
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Never thought walking had such a history. We may be familiar with gandhi, martin Luther king's marches. Various protest for various reasons, but the cultural phenomenon of walking from its supposedly Greek origins in peripatetic schools through aristocratic garden walks, to countryside walks by Rousseau, Wordsworth , Thoreau, to latest walkathon it has changed its form and metamorphosed completely. Pilgrimages of christians in new mexico ( santa fe) , paseo and corso ( Spanish speaking parts of ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book. If I was told 20 years ago that 20 years later I would be reading a book about the history of walking and giving it 5 stars I would have told my future self to get a life! The book is a study of walking from the past to the present. It looked at walking in a number of different angles (walking as a form of demonstration, walking for pleasure, fitness, walking as art etc) but ultimately it made me get of my butt and do some walking myself much to my wife’s annoyance who has bee ...more
At last! (Of course it took me a few days to be able to mark it read as well.)

I appreciate this book so much, in no small part because it brought together so many different facets of my own life and how I think about the spaces I move about in the world. One night, last week, as I was nearing the end, I put the book down and turned out the light, and so many thoughts were swirling in my head that I couldn't fall asleep.

My internal orientation as a walker didn't happen until I was a young adult,
Yigitalp Ertem
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: essay, audiobooks
The book starts with 24 epigraphs, you estimate how many references would be given in the actual essays.

It’s the far most comprehensive text I’ve read on the history of walking. The last collection of essays I’ve read was David Le Breton’s In Praise of Walking which cannot draw near to Solnit’s book. She contains and surpasses Le Breton.

Wanderlust starts with a pretty subjective form in the first chapter where Solnit opens up her personal passion for walking as an action in her personal life tha
Anyone truly possessed by wanderlust will find a compelling companion in the slightly rambunctious, delightful perambulation through the archaeology of walking. RS strikes a crisp rhythm, interlacing backstories, personal anecdote and historical reference, never lingering overlong but leaving intriguing signposts for the interested reader to follow.

I suppose I could sigh over routes not covered, but by the end of this journey I felt enriched and glad for the erudite and generous company.

I did ha
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An amazing testament to and on Walking. Perhaps the best book on walking I have read.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Wspaniała i pouczająca lektura. Rozdział poświęcony romantyzmowi można pominąć ;)
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Edit 11-01'18: make that 3 * for sure! After reading another book, partly about walking, that used Solnits book as a source & inspiration, I couldn't help not to think about this book and value all that research that was done.

Unfortunately I'm quite happy to be finished with this book. I won't get into much detail of all that Rebecca Solnit discusses here. Parts were interesting and fascinating, sure. Especially how walking can be, and is used as political and social criticism (and how the
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fic
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
Aug 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
History of the conceptualization, idea, & geography of walking. Begins with early modern walking, "rambling" , promenading, pacing, & strolling. Discusses spiritual, political, practical, & even artistic aspects of walking. This is a book I should have read 20 years ago when it first came out, especially the discussions of the political roles of walking or marching & about the modern view of walking's "obsolescence", & the modern city planning decisions that flowed from that ...more
As someone who takes every opportunity to walk, in part as a way to keep fit and as something I find makes me more meditative, I was very surprised to learn that so much could be said about it. But in "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" the author, Rebecca Solnit talks it in relation to the development of early human ancestors, politics, protest and civil disobedience, social status and much more. It has also given the author an opportunity to cover topics which she is very much interested in.

Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: walking
This will be the first book discussed for walking book club.
Philip Cherny
I enjoyed this read as a great provider of inspirational source material for a subject as banal and ubiquitous as walking, though I am very much already in Rebecca Solnit’s “pro-walking” camp, as I imagine most people who pick up the book would be, so her attempts at persuasion felt gratuitous, preaching to the choir. Fortunately her personal agenda only figures in as a minor aspect of the book, which appears more like an attempt to trace a sort of non-linear history of walking as a cultural and ...more
     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 wa
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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Rebecca Solnit is an American author who often writes on the environment, politics, place, and art. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including the Guardian newspaper and Harper's Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She is also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and to LitHub.

“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.” 135 likes
“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.” 110 likes
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