Inspired by Verso Books’ excellent Guide to Political Walking, below is my guide to books that effortlessly combine walking, with musing about culture, literature, politics and geography, a form of exercise that I endorse.
- Wanderlust – Rebecca Solnit
- A Time of Gifts – Patrick Leigh Fermor
- Wildwood – Roger Deakin
- The Wild Places – Robert Macfarlane
- The Arcades Project – Walter Benjamin
- London Orbital – Iain Sinclair
- Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways – Phil Smith
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit
- Psychogeography by Will Self
- The Lost Art of Walking – Geoff Nicholson
I’ll also point you to Paul K. Lyons’ compelling straight line walk across London, which some enterprising publisher ought to pick up.
Please make suggestions of any books that ought to expand this list.
Interesting list. I was wondering if you’re the one who asked suggestions from the Paris Review. It had several recommendations (here, including the comments). Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn can also be considered.
Thanks, I missed that Paris Review list and it’s very good. How could I forget ‘The Rings of Saturn’?
This may be completely off topic, but I thought of Remainder by Tom McCarthy.
Off topic or not, it’s a brilliant book, isn’t it? Have you read other McCarthy books?
Sorry for the late answer, no I haven’t, I don’t read much fiction now. My bestfriend read it and was haunted by it, so she gave it to me and I have to say that it stayed in my mind for a long time…
I’ve only just started reading Open City, by Teju Cole, but it seems like a perfect fit for your list — the narrator wanders the streets of Manhattan. Lots of people have compared it to Sebald (whom I’ve never read).
I loved Open City, Isabella, and missed it and Sebald’s Rings of Saturn. The list above is essentially non-fiction; it might be fun to do a separate list of only fictional works.
Remainder is marvellous, not sure it’s a walking book though.
Fascinating list Anthony. Are there any you’d single out for particular praise or criticism?
The Benjamin always looks perhaps just a tad daunting.
Of the ten books, there are three that stand out as superlative: the two by Rebecca Solnit and Deakin’s Wildwood. These are rich, luminous works I return to repeatedly and find new depths.
Paddy Leigh Fermor’s book is enchanting, with the added historical piquancy of being narrated in the very early days of the Nazis, before their abuses were manifest.
The others are curios, all fascinating in their own very different ways. The Arcades Project is lesser Benjamin, but offers an insight into the flâneur, an archetype I am very drawn to.
Teju Cole’s Open City.
Thanks for commenting and for the suggestion, also made by Isabelle. I’m going to have to do some research and draw up a separate list of walking, thinking fictions.
This is a great list, and I plan on saving it to add to my list of books to read. What about Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals? She does a prodigious amount of walking in them.
Thanks, Rebecca. I’ve been reading extracts of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals here: http://www.wordsworth.org.uk/history/index.asp?pageid=219, they are very enjoyable. I wish I knew better the landscape they address.
Thanks for commenting, Tracy, glad you enjoyed the post.
Three Novellas by Thomas Bernhard will fit. One of the three is even called “Walking”.
Nice suggestion, thank you, Rise.