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

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A fascinating, definitive, and very personal rumination on the history, science, philosophy, art, and literature of walking, by a skilled cultural commentator. Geoff Nicholson, author of Bleeding London and Sex Collectors, turns his eye to the intellectual and cultural history of that most common of activitiesawalking. This simple, omnipresent activity has inspired numerou A fascinating, definitive, and very personal rumination on the history, science, philosophy, art, and literature of walking, by a skilled cultural commentator. Geoff Nicholson, author of Bleeding London and Sex Collectors, turns his eye to the intellectual and cultural history of that most common of activitiesawalking. This simple, omnipresent activity has inspired numerous subcultures, literary and artistic legacies, sporting events, personal memories, epic journeys, mystical revelations, and scandals. Itas a rich tradition that embraces such novelists as Charles Dickens and Paul Auster, musicians like Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan, and moviemakers from Buster Keaton to Werner Herzog. But itas also a tradition that includes obsessives and eccentrics, such as the artist Mudman, who coats his body in mud and then walks the city streets; competitive pedestrians such as Captain Barclay, who walked one mile an hour for a thousand successive hours; and gang members who use the hidden language of the aCrip Walka to spell out messages in the dirt with their scuffing. How we walk, where we walk, why we walk announces who and what we are. Geoff Nicholson is a master chronicler of the hidden subversive twists on a seemingly normal activity. He analyzes the hows, wheres, and whys of walking through the ages. He finds people who walk only at night, or naked, or for thousands of miles at a time, in costume, for causes, or for no reason whatsoever. Here, he brings curiosity and genuine insight to a subject that often walks right past us.


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A fascinating, definitive, and very personal rumination on the history, science, philosophy, art, and literature of walking, by a skilled cultural commentator. Geoff Nicholson, author of Bleeding London and Sex Collectors, turns his eye to the intellectual and cultural history of that most common of activitiesawalking. This simple, omnipresent activity has inspired numerou A fascinating, definitive, and very personal rumination on the history, science, philosophy, art, and literature of walking, by a skilled cultural commentator. Geoff Nicholson, author of Bleeding London and Sex Collectors, turns his eye to the intellectual and cultural history of that most common of activitiesawalking. This simple, omnipresent activity has inspired numerous subcultures, literary and artistic legacies, sporting events, personal memories, epic journeys, mystical revelations, and scandals. Itas a rich tradition that embraces such novelists as Charles Dickens and Paul Auster, musicians like Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan, and moviemakers from Buster Keaton to Werner Herzog. But itas also a tradition that includes obsessives and eccentrics, such as the artist Mudman, who coats his body in mud and then walks the city streets; competitive pedestrians such as Captain Barclay, who walked one mile an hour for a thousand successive hours; and gang members who use the hidden language of the aCrip Walka to spell out messages in the dirt with their scuffing. How we walk, where we walk, why we walk announces who and what we are. Geoff Nicholson is a master chronicler of the hidden subversive twists on a seemingly normal activity. He analyzes the hows, wheres, and whys of walking through the ages. He finds people who walk only at night, or naked, or for thousands of miles at a time, in costume, for causes, or for no reason whatsoever. Here, he brings curiosity and genuine insight to a subject that often walks right past us.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    There probably is an audience for this type of book, well, clearly if you read the rave reviews on this site. But it really isn't for me. Nicholson writes smoothly, but his style is a bit too journalistic. And above all: he puts himself in the spotlight so much that I lost sight of the fact that this is a book about my favourite pastime: walking! With such a preposterous title I had expected a lot more. Rebecca Solnit has some of these narcistic traits too, but her Wanderlust: A History of Walki There probably is an audience for this type of book, well, clearly if you read the rave reviews on this site. But it really isn't for me. Nicholson writes smoothly, but his style is a bit too journalistic. And above all: he puts himself in the spotlight so much that I lost sight of the fact that this is a book about my favourite pastime: walking! With such a preposterous title I had expected a lot more. Rebecca Solnit has some of these narcistic traits too, but her Wanderlust: A History of Walking is way more interesting!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    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 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 earnestness promised in the subtitle, The History, Science, Philosophy and Literature of Pedestrianism. In fact, the book starts off on a faux pas. The author trips, falls, and breaks his arm on page 2. The rest of the chapter is spent whining about his injury-induced depression. It’s at this point that I put the book down for two years. But almost every book deserves a second chance, and I was happy to find that after 50 pages of griping, self-pity, and name dropping, Nicholson finally gives us something hinted at in his title. Enter the Mudman, a performance artist who cakes himself with goo and ooze and bits of plywood and chicken wire, and in this guise walks across Los Angeles. A few pages later we meet Richard Long, who creates some of his art by literally stamping it into the ground. And then there are the in-your-face street photographers who capture the surprised expressions of those of us bold enough to venture outside our iron cocoons, and the psychogeographers who either drift about urban environments letting serendipity reveal hidden meanings in the landscape or purposefully walk paths that trace gigantic letters across the width of a city. And of course, we meet the competitive walkers, mostly Victorian oddities or showmen who perambulate great distances in short periods of time, sometimes clad in iron masks, pushing baby carriages, or covered from head to foot in a leather sheath. Like much of Nicholson’s work, The Lost Art is a book of the bizarre, a Believe It or Not! compendium of weird walking that would be easily put down were it not for his style. Watching Nicholson lace all these strange stories together, you may be reminded of Ovid, the ancient mythographer, whose Metamorphoses was another collection of remarkably odd tales stitched together in improbable but entertaining ways that leave you wondering How did we get here? At its best, Nicholson’s tone can be just as ironic as the old Roman’s, even though he often settles for a snarky smirk. Is there anything really new in this book? Not much. Nicholson’s not long on analysis. But what he gives us has been bundled up in an easy manner that’s rich with entertaining cultural allusions. It makes a fine rainy day read. And the bibliography serves as a fingerpost to several titles and Web sites that should uncover even more of the pleasures of pedestrianism.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    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 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 very nature of the habit of walking. The book covers a lot of ground - writers who write about walking, films that deal with walking, and interestingly enough - street photographers who have to walk for their picture taking process. There are also music references throughout the book regarding the subject matter of walking. Also a series of profiles on those who did walk, and the legendary walkers throughout history. He also comments on the issues of urban walking vs. a walk in the desert. It's a fun read, and Nicholson is all over the map, and quite opinionated as well. Not the ultimate Situationist text, or even close to it - but a (very) good book on the walk and walking in general.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    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 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, Movement, Movies", the author completely misses Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks. p. 160-161 "... I realized that walking away is one of life's greatest pleasures, whether it's walking away from a bad job, a bad relationship, a bad educational course..." probably not what I should be reading right now :) p. 220-221 "Why guild the lily?" is a fun saying p. 256, part of the whole conclusion, "The pace of words is the pace of walking, and the pace of walking is also the pace of thought."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    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 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 in the outlines of letters or runes or martini glasses anytime soon. Can't you just see this as your next ice-breaker at a party, "Have you ever walked in the shape of a martini glass?" And then find out how many inebriated people you could talk into doing it during the party.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    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. Betrayal. 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 about this 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. Betrayal. 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 about this lost art other than to say: “Damn, what a shame. No one walks in LA. But you *can* walk in large cities like LA, New York, or London… Sure most people don’t. Still more won’t. And you know what I’ve found? The stories of the place where you walk are often more interesting to tell than to talk about the science or history about walking itself.1 Behold. The lost art of walking… Watch me fill 200 plus pages with anecdotes about people who once walked & the places they walked.” And that’s what he’s done. 200 plus pages of drivel about people who walked & anecdotal stories about walks the author has taken in LA, NYC, & London. Stories about hidden places where you may discover on foot, but are just as likely to ignore. Now this is not to say that some of the stories aren’t compelling. There are bits about competitive walkers that were quite amusing. People testing their merits not with running, but with calculated & strategic endeavors to walk 1000 miles in 1000 hours or to walk across country in 100 days. And these stories are worthwhile. They speak to a time past, when extreme sports were less indicative of overcoming fears, and much more about overcoming self.2 However, these do not make up for the meaningless stories of Hollywood Star-walking tourist wandering about LA or the lack of any real or meaningful discussion of walking as an art, lost or otherwise. The book reminds me of a college paper some poor professor had to read. Well researched. Poorly executed. And if to make my point, the author ends abruptly, not with any summary or final conclusive thought, but with pride over his well formed bibliography of other author’s takes on the subject of walking. The only good that’s come from this book for me was the mostly unnecessary reminder that walking is good for clearing the head. Something which, upon completing this sadly composed book, I’m suddenly in great fucking need. 1DO NOT GIVE YOUR BOOK A FUCKING SUBTITLE IF YOU AREN’T PLANNING ON WRITING MUCH ABOUT THESE THINGS!!! 2seriously - if you think that 1000 miles in 1000 hours seems easy, try walking 5 miles in 5 hours - i promise you will find parts of you that will hurt far more than any 5 mile hike, no matter how arduous, has possibly inflicted.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    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 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 inaccuracies of title and subtitle and take a fine, diverting ramble through walk associated topics with Geoff Nicholson, a practioner of the art of pedestrainism. There are wonderful chapters on walking in LA, London, and New York. Good personal essay chapters (though the whole book is really a string of personal essays, thinly if cleverly connected) on why he chose the topic and his own walking to and from home, literally and metaphorically, are also entertaining. There are dry bits (the whole psychogeography theme, only partially helped by Nicholson’s skeptical, if not sarcastic take on it) and one or two gratitutious bits, one successfully entertaining and informative (slagging Chaplin, praising Keaton) and the other just lame and mean, albeit brief (New Age walking). The book has a couple of regrettable errors, one a typo, “In 1962, John F. Kennedy…discovered an executive order by Theodore Roosevelt in 1956,” which must be 1906, since Teddy have been dead for quite some time by 1956 and even longer out of office. His cousin Franklin was also long dead and out of office by 1956 too. So likely the right Roosevelt, definitely the wrong year. The other is just hyperbole of the lazy generalization kind, “If you’re looking for an argument when you’re walking in New York, you can find one on every block.” As a joke, it’s pedestrian. As an observation, it’s dependent on being as true in New York as it would be anywhere else. Minor irritations aside, Nicholson is smart, funny, well-read and a skilled and flavorful writer, making his book worth it to anyone interested in walking, the three cities he devotes chapters to, or fans of lively, entertaining non-fiction. As someone who views, or viewed, himself as something of a walker I found The Lost Art of Walking making me determined to pick up the pace and add some creativity to my own walking. Not a small gift.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Will Simpson

    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 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 and mis-adventures both as a young man and as an adult. The musings about when he was young woke memories in me. A sense of the philosophical "In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau writes, “The act of walking ... is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian; it is a special acting-out of the place ... and it implies relations among differentiated positions.”" I hope some of this ethos rubs off on my own adventures.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    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. 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vel

    Trivia at random and ramblings at length. In dire need of an editor.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Riley

    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 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. “Go as you please” races were popular, sometimes lasting several days. Competitors were free to walk or run and rest whenever. Winner was who got in first. I was fond of the sections on eccentrics and sacramental walkers: John Francis, aka Planet Walker, who walked for 17 years in silence (22 altogether) in many countries, partly inspired by an ecological accident in ’71; a couple of decades earlier, Peace Pilgrim (Mildred Ryder), who spent a good deal of her life walking across the US. My favorite quote comes from Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): ““The most pleasant of all outward pastimes is that of…strolling through pleasant scenery, to make a petty progress, a merry journey now and then with some good companions, to visit friends, see cities, castles, towns…to walk amongst orchards, bowers, mounts, and arbors, artificial wildernesses, green thickets, arches, groves, rivulets, fountains, and such like pleasant places….” Who wouldn’t have shaken the blues with habits like that?

  13. 5 out of 5

    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 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 subtitles though, the book very quickly (and obviously, in my opinion) betrays what it sets out to do. So if you are expecting him to touch on history, science, philosophy or walking in literature, this study of pedestrianism is a let down. That is not to say his vision remains completely allusive or hidden. He begins his book in a rather tedious fashion, using a rather ordinary event (he falls down while out walking) to set the tension moving forward for recognizing walking as an ordinary activity with extraordinary possibility, if we, as readers (and walkers) are able to understand why and how to walk well. And the author does set the stage for some interesting discussion. The relationship he sees to words (or writing) and walking, an idea that reemerges in the conclusion where he writes, "The pace of words is the pace of walking, and the pace of walking is also the pace of thought", is fascinating. He brings up a great point when he contrasts the statistical or structured walk with the natural meandering or unstructured nature of walking. I am a big fan of New York so I am glad he devoted some time to singling that out as its own cultural identity, even if he doesn't do it justice. He touches on the relationship of walking to mental health and well being. And I thought there was a lot more to explore in the idea he submits in his chapter on London of retreading the steps of the many who have gone before us in the well trod streets in order to create our own experience. But he merely sets the stage for these ideas before going off on stories that fail to really say much at all about the potential of these ideas. His chapter on walking and religion/spirituality was especially disappointing. It is true that the desert motif and setting is rich with opportunity, but again, he doesn't do anything with it. Similarly, the section on arts and culture (film, books, music) was a big let down as a chapter that basically strings together some random stuff with no real purpose. Perhaps the place where he drops the ball the most though is in his reflection on first and last walks. There was so much he could have done to relate this to the science of how and why we came to walk in the first place, moving this into a picture of our first steps after birth to stories of last walks. I get why he includes his mother's story, and it is a fitting one, but it fails to connect emotionally and personally to what I think he desires to show as a incredibly intimate, personal and yet communal act. Not what I had hoped for to say the least.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kris McCracken

    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! 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!

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    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 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 basis for a book, but I actually enjoyed it fairly well. Your reaction may vary according to whether you find the author kind of funny or not. His persona is prominent throughout -- doesn't just recap what people say about walking labyrinths or how meditative walking is for them or what have you but instead sticks in his own disdain for all things New Age, for example. I didn't agree with him all the time but did find him an engaging raconteur. Now that i'm finished, I'm fired up for a long walk I have on the docket tonight to get to/from a work-related event. Thanks, Geoff Nicholson!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hina

    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 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 MAN I've seen at the LA Marathon several times. I mean, who could forget someone with NO LEGS completing a marathon by using handpads? And considering the book was copyrighted in 2008, the timing makes sense as well. It could, of course, be another person, but it gives me delight that maybe, *maybe*, I know the person the author was talking about. Well, this book is most likely going BACK to the library donation pile. I bought at the library's used book sale, so I'll just complete that circle.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kerfe

    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 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, eccentric, strange, and ordinary. Walks competitive, musical, photographic, exploratory, spiritual, psychological, serious and fun. Country walks, city walks, desert walks and moon walks. Imaginary walks. Those taken and not taken. Nicholson meanders extensively in the places he has lived: London, L.A., New York. He tries group walking, organized walking, theme walking, solitary and accidental walking, even psychogeographical walking. It's a pleasure to accompany him.

  18. 5 out of 5

    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 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 out much of where we stroll today is man-made. When you attempt an actual wilderness trek it may not necessarily be a soulful and spiritual awakening. It can be a gruelling physical slog. No one can accuse Mr. Nicholson of having the blinders pulled over his eyes! Perhaps in future writing endeavours Mr. Nicholson could describe his own favourite walks and not so favourite walks – I would definitely be interested.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    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 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 Christopher McDougall. I so thoroughly enjoyed this book and Mr. Nicholson’s writing style that next time I am in a bookstore I am going to stroll over and check out the others he has written.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Imogen

    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 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 willingness to give him some benefit of the doubt.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jputters

    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. 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Neil Kenealy

    Anecdate after  amecdote after anecdote. I tried reading it backwards and it was just the same. Like reading a set of magazine articles with a guy at the bar interrupting every now and then with another story. Some were interesting enough. I stuck it out because i love walking and if you like walking this book is just about Ok

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I really like walking.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julianna

    I loved the subject matter. I think the subtitle got my hopes up and was a little overambitious for what is essentially a collection of personal essays. It had a healthy smattering of anecdotes about walking, and I was surprised to see just how pervasive walking is in the stories we tell, although I guess that is the point of writing about a quotidian activity. I did not know that pedestrianism was a competitive activity in the 1800s and I found those stories particularly delightful. There were I loved the subject matter. I think the subtitle got my hopes up and was a little overambitious for what is essentially a collection of personal essays. It had a healthy smattering of anecdotes about walking, and I was surprised to see just how pervasive walking is in the stories we tell, although I guess that is the point of writing about a quotidian activity. I did not know that pedestrianism was a competitive activity in the 1800s and I found those stories particularly delightful. There were parts that smacked heavily of the author's self satisfaction at his own ability to walk without believing himself superior to "non-walkers," and I wish he'd have just left it alone. The author's own musings about the relationship between walking & writing brought me right back to my college hiking & literature study abroad. The bibliography is great & will probably lead me to many of my next reads.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Loren

    What a strange book. Part memoir, part historical essay, part collections of lists of songs about walking... I'm not sure what the title led me to expect, but it wasn't that the author would fall down while walking in the first chapter -- and then be unable to walk (or work on this book) while he recuperated. That said, one of my favorite chapters in the book was the chapter the author spent walking around the town where he grew up. I'm fascinated by the way that memory layers in certain places. What a strange book. Part memoir, part historical essay, part collections of lists of songs about walking... I'm not sure what the title led me to expect, but it wasn't that the author would fall down while walking in the first chapter -- and then be unable to walk (or work on this book) while he recuperated. That said, one of my favorite chapters in the book was the chapter the author spent walking around the town where he grew up. I'm fascinated by the way that memory layers in certain places. Walking certainly gives one time to sift through those layers. I wish the book had contained more of that, rather that the judgmental chapter in which the author tries unsuccessfully to attend a conference of psychogeographers and then snarks about them. In these days when walking my city sometimes feels like I'm taking my life in my hands, I enjoyed reading about historical feats of long distance walking. I think I will continue my search for a truly inspiring book about walking.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    The Lost Art of Walking Geoff Nicholson (2010) All in all The Lost Art of Walking is an easy read – a collection of references to philosophers, artists, musicians, writers, photographers and walking. Richard Long who is concerned with human measurement of space and time uses walking as a major yardstick– A Line Made by Walking; 60 Minute Walk; Walking a Labyrinth…; Bruce Gilden, N.Y. photographer, If you don’t walk you’re not gonna get the picture; Henry James’s short story, Ghostly Rental; Bruce Chat The Lost Art of Walking Geoff Nicholson (2010) All in all The Lost Art of Walking is an easy read – a collection of references to philosophers, artists, musicians, writers, photographers and walking. Richard Long who is concerned with human measurement of space and time uses walking as a major yardstick– A Line Made by Walking; 60 Minute Walk; Walking a Labyrinth…; Bruce Gilden, N.Y. photographer, If you don’t walk you’re not gonna get the picture; Henry James’s short story, Ghostly Rental; Bruce Chatwin, Sacramental -Walkers; music no end of references; the Buster Keaton films etc. etc. Then, of course, spirituality and walking, Taoism and walking meditations; Buddhism and breathing; Islam and the journey to Mecca; Gandhi…;Guolin, stretching and cancer…. I don’t think I would recommend The Lost Art of Walking, I myself haven’t finished it. Good book for a rainy afternoon or two.

  27. 4 out of 5

    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 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 grounds that are purely aesthetic (which is to say that he quotes from people, offers up a counterpoint that's essentially "Can you believe this guy?" and then moves on). Particularly given his dogged insistence on his own individualist ideals, it comes across as smug and gross to dismiss other people's ideas without really engaging them. Plus he talks shit about Rebecca Solnit.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    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 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 was otherwise the reading would be slow going, or given up entirely. Overall it was an enjoyable read. Found myself looking up many things such as: movies, photographers and other books along the way. And, yes, it did make me want to take more walks!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    Geoff Nicholson’s exploration of our most ancient form of locomotion is an odd mix of science, cultural history, personal recollection, literary criticism and quite a few other things besides. Not that it’s any the worse for that; in fact it’s a strangely compelling book full of fascinating stories and larger than life characters. The most remarkable of these by far is Captain Barclay who in 1809 won a bet that he could walk a mile an hour every hour for a thousand hours, a feat that lasted for Geoff Nicholson’s exploration of our most ancient form of locomotion is an odd mix of science, cultural history, personal recollection, literary criticism and quite a few other things besides. Not that it’s any the worse for that; in fact it’s a strangely compelling book full of fascinating stories and larger than life characters. The most remarkable of these by far is Captain Barclay who in 1809 won a bet that he could walk a mile an hour every hour for a thousand hours, a feat that lasted for six weeks and which, against the odds, he managed to pull off. The most powerful chapter though is Walking Home, in which Nicholson revisits the routes he walked as a child in Sheffield, a moving mix of memory, confession, celebration and regret.

  30. 4 out of 5

    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.

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