Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Rebecca Solnit

Book cover

It’s interesting for me to compare this book with “On Trails,” another nonfiction book about walking that I recently finished reading. To some extent, I could make the same criticism of Wanderlust that I did of OT–it attempts a sort of comprehensiveness that I’m not sure it needs to attempt, and I felt like I might have enjoyed it more as a series of articles than as a book. (Again, my completionism as a reader may be somewhat to blame.) But on the other hand, Solnit is a wonderful writer. She has an admirable ability to write about issues of justice relating to seemingly non-political topics (such as walking) without seeming at all preachy. It helps that she writes a lot from personal experiences that were clearly not specifically oriented toward writing a book, but rather just a part of the fabric of her life. I come away from her writing with a very strong feeling that she writes from the heart, though I’m sure in reality this involves a lot of hard work. Her discussions of the class- and gender-related aspects of walking as a pastime are quite compelling, and I learned about several things I didn’t know of before, such as Peace Pilgrim. My only complaints would be that, later in the book, she writes rapturously about some performance art that frankly seemed very unengaging to me, and while she takes a critical eye to ideas about the virtue of walking outdoors, she seems totally uncritical of the virtue of walking in the big city; in a way, it seems like she has traded in one type of romanticism for another. But really, she’s a great writer and you should read her!

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars