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A Philosophy of Walking Hardcover – April 8, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781682704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781682708
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Philosopher Gros ponders walking, that most mundane mode of transportation or exercise, elevating it to its rightful place in inspiring creativity, evoking freedom, and quieting a troubled soul. Whether taking a leisurely wandering stroll or a purposeful trek along an assigned path, when walking we are reduced to “a moving two-legged beast,” momentarily detached from obligations. Beyond his own perambulations, Gros evokes the wanderings of Kerouac and Ginsburg. Nietzsche walked to restore his health and get release from debilitating migraines, until he could walk no more. Rimbaud walked Paris to release his creativity. Nerval walked to ease his melancholy. Rousseau found inspiration only when walking, pondering memories and dreams. And of course, Thoreau walked to commune with nature and meditate. Gros examines the creative philosophies of these writers, artists, and thinkers so deeply influenced by the simple act of walking. He also examines the long journeys, pilgrimages, and protest walks of so many others in this fascinating look at the not-so-simple act of walking. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“Philosopher Gros ponders walking, that most mundane mode of transportation or exercise, elevating it to its rightful place in inspiring creativity, evoking freedom, and quieting a troubled soul.” – Booklist

“This elegant book inspires consideration of an oft-overlooked subject.” – Publisher's Weekly

"Frédéric Gros asks why so many of our most productive writers and philosophers — Rousseau, Kant, Rimbaud, Robert Louis Stevenson, Nietzsche, Jack Kerouac — have also been indefatigable walkers … there are certain magical things that happen on the trail, and Gros is familiar with them.
He thinks like a hiker."— Financial Times


"An admirable little book which will delight even the most sedentary."—Le Monde

"An unclassifiable book in which ideas are illuminated by the bright light of the morning."—L'Express

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on February 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What we have here is a number of short chapters, each having to do with walking in some way. The emphasis is on public and literary figures who did a lot of walking (Nietzsche, Gérard de Nerval, Rimbaud, Gandhi etc.) or who mention walking in their writing (Proust's Guermantes and Swann's Ways, for example). The book is clearly inspired by and modeled on Thoreau's long essay Walking, which is available for free on the internet and is very much worth reading or re-reading. Like Thoreau, the author goes quite far afield, using walking as a jumping-off place for his own personal ideas, which often seem like random personal comments and biographical summaries of the authors mentioned. I had hoped to hear more on just what how they used walking to shape their ideas, or how their ideas shaped their walking activities, but the author just seemed to use walking as a clothesline to hang some of his own views on. Some of the chapters do have interesting and perceptive comments: as he points out, sporting events typically involve an attempt to overcome gravity, while walking is a matter of yielding to it: completing it, rather than transgressing it, as he puts it (of course, I might have disagreed with this while walking up Mount Katahdin a couple years ago).

Gros doesn't give much insight into the role of walking in today's society: why is it that instead of walking and climbing in the open air, people willingly pay hundreds of dollars to gyms to use treadmills and stair climbers, activities which served as punishment for criminals in previous centuries! And the book short-changes long-distance hikes like the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and similar hikes in Europe.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on January 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved the idea of a book on the philosophy of walking and looked forward to hearing philosopher Gros’ musings on the subject as well as his depiction of the thoughts of walkers like Thoreau, Rimbaud, Nietzsche, and Kant. Unfortunately, I found the book almost unreadable and certainly not the stimulant for personal enlightenment that I had envisioned.
This is a translated work, and at least part of the problem may be with the translation. The prose is awkward and abstruse and contains many words whose definitions I could not find even with Google, such as “mediatic”, “articial” (This MAY have been a typo for “artificial”, although “artificial” does not seem to fit in the sentence.), and “marasmus”, all in the first 14 pages. It read like the work of someone whose English was not too good trying to sound erudite. I was reading an advance reader’s copy, so typos are not unexpected, but normally I can puzzle out what the word should have been. In too many cases here, I could not solve the puzzle.
It is clear, though, that the translation is not the only problem with the book. I realized after reading the first few chapters and perusing the chapter titles that this is actually 25 short essays on walking. Unfortunately these are generally too short to be satisfactory individually, and the overall impression the reader gets is of a serious lack of coherence or continuity. Perhaps if the author had included an introductory essay laying out his overall thesis on the subject of walking and its place in our lives and characterized the chapters as elaborations and variations on this thesis, it would have held together better as a unified work.
Gros also seems to expect an unreasonable amount of knowledge on the part of the reader.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jayne P. Bowers VINE VOICE on April 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A daily walker who believes strongly in the power of the "E-word" (exercise), I jumped at the chance to order this book. What I expected was a series of essays about the author's walking experiences and his insights and epiphanies during these experiences. I was wrong. This book is much, much more than that.

Divided into 25 short chapters, the reader can begin with Chapter One and continue in a systematic chapter-by-chapter manner, or she can jump around, start at the end and work backwards, or dip into the book and read selected paragraphs at random. Whatever the reading choice, the passages are thought provoking and informative.

I started with Chapter One, "Walking is Not a Sport," and then moved on to Chapter Three about Nietzsche. I knew that he was an almost fanatical walker, but I didn't know that he became mad and was cared for by his mother who "washed and tidied him, consoled him, took him for walks, watched over him night and day. For seven years." I also learned that Rousseau claimed to be incapable of thinking properly or finding inspiration except when he was walking. And then there's Gandhi who valued the spiritual and political benefits of walking.

The book is a must-read for walkers. Not only will they get those "aha moments" when reading the author's insights, but they will also learn much about famous folks who have loved the activity of being out in nature strolling, ambling, marching, tromping, striding, or traipsing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By QuinnCreative VINE VOICE on February 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Walking is not a random undertaking. It is a philosophy of life, a way to solve problems, and a way to figure out who we are and what our life is about. The book is a series of stories about famous walkers, from Nietzsche through Rimbaud, Rousseau and Thoreau. All mentioned walking in their journals or writings. There are sections on Energy and Cynicism, all considered part of the philosophy of walking.

The book is a translation, and is not a light, easy read. There are problems in the translation, which seems to be less interpretation and more exact translation of the philosopher Frederic Gros's words. I found it heavy going in spots. OK, in a lot of spots.

I had hoped for more story-telling, more reasons that walkers walk, how they solve problems. The book is more about what Gros's philosophy is, illustrated by the stories of walkers. Of course, that's his prerogative, but it would have made it easier for me to follow his thinking if he had written a short introduction to each chapter, explaining why he chose this person or this story.
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