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The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism Hardcover – November 20, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Setting foot in a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does, says Nicholson (Sex Collectors), and mundane though walking may be, Nicholson tells us in this leisurely, charmingly obsessive literary stroll, pedestrianism is not without drama, from pratfalls like the one in which he broke his arm on an innocuous Hollywood Hills street to getting lost in the desert of western Australia. Walks, he reminds us, have inspired writers from Thoreau and Emerson to Dickens and Joyce, as well as musicians from Fats Domino to Aerosmith. Nicholson guides readers from the streets of L.A.—where walkers are invariably regarded with suspicion—to New York City and London. He considers the history of eccentric walkers like the competitive pedestrian Capt. Robert Barclay Allardice, whose early 19th-century walking feats gave him the reputation of a show-off. From street photographers to perfect walks—the first at the Poles, the first on the moon—and walks that never happened, Nicholson's genial exploration of this most ordinary, ubiquitous activity is lively and entertaining. (Nov.)
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"A leisurely, entirely delightful ramble through the history and lore of walking."
-Washington Post Book Review

"This book is no mere miscellany, but the story of a man's love affair with the oldest means of locomotion: one foot in front of the other..."
-The Economist

"Perfect for the armchair walker."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Anyone who enjoys excellent nonfiction should enjoy."
-Chicago Sun-Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (November 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159448998X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489983
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,445,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This may all sound rather dull but it isn't.
Nicholson writes in a very easy-to-read conversational style that makes you feel you are walking along with him as your mind overflows with ideas and trivia.
Paul Kiczek
It got off to a great start but that actually turned out to be a rut.
Beth Quinn Barnard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jay C. Smith on February 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism
If you have about four free hours available you could either read this book or go for an extended walk. Provided your surroundings are sufficiently inviting and it is a pleasant day, you may prefer the walk.

Nicholson is not promoting walking as a social cause. He believes we cannot expect grand changes in people's willingness to walk when they have more convenient alternatives available. He says that he himself walks not because it is environmentally correct, but because it keeps him sane and it helps him write.

The book is a ramble, a wandering. Do not expect systematic accounts of the history, science, philosophy, or literature of pedestrianism, as the subtitle suggests. Instead, what you will get is a potpourri of ruminations, many only tangentially related to walking, held together only by the thread of Nicholson's own idiosyncratic preoccupations.

Fortunately, Nicholson seems to be an interesting fellow, one you might want to accompany on a good walk. His polished and lightly humorous essay style keeps things moving.

Some of the author's material comes from his own walks. I found his chapter on walking in Los Angles more compelling than those on New York and London, perhaps partly because walking in Los Angeles is not an activity that is often commended. It will help sustain your interest if you are at least vaguely familiar with his featured locations.

Nicholson also draws from literature, film, music, photography, and painting. A few of his choices may enhance your understanding or appreciation for walking; most likely will not.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Don't look for some great hidden message in Geoff Nicholson's lively and all-encompassing survey of the ways we undertake one of the most fundamental human actions: walking. There isn't one. Instead, this gifted writer, who admits that he goes for walks wherever he finds himself -- Los Angeles, the southwestern desert, London -- to both ward off depression and help him to write, takes his readers on a compelling journey through the world of walkers.

Starting with the nature of the word "walk" itself, and ending with significant journeys of all kinds (from epic walks across Africa and walking on the moon to how Albert Speer kept himself sane during his years in prison by pacing off the distance between Berlin and Heidleberg), Nicholson's book is a joy to read. It is crammed full of the kind of anecdotes and tales that make your eyes open wider (did you know that an avid walker discovered the idea behind Velcro because of his walks?) and sometimes cause you to laugh out loud. He points to his favorite "walking songs" (and notes that Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' is really about sex, not walking), and his favorite walks in movies (Fred Astaire strolling through Paris in Funny Face makes the grade, for instance.) Street photography and psychogeography come in for their share of attention, too. His knowledge feels encylopaediac, but he never sounds pompous. Rather, the reader ends up feeling Nicholson's urge is to share these tidbits to spread the enjoyment around rather than to show off.

Particularly intriguing is the lost art of competitive pedestrianism, a phenomeonon of the 18th and 19th centuries during which its practitioners undertook such feats as walking one mile an hour (and only one mile each hour) for a thousand straight hours.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Josie Jean on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Geoff Nicholson's exceptionally well-written book is a fascinating compilation of every aspect of walking. He enthralled me with tales of literary, eccentric, competitive, political, moon, inventor, artistic and recreational walkers...detailing many of their remarkable feats. His walking experiences and unusual people/things he's seen were delightfully described. I was intrigued by interesting walking tours, expeditions, journeys, songs with "walk" and walking scenes in movies. Mr. Nicholson astounded and entertained me with his impressive knowledge of walking! Amusing stories and trivia provided many laugh-out-loud moments. I really, truly loved this book because it greatly enhanced my cognizance of walking. Many of Mr. Nicholson's insightful comments gave me alot to think about. My favorite is...simply going for a walk is an invitation to a surprize! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS READ!!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By artgolfer on February 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am 70 and like books on walking. I started out a few years ago with a pedometer and a desire to walk 10,000 steps a day. Then I raised it to 10,500 and now to 11,000. I was looking for any book that might give me a new slant and encourage me to walk even more and enjoy it by employing a new approach, etc., etc. But this book (to me) was a complete waste of my money and time. It was rambling and incoherent but, more important than that, I found it so boring I didn't even finish it. I'm not an accomplished writer or reviewer but I do have a short message if you're trying to decide whether to get this book or not--DON'T!!!! I'm a voracious reader and for me not to finish a book is very unusual. I'm probably not being totally fair but I feel ripped off.
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