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on January 14, 2014
This is a memorable book. It proceeds at its own pace, drawing the reader in slowly but inexorably until it is only with the greatest reluctance that can one take a break in reading. The book is about walking, landscapes, and the mutual effects of landscapes on people and of people on landscapes. But that short summary does not do it justice, nor can I find one that does. The only way to find out is to read it and be patient, just let the author’s writing work its magic on you.

The paths that Macfarlane takes us on are varied, sharing only that they are old and traditional. Their precise location is not important, nor is their length. What we gain from this book is insight into the nature of the relationship between people and natural places, how places shape people just as people shape places

Several people, living and dead, accompany Macfarlane on his perambulations. We learn little about their personal lives, or about Macfarlane himself. This does not matter; even the living have dematerialized, become, like the dead, wraiths of the landscape. The one exception is Edward Thomas, a walker and writer whose life straddled the end of the Nineteenth Century, who recurs throughout the book. Macfarlane devotes the penultimate chapter to the story of Edward’s life and death. Thomas’s life turns out to be unexceptional: Except in his passion for the English landscape, his personal life was one of mundane selfishness. This chapter jarringly broke the spell with which the book had captured me: The final short chapter being insufficient to heal the wound. Notwithstanding this disappointing ending, the book is one of the best that I have ever read and will remain in my mind for a very long time.
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on May 10, 2013
Robert Macfarlane writes well and engagingly, and THE OLD WAYS does not disappoint the reader. You join Macfarlane for his wanderings and it is every bit like taking a long and interesting walk with an erudite good friend. And, like all good friends, you may not always agree (I found one of Macfarlane's disparaging references to another author both out of place and petty) but that doesn't wreck the trip. Most of the historic references and mentions of other authors, particularly W.H. Hudson, made me want more information. I like a book that peaks interests and broadens your horizons without being preachy or pedantic. This was my first experience with Macfarlane and I am quite sure it will not be my last.
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on December 4, 2013
This is a wonderful book for anyone with a deep sense of place, any place. Walking for pleasure is always a mediation on place, a way to engage with world around us on many levels. While I've never walked in any of the places described in the book, I've spent much of my life walking the old ways of the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. Macfarlane has taught me more about seeing my personal geography in a new light than most of the trail guides and maps occupying my bookshelves. If there is some place that you keep returning to in your dreams, this is the book for you.
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on April 23, 2017
Great book! I am a big fan of Macfarlane. I ordered this book both in print format and as an audiobook (Audible). The writing is superb!
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on August 7, 2017
Wow, what a book on meaning and connection, and so well written. A wonderful book for your own memory of what's really real, and important ~ the ancient cultures and footpaths that have known and loved the land as source of self and community. Very moving and inspiring.
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on November 23, 2012
I just got back from walking the Camino de Santiago and found this book from a review in The New Yorker. I read the sample chapter and was hooked! I just wish that I'd read it before embarking on my 500 mile/35 day walk! It isn't even about the Camino - instead it is about every walk or trail... for anyone that enjoys walking... whether you are an armchair adventurer or a global wanderer, this is a magical book about the philosophy, magic, myths, geology, and history of walking your Way.
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on January 28, 2014
The writing is gorgeous. The tales Macfarlan tells of finding and walking (or boating) the old paths and routes in England are mesmerizing. Don't plan to rush through this book. Take your time. Enjoy the walks with him. Savor the trip. You won't regret it.
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on June 26, 2015
Inspiring, evocative and poetically written. Macfarlane has a great eye for the fine captivating detail and a love of the mysteries of place and people he encounters along the wondrous journeys.
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on March 18, 2013
You don't have to be a walker to enjoy this book, but you just might become one. For the author, walking opens windows to the past. Wherever he is -- the British Isles, Spain, Palestine, Tibet -- he seeks out the old "ways" -- roads, pathways and even seaways that are sometimes centuries old, often forgotten but still alive with the energy of their original travelers. By putting his boots on the ground (and sometimes going without any shoes at all) he puts himself in touch with the world around him in a way that those of us who travel mostly by car and plane cannot experience. When I finished this book, I wanted to get out there and start exploring more of the world on foot.
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on December 21, 2013
Having hiked all over Northern California for years, The Old Ways made me want to get out and walk and explore again. Having moved to Arkansas recently, I've been told the hiking around here is excellent, so I will head out again in the spring. Macfarlane's writing is top notch. He has an amazing vocabulary, and luckily there is a glossary included. I loved this book!
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