WAYS OF WALKING
Edited by Ann de Forest
Is walking a subversive act?
For the authors of this book, it can be.
Ways of Walking brings together 26 writers who reflect on walks they have taken and what they have discovered along the way. Some walk across forbidden lines, violating laws to seek freedom. Some walk to bear witness to social injustice. Still others engage in a subtler subversion—violating the social norm of rapid, powered transportation to notice what fast travelers miss.
Through walking, these authors become more attuned to the places they move across, more attentive to intricate ecologies and layered histories—and more connected to themselves as well. Their small steps of rebellion lead to unexpected discoveries.
The volume includes writers of national renown such as Tom Zoellner, Ruth Knafo Setton, and Rahul Mehta, as well as contributors in other fields, from photography to music to archaeology.
The editor, Ann de Forest, is a California native who has been living and writing in fairly happy exile in Philadelphia for more than three decades. An expert in the urban landscape and the resonance of place, she is a contributing writer for Hidden City Daily and editor of Extant Magazine. Her poems, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and in The Best Short Stories of Philadelphia.
Nonfiction, 264 pages
paperback / $18.95 / ISBN 978-1-7355585-2-3
ebook / $9.95 / ISBN 978-1-7355585-3-0
“Walking’s pleasures are infinite, and those in Ways of Walking hardly less so. Editor Ann de Forest has assembled an eloquent team of rambling writers who offer readers intriguing discoveries at every turn of the page. The twenty-six essays assembled here contain fresh takes on city streets and foggy mountaintops, haunting riversides and dicey edgelands. Often, the celebrated wonders of walking stand aside to let danger, disability, and discouragement have their say, too. One high point is a self-doubting pilgrimage through library vaults to commune with the climate-controlled notebooks of Henry David Thoreau. In 1851 Thoreau advised himself, ‘Probe the universe in a myriad points.’ That could be the epigraph for this rewarding volume. Whether you take your steps in ten-league boots or bedroom slippers, you will find insight and inspiration a-plenty in these stimulating pages.”
—William Sharpe, Barnard College, author of The Art of Walking: A History in 100 Images (Yale University Press)
“Put one foot in front of the other. These 26 thoughtful, troubled and inspired writers have done just that, and they’ve brought back rich insights that remind us that walking is the most literary of exercises. Ways of Walking is really about the myriad ways we experience the world when we encounter it intimately, without the mediating devices of modern life.”
—Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer, author of Becoming Philadelphia
“This rich, readerly collection of essays on the multiple possibilities open to us as members of a species constitutively shaped by its ability to walk on two feet is, simply, inspiring. Its writers vividly record the travails and the triumphs of their travels on foot, in ways that force us to reconceptualise our relationship both to the environments we inhabit and to one another. The book is a moving, endlessly stimulating invitation to walk, to think, and to rethink walking.”
—Matthew Beaumont, author of The Walker: On Finding and Losing Yourself in the Modern City
“Philosophy or personal revelation, pilgrimage or reminiscence, each essay raises its own questions, shines its own light on the human dilemma. How to get home, how to be a singular body in this world. What to do with memory? With loss? Where are we from, where are we going? Is civilization to be cured by the wild? Or is civilization of rich human interest for its own sake? The provocative element of the volume is that it seeks not to provide an answer, or even 26 of them, but rather transfers the questions from its authors to us, to do with what we will.”
—Janet Fitch, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Ways of Walking, a spectacular new collection of twenty-six essays, ruminates on walking and the places it can take us.... Drop into any essay and you’ll find someone with an issue on their mind, perhaps examining an ecologically destructive manmade lake in Chile, or following Virginia Woolf’s footsteps in London, or contemplating three centuries of Black history in Philadelphia.”
—Joe Samuel Starnes, Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Ways of Walking—a spirited, surprising, often profound book of essays…—limns pathways through Chicago streets and Jordanian hills, across the pedestrian-unfriendly freeways of Los Angeles and the basalt stones of the Via Appia Antica, the ancient Roman road.
The anthology also illuminates ways of walking: as joyful exploration or meditative practice, as resistance and trespass, toward a destination or with the journey as its own reward.
The 26 essayists include a woman who uses a wheelchair, a Black man writing to his deceased father about walking around Philadelphia, a Korean immigrant who traverses former Native pathways spanning from downtown Chicago, and a man whose father lost, from dementia, the ability to self-navigate on foot. That inclusivity reminds us that our gender, race, size, cognitive ability, and physical condition all shape how and where and why we walk.…
This book left me hopeful. Amid obstacles and oppressions, despite exiles and forced marches, humans continue to get up and walk—in sorrow, for justice, with joy—a slow, incremental journey that changes us with every step.”
—Anndee Hochman, Broad Street Review
“Ways of Walking is about more than walks; it’s about what we discover when we’re walking, both about the world and inside ourselves....
There are pilgrimages in this collection, and days-long walks in search of ancient Roman roads, journeys to look for the tracks of Indigenous lives, and Indigenous history, in North and South America. The essayists wrestle with what walking means for disability and agency—how a walk is restricted not by one’s disability but by failures to build a world that meets everyone’s needs. And the writers stare forcefully at racism and fear....
Walking is how we remind ourselves that we belong both in the world, and in our bodies. That those bodies are miraculous, and also highly politicized....
We are all just looking to be at home with this world. Even when that belonging is elusive, walking can lead us to find a home in our bodies and minds, within ourselves.”
—Antonia Malchik, author of A Walking Life