Ever since I read Walking With Plato by Gary Hayden, I want to read more books about walking. I did a lot of searching and wanted to share the best books about walking with you as well. Some of them are philosophical, some of them are meditational, but all the books about walking here are inspirational.
I didn’t add books like Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Walking by Thoreau or A Walk In The Woods by Bryson to this list. They are obvious books when one thinks of books about walking. Here you’ll find books about walking but also books about how it changes us, as well as nature and landscape. Some of them are about great thinkers; some of them are about folk who love walking. Each book offers something different, but all books about walkingof them are inspirational. I hope they can make you get up and walk and eventually change. Ramble on!
Best Books About Walking
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot – Robert Macfarlane
Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths. That form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond. Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world – a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual. Of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations. One of the most popular books about walking.
In Praise of Walking – Shane O’Mara
Walking upright on two feet is a uniquely human skill. It defines us as a species. It enabled us to walk out of Africa and to spread as far as Alaska and Australia. Freed our hands and freed our minds. We put one foot in front of the other without thinking. Yet how many of us know how we do that, or appreciate the advantages it gives us? In this hymn to walking, neuroscientist Shane O’Mara invites us to marvel at the benefits it confers on our bodies and minds. And so urges us to appreciate – and exercise – our miraculous ability. If you want to read books about walking by a scientist, this one is for you.
The Living Mountain – Nan Shepherd
One of the classic books about walking. In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times. And so shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.
Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the ‘essential nature’ of the Cairngorms. Her quest led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains. And so on our imaginative relationship with the wild world around us. Composed during the Second World War, the manuscript of The Living Mountain lay untouched for more than thirty years before it was finally published. This comes to mind when one thinks of books about walking.
A Philosophy of Walking – Frederic Gros
If you are into philosophy, this one among books about walking. is for you. In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker. Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B. The pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble and so reveals what they say about us. Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice.
On his travels he ponders Thoreau’s eager seclusion in Walden Woods; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. He shows us how Rousseau walked in order to think, while Nietzsche wandered the mountainside to write. In contrast, Kant marched through his hometown every day, exactly at the same hour, to escape the compulsion of thought. Brilliant and so erudite. A Philosophy of Walking is an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other. One of the most interesting books about walking.
Wanderlust: A History of Walking – Rebecca Solnit
What does it mean to be out walking in the world, whether in a landscape or a metropolis, on a pilgrimage or a protest march? In this first general history of walking, Rebecca Solnit draws together many histories to create a range of possibilities for this most basic act. Arguing that walking as history means walking for pleasure and for political, aesthetic, and social meaning, Solnit homes in on the walkers whose everyday and extreme acts have shaped our culture, from the peripatetic philosophers of ancient Greece to the poets of the Romantic Age, from the perambulations of the Surrealists to the ascents of mountaineers.
With profiles of some of the most significant walkers in history and fiction – from Wordsworth to Gary Snyder, from Rousseau to Argentina’s Mother of the Plaza de Mayo, from Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet to Andre Breton’s Nadja – Wanderlust offers a provocative and profound examination of the interplay between the body, the imagination, and the world around the walker. If you love Rebecca Solnit, choose this one among books about walking.
The Lost Art Of Walking – Geoff Nicholson
An interesting choice among books about walking. Walking was once the only way to get around but now we just walk to the bus stop, station or car. Or we walk as a lifestyle choice – trekking holidays, charity walks, urban explorations. Geoff Nicholson’s The Lost Art of Walking brings pedestrianism back to the centre of life by musing on his own walks, reflecting on writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers who take walking as a subject, and by looking at some of the great walkers in history the competitive, the adventurous, the philosophical, the merely eccentric.
The book takes us far further than most would consider walking distance, from the Oxford Street of de Quincey’s London to the mean streets of Los Angeles. From the concrete canyons of New York City to the seven hills of Sheffield. By way of the British seaside and the deserts of America, Egypt and so Australia. Along the way it describes encounters with nude walkers, labyrinth walkers, psychogeographers, among many others. The Lost Art of Walking is discursive, imaginative, full of insight and sometimes downright hilarious. If you want to know other walkers, this one is a good choice among books about walking.
Walking: One Step at a Time – Erling Kagge
‘After having put my shoes on and let my thoughts wander, I am sure of one thing – to put one foot in front of the other is one of the most important things we do.’
From those perilous first steps as a toddler, to great expeditions, from walking to work to trekking to the North Pole, Erling Kagge explains that he who walks goes further and lives better.
Walking is a book about the love of exploration, the delight of discovery and the equilibrium that can be found in this most simple of activities. One of the best books about walking.
To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface – Olivia Laing
Over sixty years after Virginia Woolf drowned in the River Ouse, Olivia Laing set out one midsummer morning to walk its banks, from source to sea. Along the way, she explores the roles that rivers play in human lives, tracing their intricate flow through literature, mythology and folklore.
Lyrical and stirring, To the River is a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape – and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love. For the lovers of Lang, a good choice among books about walking.
In Praise of Paths – Torbjørn Ekelund
Torbjørn Ekelund started to walk—everywhere—after an epilepsy diagnosis affected his ability to drive. The more he ventured out, the more he came to love the act of walking, and an interest in paths emerged. In this poignant, meandering book, Ekelund interweaves the literature and history of paths with his own stories from the trail.
As he walks with shoes on and barefoot, through forest creeks and across urban streets, he contemplates the early tracks made by ancient snails and traces the wanderings of Romantic poets, amongst other musings. If we still “understand ourselves in relation to the landscape,” Ekelund asks, then what do we lose in an era of car travel and navigation apps? And what will we gain from taking to paths once again? Do you have to walk? Choose this one among books about walking.
Wanderers: A History of Women Walking – Kerri Andrews
This is a book about ten women who, over the past three hundred years, have found walking essential to their sense of themselves, as people and as writers. An essential choice among books about walking.
In a series of intimate, incisive portraits, Wanderers traces their footsteps, from eighteenth-century parson’s daughter Elizabeth Carter. Who desired nothing more than to be taken for a vagabond in the wilds of southern England. To modern walker-writers such as Nan Shepherd and Cheryl Strayed. For each, walking was integral, whether it was rambling for miles across the Highlands, like Sarah Stoddart Hazlitt. Or pacing novels into being, as Virginia Woolf did around Bloomsbury.
Offering a beguiling, alternative view of the history of walking. Wanderers guides us through the different ways of seeing ‐ of being ‐ articulated by these ten pathfinding women. One of the best books about walking.
The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and so rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
Neon Pilgrim – Lisa Dempster
During a culture-shocked exchange year in Japan, fifteen-year-old Lisa Dempster’s imagination is ignited by the story of the henro michi. An arduous 1200 kilometre Buddhist pilgrimage through the mountains of Japan.
Perfectly suiting the romantic view of herself as a dusty, travel-worn explorer (well, one day). She promises to return to Japan and walk the henro michi, one way or another, as soon as humanely possible.
Fast-forward thirteen years, and Lisa’s life is vastly different to what she pictured it would be. Severely depressed, so socially withdrawn, overweight, on the dole and living with her mum, she is 28 and miserable.
And then, completely by chance, the henro michi comes back into her life, through a book at her local library. It’s a sign. She decides then and there to go back to Japan almost immediately. To walk the henro michi, and walk herself back to health.
Brushing aside the barriers that other people might find daunting – the 1200km of mountainous terrain. The sweltering Japanese summer, the fact she has no money and has never done a multi-day hike before. Lisa is so determined to walk the pilgrimage, or die trying. One of the best books about walking.
How To Walk – Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Walk is part of a charming series of books from Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, exploring the essential foundations of mindful meditation and so practise.
Focussing on mindful walking, Nhat Hanh explains how this technique can diminish depression, recapture wonder and so help us to express sincere gratitude.
Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are – John Kaag
Hiking with Nietzsche is a tale of two philosophical journeys in the Swiss Alps. One made by John Kaag as an introspective teenager, the other seventeen years later in radically different circumstances. As a husband and so father with his wife and small child in tow.
Kaag travels to the peaks above Sils Maria where Nietzsche routinely summered, and where he wrote his mysterious landmark work. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Both trips are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Yet they bring Kaag to radically different revelations about the human condition.
Entertaining, intimate and thought-provoking, Hiking with Nietzsche explores not only Nietzsche’s ideals but how his philosophy relates to us in the 21st century. It is about defeating complacency, balancing sanity and so madness and coming to grips with the unobtainable.
As Kaag hikes into the high places, alone or with his family, but always with Nietzsche, he finds that the process of climbing and the inevitable missteps give one the chance, in Nietzsche’s words, to ‘become who you are’. Even when we think it too late to change, this most controversial of thinkers can inspire the rediscovery of meaning.
Check out my other lists about books!
Do you like reading about walking? Are there any books that inspire you? Share with me your best books about walking, please, in the comments section.