Best Foot Forward
The inspiration from wanderings, both lonely as a cloud and collective
It’s time to get outside. Go for a walk. The days are lengthening, the nights are warming and the lethargy of winter is peeling away to reveal a new spring in your step. We love to see people holding a book as they walk the trails of Bur-Mil or the sidewalks of Elm Street. To that end, we’ve included books on walking, marching, perambulating and traipsing.
“I believe walks are miracles — which can help me learn, like nothing else, about a nation or myself . . .” is Rory Stewart’s contention in The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland (Houghton Mifflin, 2016, $27). The book is a walking exploration that peels back the layers of history in the ancient land that has been inhabited by Picts, occupied by Romans, invaded by Vikings and still questions its national identity in the 21st century.
Walking, wandering and aimlessness figure prominently in Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead Books, 2014, $16). A young actor in an unnamed Latin American country joins a ragtag guerrilla theater group comprised of older actors previously persecuted by the regime, now ready to take to the countryside with a new political play. In the course of the tour, a term we use lightly, in hillside and mountain towns where no one has seen theatre before, Nelson discovers a country that he never knew existed. Alternately magical and brutal, with a deep mystery at its core, Alarcón’s novel explores art, humanity and the persistence of not-knowing.
The modern naturalist and hiker’s next reading list should without question include Robert Moor’s On Trails: An Exploration (Simon & Schuster, 2016, $25). Framed loosely around his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail but delving into topics from sheep herding in Arizona to fossilized trilobite tracks in Newfoundland, Canada, this book explores the world of footpaths across time and geography. Know that, much like the trails Moor treads throughout, the narrative often wanders, reading more like a book of essays than one continuous narrative, but for this subject matter the format somehow works. A great pick for fans of Annie Dillard and Bill Bryson,
On Trails will inform, surprise and give you the itch to hit the trail.
Congressman John Lewis is an authority on taking steps of a different sort. His three-volume graphic novel March (Topshelf, 2013–2016, $16), co-written with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, is based on his own life and includes important Civil Rights’ moments like the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma March. Walking has never been more necessary.
In her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Penguin, 2001, $18), Rebecca Solnit writes, “A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities.” Wanderlust finds Solnit exploring the seemingly inexhaustible possibilities presented by walking. She highlights a few famous walkers — mountaineers, philosophers, poets — whose perambulations have helped shape our culture. As the pace of life in the 21st century continues to accelerate, Solnit’s book on slowing down and taking one’s time will continue to be as relevant as it was when it was written.
New Releases for March:
March 7: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf, $15). Another easy to absorb, matter-of-fact treatise from MacArthur winner Adichie.
March 14: Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism, by Camille Paglia (Pantheon, $26.95). For an entirely different analysis of 21st-century feminism, try Paglia.
March 21: The 1997 Masters: My Story, by Tiger Woods (Grand Central, $30). Probably has nothing to do with feminism, but a lot to do with walking!
March 28: The Bloody Mary: The Lore and Legend of a Cocktail Classic, with Recipes for Brunch and Beyond, by Brian Bartels (Ten Speed Press, $18.99). Perfect for that morning after-walk relaxer. OH
Scuppernong Bookshelf was written by Brian Etling, Shannon Jones, Brian Lampkin, Steve Mitchell and Dave White.