Walking is my primary tool of creative discovery — I’ve long noticed how walking involves not only movement but also the mind, reinvigorating both deeply. Paired with mindful observation, writing and photography, an afternoon walk can inspire a million of ideas. Here are five of books I picked as I roamed bookshops to help me learn more about the psychology and the physiology of walking.
Written in 1861 by Henry David Thoreau
Dubbed America’s first nature writer, Throreau speaks fondly of act of walking; referring to it as a “simple act” but an “accomplished art.” He was a prophetic proponent of transcendentalism and believed in living as a companion to nature. His writing reflects his eagerness to lead a simple, self-sufficient life. “Walking” isn’t a lengthy doctrine or bible, but rather the declaration of a higher philosophy: the declaration that walking is our most free and most wild action.
2. The Lost Art of Walking
Written in 2009 by Geoff Nicholson
Cultural researcher Geoff Nicholson argues, “Setting foot in a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does.” Our immersion into our own world, he believes are at the forefront of walking and art — he references the work of Bob Dylan and Charles Dickens as examples. This resurrection of the lost art becomes a journey that begins at the very process and ends wherever it wishes to lead you.
3. A Philosophy of Walking
Written in 2015 by Frederic Gros and Clifford Harper
Frederic Gros, one of France’s most prominent thinkers, shares his theory on our most human way of getting around. He theorizes that walking extends far beyond a simple mode – that walking does much more, “inspiring creativity, evoking freedom, and quieting a troubled soul”. Gros also offers examples of great individuals who benefitted from or were affectionate of the act of walking — including Thoreau, Rousseau, and Nietzsche.
4. Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Written in 2001 by Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit, a writer and historian looks at walking as an art, a mode of transportation, the driving force behind city design, and the catalyst of inventions. Solnit challenges the reader to keep their walking pace to a strolling gait, identify the characteristic that sets humans apart from other species, and to wade through walking’s long history.
5. The Art of Wandering: The Writer as Walker
Written in 2012 by Merlin Coverley
Merlin Coverley pulls directly from biblical references toward walking, Greek philosophers’ references, and, the modernist novel, “Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virigina Woolf, to analyze the impact walking had on its author. This book, less about the journey or the personal experience, is a thoroughly researched critical reading on how walking has impacted the work of some of literature’s best known writers.