If you’ve been hanging around this website for the last 10+ years, you know walking is a huge theme here. Walking is a big part of the toolbox I use to tend to my life. For my birthday the year before last, I walked 440 miles and what got me through a large hunk of that forty-four day feat was listening to a walking memoir on audiobook. When I checked in with my bookshelves it turned out I have lots of books on walking because I love walking and find books about on-foot journeys both inspire and motivate me. I thought I'd share some titles with you!
From walking through the wilderness to urban treks, these books with inspire you to get out there and experience the world at a walking pace:
- The Last Great Walk: The True Story of a 1909 Walk From New York to San Francisco and Why it Matters Today by Wayne Curtis (Hands down my favorite book about a walk. It has great journalism, biomechanics, and ponders our sedentary future. Not walking, he argues, “may be one of the most radical things humans have ever done.”)
- Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, a Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State by Nick Neely
- The Mission Walker: I Was Given Three Months to Live by Edie Littlefield SundbyI recently did a 2-day portion of the El Camino Real myself (Mission San Juan Bautista to Mission Santa Cruz) and it was because of these books! The authors have different reasons for walking and their books are entirely different. Alongside Neely’s description of his very urban walking experience is the history of California—specifically the enslavement and just general appropriation of the many indigenous groups of Alta California, but also the natural and land acquisition history. As a Californian I really enjoyed learning more about my home place.Sunby’s book is how she used walking to endure and survive her experience with lung cancer (she does the California mission trail with one lung and then goes on to walk the portion of the trail that winds through the mountain and desert wilderness of Mexico with only a half of one lung. Sunby is devout—both to her Catholicism and to walking. The Mission Walker was the audiobook I listened to on my own 440 mile walk and while I found some of her historical perspectives to be naive, I loved her book and her journey—both literal and figurative.
- Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence by John Francis
- Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words by Peace Pilgrim
- An Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo
- Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago by Beth Jusino
- The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
- A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time by Antonia Malchik
- On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (After reading this book, I never looked at animal trails, hiking paths, or roads—which started out as animal trails—the same way again.)
- Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog
- Lightning Bird: The Story of One Man's Journey into Africa's Past by Lyall Watson
Ok, this is not a "walking book" per se, but it is sort of centered on one lone Englishman moving unarmed (weapons or knowledge) through the African bush and how that tangled with some of the colonial science emerging from that part of the world at the time. I’m just putting it here because it’s one of my favorite books as it made me think, hard, and there's also lots of walking.
- Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther by Andrew L. Wilson
- Opening the Mountain: Circumambulating Mount Tamalpais, a Ritual Walk by Mathew Davis and Michael Farrell Scott
- I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool For Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail by Gail D. Storey
- Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
- Grandma Gatewoods Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery
- Tracks: One Woman's Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson
The books below are guides and “how-tos,” but they’re helpful, so I’m including them
- Families on Foot: Urban Hikes to Backyard Treks and National Park Adventures by Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis
A great book for families who want to get outside to move more and want a lot of support when it comes to how to pick hikes, what to wear, what to pack, etc. “Chock full of aspirational color photography featuring diverse people and kids, the book is also practical in nature, offering information on gear checklists and how to use GPS, read a map, and predict weather before going out on the trail.”
- Explore Europe on Foot: Your Complete Guide to Planning a Cultural Hiking Adventure by Cassandra Overby is quite helpful. A few years ago when I traveled to England for work, we decided to do a 5-day portion of Hadrian’s Wall and the book was very informative no matter the hike.