Verso's guide to political walking

A bestseller in France, A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us. 

Inspired by this brilliant and erudite new bookout this month on Verso, we present Verso's updated guide to political walking.

1. A Philosophy of Walking - Frédéric Gros

Gros illuminates a new philosophical history of walking, and provides new ways of navigating and interacting with one's environment politically. Walking has long been held as the key to opening the mind, reconnecting with one’s self and nature. From Kierkegaard to Kant to Kerouac, some of the finest thinkers of history credit a good walk with inspiration for their ideas (dating back to the Aristotle's 'peripatetic' lectures) Gros’s new book details how this most basic of human transportation can cause commonsensical-looking things to be unfounded and certain improbable-looking things to be true. Gros details how walking can help us join as one with the natural world, and liberate us from crises and stresses of identity. 

2. Explore Everything - Bradley L. Garrett

It is assumed that every inch of the world has been explored and charted; that there is nowhere new to go. But perhaps it is the everyday places around us—the cities we live in—that need to be rediscovered. Bradley L. Garrett has evaded urban security in order to experience the city in ways beyond the boundaries of conventional life. He calls it ‘place hacking’: the recoding of closed, secret, hidden and forgotten urban space to make them realms of opportunity.

The book is also a manifesto, combining philosophy, politics and adventure, on our rights to the city and how to understand the twenty-first century metropolis.

3. The View from the Train - Patrick Keiller

In his sequence of films, Patrick Keiller retraces the hidden story of the places where we live, the cities and landscapes of our everyday lives. Referencing writers such as Benjamin and Lefebvre, this collection follows his career since the late 1970s, exploring themes including the surrealist perception of the city; the relationship of architecture and film; how cities change over time, and how films represent this; as well as accounts of cross-country journeys involving historical figures, unexpected ideas and an urgent portrait of post-crash Britain.

4. Wanderlust - Rebecca Solnit

The first general history of walking, Rebecca Solnit's book finds a profound relationship between walking and thinking, walking and culture, and argues for the necessity of preserving the time and space in which to walk in an ever more automobile-dependent and accelerated world.

5. Savage Messiah - Laura Oldfield Ford

Savage Messiah collects Laura Oldfield Ford's black and white, cut 'n' paste, punk  fanzines that document her drift through London's margins. Illustrated with haunting line drawings of forgotten people and places, Oldfield Ford records the beauty and anger at the city's edges.

6.    The Situationists and the City- edited by Tom McDonough

Collecting key texts from the '50s and '60s, The Situationists and the City is a testament to the idea of the city as a terrain of potential revolution. The Situationists imagined that society could be changed if the urban framework was transformed. They would engage in 'dérives', drifting across the city to see it less as a site of consumption and work but more as a place of play.

7. The Beach Beneath the Street- McKenzie Wark    

Over fifty years after the Situationist International (SI) first appeared, the group's restlessly creative experiments in the practice of life - of living, playing and working together - continues to influence activists, artists and theorists. From the anti-cuts network UK Uncut and hacker and pirate practices, to versions of pyschogeography in the popular writings of Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd and Will Self, traces of the whole spectrum of Situationist ideas and practices can be found throughout culture today.

8. A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain - Owen Hatherley

Erudite, radical and viciously funny, Owen Hatherley's compelling modern-day tour of the country's towns and cities - from Southampton to Liverpool - turns architecture into a window onto early 21st society in the UK.  Hatherley maps the now-decrepit Britain of the 2010s, the most emphatic expression of neoliberalism in crisis.

9.  A New Kind of Bleak - Owen Hatherley

Following on from A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Owen Hatherley investigates the fate of British cities in the desolate new world of savage public-sector cuts. Crisscrossing Britain from Aberdeen to Plymouth, from Croydon to Belfast, A New Kind of Bleak finds a landscape left to rot- and discovers strange and potentially radical things growing in the wasteland.

10. Rebel Cities - David Harvey

Harvey presents a rousing manifesto on the right to the city, arguing the way cities are being shaped now - by financial interest - is profoundly anti-democratic. In Rebel Cities, David Harvey places the city at the heart of both capital and class struggles, looking at locations ranging from Johannesburg to Mumbai, and from New York City to São Paulo.

11.  London: Bread and Circuses - Jonathan Glancey

A passionate essay attacking the ways in which London's citizens are encouraged to remain apolitical, pleasure-seeking and rebellion-free. Glancey argues that we should not be distracted from addressing the pressing issues facing the city, and warns that the creative energy that keeps London going will be crushed if the public good is not defended.

12.  The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps - Eric Hazan

Radical Parisian author Eric Hazan guides us through streets that whisper of the city's fraught, violent, yet inspiring past. This is the Paris of barricades, of riots, uprisings and revolutions.

13.  A People's History of London - John Rees & Lindsey German

London may be the home of empire, monarchy and power, yet, for nearly 2000 years, the city has been a breeding ground for radical ideas, home to thinkers, heretics and rebels from John Wycliffe to Karl Marx. A People's History of London journeys to a city of pamphleteers, agitators, exiles and revolutionaries, where millions of people have struggled in obscurity to secure a better future.

14.  Restless Cities - edited by Matthew Beaumont & Gregory Dart

Restless Cities reimagines the city is a site of constant change and attempts to trace the patterns that define modern urban life and its effect on individuals. Includes chapters on phenomena such as nightwalking, urbicide, property, commuting and recycling. With contributions from Marshall Berman, Esther LeslieKasia Boddy, Iain Borden, Rachel Bowlby, Iain Sinclair, David Trotter, and Mark W. Turner.

15.  Night Haunts - Sukhdev Sandhu

Sandhu journeys across London to find out whether the London night really has been rendered insipid by street lighting and CCTV. He wades through the sewers, follows graffiti artists as they paint the city and accompanies the marine patrol looking for midnight corpses. Beautifully written, Night Haunts seeks to reclaim the mystery and romance of the city, to revitalize the great myth of London for a new century.

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