Wanderlust: A History of Walking

The first general history of walking—provocative and profound.
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.


  • “A history of walking that is about time and space and consciousness of the world as much as about putting one foot in front of the other.”
  • “A writer of startling freshness and precision.”
  • “[A] magisterial history of walking.”


  • Verso authors declare support for student debt strike

    On Monday, February 23, fifteen former students of Corinthian Colleges Inc., a network of for-profit colleges, declared a debt strike by refusing to repay their federal loans. Taking a bold and unprecendented stand on the current student debt crisis, the Corinthian 15, who are members of the Debt Collective, are demanding that the Department of Education discharge their debts, as well as those of former and current Corinthian students. 

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  • “Psychotic spatial awareness”: Will Self on Rebecca Solnit and political walking.

    Writing in the Guardian, Will Self argues that walking is political. He points out that while a century ago 90% of Londoner's journeys were made on foot, according to current projections "walking will have died out altogether as a means of transport by the middle of this century." Attempting to demonstrate how alienated we have become from our physical environment, Self imagines what might happen to city dwellers in Britain if our transport systems disappeared overnight and we were forced to rely on our feet to get us around,

    Put bluntly: deprived of mechanised means of locomotion - the car, the bus, the train - and without the aid of technology, the majority of urbanites, who constitute the vast majority of Britons, neither know where they are, nor are capable of getting somewhere else under their own power.

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  • “The Butterfly and the Boiling Point”: Rebecca Solnit on the spark and sustenance of global change in 2011

    In the midst of simultaneous eruptions of resistance and escalating global turmoil, one can't help but wonder why, after years of repression, these particular people have found the strength and the will to organize and rebel? In a beautifully written article, Rebecca Solnit recently examined global events the context of social boiling points and the necessary conditions for revolution. Solnit, an acclaimed author, historian and activist, begins her piece with a poetic survey of recent uprisings:

    Revolution is as unpredictable as an earthquake and as beautiful as spring. Its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be.

    Revolution is a phase, a mood, like spring, and just as spring has its buds and showers, so revolution has its ebullience, its bravery, its hope, and its solidarity. Some of these things pass. The women of Cairo do not move as freely in public as they did during those few precious weeks when the old rules were suspended and everything was different. But the old Egypt is gone and Egyptians' sense of themselves-and our sense of them-is forever changed.

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Other books by Rebecca Solnit

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    A Book of Migrations

    "A brilliant meditation on travel."—The New York Times

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    Hollow City

    Hollow City surveys San Francisco’s transformation—skyrocketing residential and commercial rents that are driving out artists, activists, nonprofit organizations and the poor; the homogenization of the city’s architecture, industries and population; the decay of its public life; and the erasure of its sites of civic memory