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Walking Books for Armchair Travelers

Way1Richard West

It’s true, the best way to drum a place into your head and heart is with your feet, ideally, on a walking vacation. You notice the scents, discover idiosyncrasies, meet the locals. Many travel writers have put one foot before the other before you and written about it, and if you can’t make it this summer, then armchair-read the pleasures and travails of their walking trips:

Fermor …Without question, the finest walking travel books are Patrick Leigh Fermor’s accounts of his 1933 year-and-a-half walk from the Hook of Holland to the middle Danube, A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (New York Review Books Classics)
and Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates (New York Review Books Classics)
.The trilogy’s final volume, completing the trip to Istanbul, has long been promised by Leigh Fermor.

…Before Simon Winchester became famous writing “The Professor and the Madman,” he walked the length of South Korea and described the journey in “Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles.”

…The late Alan Booth beautifully wrote about his walks the length of Japan in “The Roads to Sata: A 2,000 Mile Walk Through Japan,” and its sequel, “Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan.”

…One day Anthony Bailey shouldered his backpack and walked, south to north, the length of Wales. You’ll learn what he found in the commonsensically-titled “A Walk Through Wales.”

Bryson …No question the funniest book on this list: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail ; by master humorist Bill Bryson.

…The shortest? “Walking Towards Walden: A Pilgrimage in Search of Place,” by John Hanson Mitchell, from Prospect Hill, west of Concord, MA., 15 miles east to Henry David Thoreau’s grave.

…The most recently published (June, 2008) qualifies as true armchair travel for most of us, “Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape,” by lawyer-writer Raja Shehadeh, heartfelt rambles through the West Bank hills near his home in Ramallah.

(Photo courtesy of The Wayfarers)

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