A few months ago, I posted a review of three brilliant books about walking. I wanted to highlight these books because walking is not only a fundamental part of everyday life, it’s also a defining feature of a lot of physiotherapy practice, and I’m often bemused by how narrow-minded physiotherapists are about it. It’s almost a metaphor for the profession: here is a human experience that has been written about for centuries, that engages all manner of human achievement, and we’ve reduced it to mere gait patterns.
The point about all three books is that walking is so much more than heel strike and toe off. Not that these are unimportant, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t believe we are serving our patients or our profession well at all if we ignore the existential dimensions of walking. Sadly, there will be many physiotherapists who will spend their entire time today simply walking patients up and down a ward to confirm that they are safe to go home. Practices like this will see the end of physiotherapy as we know it.
So to keep the door open to thinking differently about walking, can I add to the list a fourth book that I read this year that shows how much brilliant writing there is around this area.
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot – by Robert Macfarlane
‘Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world – a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations.’
So says the book jacket. But this is far more than this. Macfarlane is an amazing writer. He can write about the world around him like few others. This is a beautiful, lyrical book and one I would recommend to anyone who loves walking out in the countryside. Macfarlane has another book called The Wild Places which I’m hoping to read over the summer.
One of the other authors I featured in the earlier post on walking was Rebecca Solnit. Solent’s book Wanderlust is a comprehensive and erudite account of a personal philosophy of walking. I loved it and so have looked up a lot of Sonit’s writing since. Creative non-fiction fascinates me, particularly the stuff that has a strong connection to history and philosophy, so I’m going to have to read her book A field guide to getting lost.
The book ‘is an investigation into loss, losing and being lost. Taking in subjects as eclectic as memory and mapmaking, Hitchcock movies and Renaissance painting, Rebecca Solnit explores the challenges of living with uncertainty. Beautifully written, this book combines memoir, history and philosophy, shedding glittering new light on the way we live now.’
And while we’re on the walking theme, I’ll add this to my list: Born to Walk : The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act Hardcover by Dan Rubinstein sounds like a very good read. ‘The humble act of putting one foot in front of the other transcends age, geography, culture and class, and is one of the most economical and environmentally responsible modes of transit. Yet with our modern fixation on speed, this healthy pedestrian activity has been largely left behind. At a personal and professional crossroads, writer, editor and obsessive walker Dan Rubinstein travelled throughout the UK, the US and Canada to walk with people who saw the act not only as a form of transportation and recreation, but also as a path to a better world.’
Hopefully Santa will bring me a book voucher for Christmas!