A Review of The Walker's Anthology

The Walker's Anthology compiled by Deborah Manley

Posted by Mark Armstrong 16th December 2014

Trailblazer's The Walkers Anthology draws on writings of more than 50 literary figures from around the world - Bill Bryson, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Daniel Defoe, Peter Fleming, Rudyard Kipling, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Eric Newby, George Orwell, JB Priestley, Bayard Taylor, Robert Louis Stevenson, HD Thoreau, Colin Thubron and Mark Twain among many others.

The book's divided into 10 themed chapters - Setting Out, Through Countryside, Processions and Marches, Pilgrimages and Walking for Work, Walking in Winter, On Hills and Mountains, Walking in Parks and Gardens, Walking by Water, Walking in Towns and Cities and Walking at Night.

This book is an ideal travel companion for a walking holiday being a small hardback of 160 pages and it can be dipped into at short notice to read the small extracts from travel literature in any order one wishes without worrying where you have got to. Although the book has themes for chapters, the writing is drawn from such different sources, it does not matter in what order you read any of it. For example, in Through Countryside we have walking in the Arabian Desert, a walk-about in Australia, in the west African forest, the Black Forest, China, Suffolk and Norfolk amongst others and the writings date from 1769 to 1985. They also include excerpts from fiction as well as travel writing, including Pride and Prejudice, Tess of the D'Urbevilles and Oliver Twist and that is all just in this one chapter. The contents gives a list of every piece of writing making it easy to pick out pieces to read.

From the contents, I see there is a piece by John Ruskin from his Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) that describes the flowers of the pine forest in the Jura. It is a very poetic description of the spring flowers on the forest floor. You can read it from the original book on archive.org.

So, as you see, it is a real pick 'n' mix of an anthology. However, it's diversity is such that each excerpt rarely follows in any logical fashion to the next and no attempt is made to tie any of the writings together apart from the chapter topics. It's rather like having a mix-tape (or playlist) where songs are put together by song title alone despite the songs being from hugely varied genres.

Having said that, that does not detract from enjoying discovering the diverse writing contained in this book. Also the inclusion of brief biographies of the writers and a bibliography means that you can follow up any sections that you enjoyed with some further reading. And I forgot to mention that at the bottom of every page is a quote about walking from such diverse characters as John F Kennedy, Einstein, Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci which make for an enjoyable distraction.

The Walker's Anthology makes a great choice for a gift for someone that enjoys walking and/or literature and a great companion for a walking holiday.

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