I just read The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane. It isn’t a perfect book; but it’s a good one, which I enjoyed immensely because I found a new way of reading.

The Book · It’s another travel book, but about places you go on foot — or in a small boat, which he finds analogous. The places are remote-ish corners of the British Isles, the Middle East, and the Chinese Himalayas. Its great flaw is that it’s too long; Macfarlane is prone to lengthy exegeses about how wonderful walking is and how special the places he visits are going to be. But you can skip over them and just read about when actually does go to those places, because they are pretty wonderful — as are the people he meets there — and he writes beautifully.

How To Read This Book · Read away in the normal fashion, and as soon as you get to an interesting place, hop over to the Maps app on your reading device, look that place up, and check out the satellite images. I found this added no end of flavor and pleasure. For example, consider the Shiant Isles, about which Macfarlane writes:

Early afternoon: the Shiants at last starting to show as dark shapes glimpsed. Outline and texture slowly firming up: the islands and their guardian skerries seen as nibs, teeth, tables, gable ends, chapels. Geese coming over in lettersets.

Which is great, but go follow that map linked to the name above, and see what you think.

Other Platforms? · My experience is on the Nexus 7 with Kindle and Google Maps. I find the “Recent Apps” thingie to be just magic for flipping back and forth between the book and the maps. I suppose you could maybe do this with other book-reading and mapping apps. But I don’t think it would work on an actual Kindle device, you need a proper mobile computer.

Other Books? · Well, yeah. I’m thinking of scooping up some Chatwins, which are usually worth re-reading anyhow.


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From: Bud Gibson (Aug 04 2012, at 19:38)

I agree that the recent apps button on the nexus 7 is something else, and I enjoy the ability to quickly hop from book to reference and back again. And yes, the nexus 7 simply kills any kindle, including the fire.


From: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Aug 04 2012, at 22:10)

Try Graham Greene's The Lawless Roads.


The see the John Ford movie The Fugitive with Henry Fonda and Dolores de Río.


From: doug k (Aug 07 2012, at 16:05)

try books by Eric Newby, a traveller in the finest eccentric English tradition. The most famous is A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. The 'Short Walk' included an attempt at a first ascent of a 20 000ft peak, which really gives the flavour of the whole enterprise. Some are out of print, but I've had good luck finding them through Powells' used books.


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