THE BOOKWORM SEZ: 'A Walking Life' an exercise in preaching to the choir

The device on your wrist is very insistent.

It often seems like it’s prodding you to move, get out of your chair, get up and go. One thousand steps, 4,000 steps, and the device wants more. It’s for your health, you know, but in the new book “A Walking Life” by Antonia Malchik, you’ll see that fitness is only the first step.

Millions of years ago, one of our ancestors did something remarkable: he stood upright and walked.

He might not have gone far and he may not’ve done it twice but that single action was as physically miraculous then as it is now, and monumental because it was something that Malchik argues makes us truly, fundamentally human. We’ve been a “wide-roaming … species” ever since.

Most of us took our first trip when we were small, but it wasn’t easy: Malchik says that when the average toddler is just starting to walk, she takes more than 2,000 shaky steps and falls about 17 times an hour. Eventually, though, most of us get the hang of walking and we want to — need to — do it: studies show that walking is essential for our physical development and it’s important for both mind and body. Total cessation, in fact, “affects us in ways that aren’t always immediately obvious.”

And yet, modernity makes it difficult to take those needed steps. There are things today that stand in the way of walking.

A hundred years ago, most people walked to get where they needed to go but then the automobile came around, paved roads were built, pedestrians met prohibitions, and walkable neighborhoods were destroyed. What we need to do is to figure out how to take our walking paths back, or find new ones.

In the meantime, use your footsteps because walking isn’t just walking. It’s a means of protest and of support, relaxation, religion, tool, and meditation. We walk to remember, and to sort our minds. We need to walk because “the consequences of severing the earth from our feet are devastating.”

For sure, “A Walking Life” makes some excellent arguments. Author Antonia Malchik offers a lot of valid points and intriguing facts that should get readers going. The problem is that this book is a fine example of preaching to the choir.

Indeed, anyone who’s interested in the art and benefits of walking is likely already in 100% agreement with nearly everything here. If you walk for your health, mental or physical, you’ve already thought of most of this. If you walk for the benefit of the earth, it’s familiar stuff. Yes, this book offers a lovely bit of story with a quietly meditative tone and softly urgent thoughts but it’s not going to change any minds because the minds are likely already there.

That doesn’t make this a bad book but its audience may be narrow. If you’re an active walker or hiker, “A Walking Life” will underscore what you believe. If you’ve no interest and you love your car more, then just step away…


TITLE: “A Walking Life”

AUTHOR: Antonia Malchik

PUBLISHER: DaCapo LongLife, c. 2019

COST: $28

LENGTH: 261 pages

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