I just can’t stop thinking about Walking by Erling Kagge. It’s one of those books that has quite simply taken my thoughts and welded itself to them. It was quite unexpected. I read it because an internet search for “good books about walking” brought it up a handful of times and so I decided it was worth a punt. I had no idea that the philosophical musings on my favourite hobby would speak to me quite that much.
I wrote a very short book review of it in Weekly Blog Episode 55, and included it in my Currently Loving post for March 2021. But it’s still there, random quotes coming back to me as I go about my day. As someone who already loved walking before reading it, it absolutely solidified why I enjoy heading out for a daily stroll, and going further when I have the opportunity.
I moved straight on from Walking to read Erling Kagge’s other book, Silence. It was also poignant and spoke to me, and so enter this double book review. Two short, easy reads, that you should certainly add to your reading list if you haven’t already given them your time.
On Audio Books
Okay, so I don’t “read” books, I listen to them. I discovered Audible (not an ad but that’s an affiliate link) a few years ago, and it opened up the doors to fiction and nonfiction to me like never before.
While I absolutely love stories and storytelling, reading itself has never been something I’ve enjoyed. But listening to someone else read to me while I am on my lunchtime walks and while I do my chores at home works a treat.
I’ve upped my consumption of books so much since I realised audiobooks were accessible to the masses, and I now always have something on the go. I even made a “to read” list for 2021, which I think is a first in my forty years on this planet.
I also get free audiobooks from my local library. Gloucestershire Library Service use BorrowBox, which has a reasonable selection of titles to choose from. Naturally, if I can get a book I want for free on the Library app I do so.
But it isn’t a comprehensive bookshelf by any means, it’s also not as convenient as I often have to wait (sometimes months) for a popular title to become available, hence combining it with Audible.
Walking, Erling Kagge
If you’re looking for a short read this week that will inspire you to put one foot in front of the other, I can’t recommend Walking: One Step at a Time by Erling Kagge enough. I guess a book that sings the virtues of my favourite pastime is going to be something I enjoy, but I genuinely found it captivating, finishing it in close to 24 hours, which is really rather quick for me!
Erling Kagge is a Norwegian explorer. The first person to reach the North Pole, South Pole and summit of Mount Everest on foot (now known as the “Three Poles Challenge”), he certainly knows a thing or two about walking. But it’s not just expedition-sized walks that Erling enjoys. In 2012 he walked the length of Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard over three days, and in December 2019 he walked the length of New York’s Broadway from Sleepy Hollow to the tip of Manhattan in 24 hours. Oh, and he’s also traversed the New York City sewage system, which is one walk that will not be added to my bucket list.
This book is a celebration of everything that is good about walking. Erling talks about walking of all types, from the perilous first steps we take as a toddler, to how walking to work or at lunchtime can provide joy and thinking time, and to great expeditions such as trekking to the North Pole. In every story and example, there is deep thought and philosophy, self-help advice, and real motivation to get out there and walk.
Kagge likens walking to a form of meditation, pointing out that those who explore in a vehicle instead of on foot “don’t notice the wind, the smells, the weather, nor the shifting light”. He talks about how walking can allow the mind to clear enough to answer life’s difficult questions, solve apparently impossible challenges, and provide inspiration and motivation to be creative and successful in life.
And I say absolutely yes to all this, I agree, wholeheartedly.
This book has solidified why I love walking and made me want to do it even more. Except not in a sewer, no thanks to that…
I won’t give any more away, except to say that this should be compulsory reading for anyone who likes to walk. If you want to listen, the audiobook is available on Audible, or you can buy the book itself from Amazon, Waterstones or your local independent bookshop.
Silence, Erling Kagge
Because I enjoyed Walking, I went on to read (well, listen to) what is Erling Kagge’s earlier book, Silence: In the Age of Noise. This text is also very much a meditation on a topic, musing on the idea that silence is something that can provide the answers to questions presented by modern day – very noisy – living. Kagge says that in a world alive with noise, we must learn to find the solace in silence.
One of Kagge’s major expeditions, a solo walk to the South Pole, he spent fifty days with a broken radio. The silence he experienced in that vast landscape was so powerful he made it his mission to share the importance of being able to shut out the world for periods of time, claiming that this is how we can grow self-knowledge, gratitude, wonder, and more.
Though the pages of this book Kagge offers 33 attempts to answer the questions: “What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever?”. Consider it a guidebook on finding inner silence. He calls upon material from other writers and philosophers, and as with Walking, speaks of his own experiences of silence on both big expeditions and in much more mundane activities.
I admit that I rarely live with silence. I work to music, drive to music, listen to audio books on my lunchtime walks, eat with the television on. The radio comes on to help me get up in the morning, and sends me to sleep at night. I just am not a big fan of being left with my own thoughts. And so, while Kagge’s book on walking hits me straight in the feels, this one is harder to grasp.
This is an eloquent short read (or listen) which speaks about the idea of silence as if it is a necessity we’ve all forgotten how to tap into. And while it did not affect me in quite the same way as Walking did, it certainly has led me to put my phone down more often, take long showers with no background music, and listen more intently to the world around me as I go about my business.