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Publisher's Summary

From the acclaimed author of The Wild Places comes an engrossing exploration of walking and thinking.

In this exquisitely written book, Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge, England, home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove roads, and sea paths that crisscross both the British landscape and its waters and territories beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, and of pilgrimage and ritual.

Told in Macfarlane’s distinctive voice, The Old Ways folds together natural history, cartography, geology, archaeology, and literature. His walks take him from the chalk downs of England to the bird islands of the Scottish northwest, from Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas. Along the way he crosses paths with walkers of many kinds - wanderers, pilgrims, guides, and artists. Above all this is a book about walking as a journey inward and the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move. Macfarlane discovers that paths offer not just a means of traversing space but of feeling, knowing, and thinking.

Robert Macfarlane is the author of the prize-winning Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places, both of which were New York Times Notable Books. He has contributed to Harper’s, Granta, the Observer, Times Literary Supplement, and London Review of Books. He is a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

©2012 Robert Macfarlane (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Macfarlane immerses himself in regions we may have thought familiar, resurrecting them newly potent and sometimes beautifully strange. In a moving achievement, he returns our heritage to us." (Colin Thubron, New York Times best-selling author)
"In this intricate, sensuous, haunted book, each journey is part of other journeys, and there are no clear divisions to be made.… The walking of paths is, to [Macfarlane], an education, and symbolic, too, of the very process by which we learn things:  testing, wandering about a bit, hitting our stride, looking ahead and behind.…This is a spacious and inclusive book, which allows for many shifts in emphasis, and which, like the best paths, is always different when you go back to look at it again." (Guardian [London])
"From the very first page…you know that the most valuable thing about The Old Ways is going to be the writing…. I found myself hoarding images like trophies as I turned the pages.… It is like reading a prose Odyssey sprinkled with imagist poems.… You never get the feeling that the poetry is being used to prettify what he sees. His omnivorous eye takes in everything, and his camera-shutter brain records it." (Sunday Times [London])

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • chris
  • Kelowna, BC, Canada
  • 11-05-12

A perfect pairing of prose and narrator

This book is about walking along old paths, and not much more than that, however Macfarlane's prose is flawless and beautifully descriptive; it immediately drew me in. The narrator's voice is soft and hypnotic with a slight English lilt. I have never heard a better pairing of book and narrator. They weave in a considerable amount of history about these paths along the way, from Britain to Israel to Spain to Tibet. I enjoyed it enough to read it again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent book for walkers!

Robert MacFarlane brings to life the pathways and roads less traveled at the human speed of 3 mph. Great book!!!

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A lyric journey

Would you listen to The Old Ways again? Why?

I would listen to this again for the beauty of its images and the places it took me to.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Old Ways?

... the description of Edward Thomas and his relationship with Robert Frost.

Which character – as performed by Robin Sachs – was your favorite?

The favorite character must be the author himself as he appears in the words read by Robin Sachs..