Walking to Listen

4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time
Narrated by: Andrew Forsthoefel
Length: 13 hrs and 39 mins
4 out of 5 stars (121 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

At 23, Andrew Forsthoefel headed out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder, his copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read "Walking to Listen".

He had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn't know how. So he decided to take a cross-country quest for guidance, one where everyone he met would be his guide. In the year that followed, he faced an Appalachian winter and a Mojave summer. He met beasts inside: fear, loneliness, doubt. But he also encountered incredible kindness from strangers. 

Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn't know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself. Ultimately, it's the stories of others living all along the roads of America that carry this journey and sing out in a hopeful, heartfelt book about how a life is made, and how our nation defines itself on the most human level.

©2017 Andrew Forsthoefel (P)2018 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A remarkable book that calls to mind William Least-­Heat Moon's Blue Highways." (Library Journal)

What listeners say about Walking to Listen

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Transcends the typical trekking story

I first heard of Andrew Forsthoefel's project a few years ago on a Transom podcast that just blew me away. His audio documentary on his experience was about an hour long, and everyone I recommended it to had a similar reaction to it: we were amazed, inspired, moved, provoked to thought. I hoped he would write a book one day and was thrilled to find it in audio as Andrew initially started his journey with the intent to record his experience in audio. This book is an expansion of the story we got a glimpse of in the original audio doc, which I actually recommend listening to first, as it brings a lot of the voices to life and gives you a sense of his journey in a really compelling way. (Just do a search for this title, author name, and Transom podcast.)

Andrew's journey is fascinating and at times harrowing, and it isn't what you might assume, i.e. just some privileged white kid trying to find himself on the edge (my initial skepticism at the beginning of the podcast—how wrong I was). He recognizes the risks he's taking without ignorant bravado or a need to be noticed/seen. In fact, he didn't seek or have much publicity about what he was doing during his journey. So this book truly is not just another contrived (albeit well-meaning) "let's go on a trip or do a social experiment and sell a book about My Experience!" gimmick by another millennial seeking a public platform (shallow books that seem to glut the market these days).

This is something else, where a young man truly desires to learn by listening to others, most of the strangers Americans not like him. Not only is his overall story grounded in authenticity, it's outward-focused, even though it's a memoir about his personal experience. Moreover, it's written with a sense of both gravity and wonder that didn't come across as glib or self-important.

What sets this memoir apart from others in its genre is that it's not really a story about the author. It's definitely about a young man trying to find out who he is and what matters in life, but it's not even so much a coming-of-age or initiation-type story; it's about America. Definitely a worthwhile listen that will make you want to stop, connect with people, and start listening more.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent exploration of life as a human!

I was so pleasantly taken along on this 11 month ordeal that I didn’t want to stop listening. Questions we all ask of ourselves and of those around us, learning to navigate our self worth, limitations and insights, pains and pleasures of not only the walk but our trusts for and by other people and situations. Amazing journey both physically and mentally. I HIGHLY recommend this book. Thank you Andrew for the effort to walk, talk, learn, listen and share your experiences with us. This is one of the best books I’ve listened to in the 15 years I’ve been an Audible member.

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Restores hope in mankind

Encouraging story with great quotes sprinkled throughout. How refreshing to hear the story told from the actual author at a leisurely pace to help the hearer better absorb the message.

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Profound

Listening to Andrews story gave me courage. Courage to take on my everyday goals and to improve myself completely. He probably will never read this but, in how his journey saved his life, his book has saved mine. Thank you for opening my mind to the meaning of myself.

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Genuine Feel

interesting audiobook. The author / storyteller did a good job relating the stories of his trek. I was beginning to think it was going down the path of lecturing, in the end it was all just part of his own perspectives and experiences.

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Beautiful Book.

I'm forever changed by his journey, an absolutely amazing book from an amazing human being.

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loved it

could have kept reading
until he walked back i wish he had it was amazing

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Unorthodox hike report

Hiking books are not uncommon, like books about the AT, Wild, that sort of thing, but this dude did it on interstates from Philly to California. Really interesting journey with a lot of introspection and interactions with people along the way. Definitely recommend for wanderer in all of us.

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What a story!

This is the story of an amazing journey. It’s an honor to have heard it (albeit recorded) from the protagonist himself. His narration is exceptional minus a few mispronunciations. The story gets repetitive at times, but the walk must have as well. I thought Andrew framed too many things in terms of race, but I may be among few who don’t. All in all, this was quite the adventure! I highly recommend the book to all who may be interested.

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glorious story!

incredible, insightful, eloquent, inspiring, hopeful, joyous, humble documentary of a young man's journey toward self discovery. thank you Andrew!!!

3 people found this helpful