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Erling Kagge, translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook, Walking: One Step at a Time (New York: Pantheon, 2019), 177pp.Erling Kagge, translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook, Walking: One Step at a Time (New York: Pantheon, 2019), 177pp.

This book was an automatic read for me when I saw it at our local library.  I had enjoyed reading Kagge's previous book called Silence in an Age of Noise (2017). More practically speaking, my wife and I have become serious long walkers. In 2012 we walked the 500-mile Way of St. James in Spain. In 2014 we backpacked the 458-mile pilgrimage across southern France called "Le Chemin du Puy." In 2016 we hiked the 350-mile "La Via di Francesco" from Florence to Assisi to Rome. We've done three 200-mile walks in England and Wales, and last summer 2019 we hiked the 100-mile Tour du Mont Blanc. So, I was interested in Kagge's subject.

Kagge brings an unusual personal story to these reflections. Most people know him as a world class explorer. He was the first person to walk alone to the South Pole, and the first person to complete the so-called "Three Poles Challenge" — the North Pole, the South Pole, and Mt. Everest. During his Antarctic expedition, he had zero radio contact and didn't speak to another person for fifty days. In addition to these personal experiences of walking, Kagge draws upon his urban life in Oslo, his publishing business that he started, his art collecting, scientific studies, and simple things like dinner conversations with his girls. Along the way he reflects on philosophers like Socrates, Kierkegaard, Kant, and Heidegger, and various Norwegian thinkers I've never heard of.

In our affluent western culture we do a whole lot of sitting and driving. But you don't have to be an Antarctic explorer to start walking. Kagge also describes his 40-mile walk across Los Angeles.  About twenty years ago, my wife and I spent a week in New York City pretty much doing nothing but walking all day, napping in the afternoon, and then going to a show at night. More accessible still, Kagge describes walking two miles from his home in Oslo to his work. We all could do that! "So much in our lives is fast-paced," he writes. "Walking is a slow undertaking. It is among the most radical things you can do."

Dan Clendenin:

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