cover image The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Robert MacFarlane. Viking, $26.95 (412p) ISBN 978-0-670-02511-4

This scintillating travelogue is a celebration of well-worn footpaths and ancient sea routes. Naturalist MacFarlane (The Wild Places) traipses across Britain via Stone-Age trails, sand flats that briefly emerge between daily tides, and sea lanes to the Hebridean Isles. He ventures abroad into the bullet-strewn hills of the West Bank and follows a pilgrimage route in Spain. Along the way, the author meets artists, poets, farmers, sea-bird hunters, and adventurers, each with stories to tell and idiosyncratic attitudes toward the terrain ahead. MacFarlane writes with a discerning eye and an immediacy that immerses us in his surroundings%E2%80%94whether a delicately misty shore, a seemingly chaotic field of rocks that reveals hidden patterns, or a holy Himalayan mountain that makes him "[gaze] up, neck cricked and mouth bashed open at the beauty of it all." MacFarlane strikes a fine balance between lyrical nature writing and engrossing scholarship that makes him the ideal walking companion. (Oct. 15)