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The Old Ways [Audio]
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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-whether 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Walking is an intimate way to experience a landscape because it proceeds at a pace that lets travelers contemplate nature, history, and self. In his travels around Great Britain and other countries, Macfarlane (English, Univ. of Cambridge; The Wild Places) follows a variety of old paths (called "ways") on both land and sea, some that date back thousands of years. This highly readable narrative weaves together landscape, local history and myth, art, literature, natural history, ritual, and the internal dialog familiar to any who have spent time alone in nature. The people he meets and the places he visits are luminous and extraordinary in the retelling as Macfarlane explores the idea of place and of self as well as the close relationship between the two. The book closes with a brief biography of fellow path walker and author Edward Thomas (1878-1917), from whom Macfarlane draws inspiration throughout the work. VERDICT The author's love of the land and his elegant use of metaphor make for a moving book that anyone who loves being part of nature will treasure.-Sheila Kasperek, North Hall Lib., Mansfield Univ. of PA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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