By Audrey Andrews | June 8th, 2020
In Praise of Paths: Walking through Time and Nature by Torbjørn Ekelund is an ode to paths. As a devourer of On Trails by Robert Moor and The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane, In Praise of Paths is an obvious read for me. Although the book is new to the United States, it was published in 2018 as Stiens Historie: En Reise Til Fots in Norway. Becky L. Crook translated the book into English and it has since been widely reviewed.
This was my first encounter with Ekelund and I like him already. He is the co-founder and Harvest, and online magazine, which I desperately wish I could read. (I can neither read nor write in Norwegian. Sigh.) Ekelund was a hastened, zipping twenty-first century human until he was diagnosed with epilepsy and no longer permitted to drive. Ekelund began to walk everywhere.
Born of necessity, bipedal wondering became a great love. Ekelund realized how rushed and unconnected we are in cars, especially when staring at a digitized GPS. Walking, Ekelund came to know himself and his surroundings in a deep, newly profound manner.
His interest in the topic, like my own, was piqued via Moor’s On Trails. Perhaps the most exciting part of the book for me is “Sources,” which lists the works Ekelund referenced in his research of paths. Every book- and I do mean every- on Ekelund’s list of sources I’ve not already read is now on my to-be-read list.
Ekelund recounts his experience with paths, navigation and walking while weaving through millennia of movement. He successfully deploys known literature on the subject in a new manner and is poignantly passionate about his work of walking. After all, we think infinitely better while moving; screens are the antithesis of flowing thought.
In Praise of Paths is easily finished in a few hours and is a delightful, refreshing mix of memoir, history and, well, walking. Although I absolutely do not agree with his words about running, I appreciate Ekelund’s awareness of the allure of the path.