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Ten Books that Put One Foot in Front of the Other

“A mind narrows when it has too much to bear. Art is not born of unwanted constriction. Art wants formless and spacious quiet, anti-social daydreaming, time away from the consumptive volume of everyday life.” ― Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation

These 10 books feature themes of walking, with or without purpose, our favourite kind of wandering!

Port of Being by Shazia Hafiz Ramji (Invisible Publishing)
Port of Being opens with poems inspired by snippets of conversation Shazia collected from overheard conversations during her walks around Vancouver. After a traumatic incident in which Shazia’s laptop was stolen and her whereabouts were tracked, being out in the world again, coming into relation again through listening, proved to inspire an act of recovery through writing.

Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef, illustrated by Marlena Zuber (Coach House Books)
Featuring thirty-two walks and dozens of hand-drawn maps by Marlena Zuber, Stroll celebrates Toronto’s details at the speed of walking, escorting the reader from the CN Tower and Pearson Airport to Scarborough and the end of the Leslie Street Spit in Lake Ontario.

Maunder by Claire Kelly (Palimpsest Press)
Maunder contains poems about the physical act of walking as well as the mental act, what is seen and what is reflected on. These poems allow the reader to amble across the page, stepping from image to image, place to place, striding, pivoting in different, unexpected directions.

A Walker in the City by Meira Cook (Brick Books)
In this narrative poem, a young woman is a character being written by an “old city poet,” who is in turn being written by another poet. A Walker in the City is an exploration of youth and age; life, death and rebirth; the (dis)connection of language and reality; and, tradition and the now.

Vancouver Walking by Meredith Quartermain (NeWest Press)
Journey along Vancouver’s colourful city streets, past its landmarks, through the sounds and smells of Chinatown. Ramble along the seawall on English Bay, ride the curving streets to Kitsilano on a winter afternoon, and experience the vibrant sights and sounds of the city’s history as it jostles for a place in the present. Vancouver Walking is a collection of descriptive poetry that evokes visions of Vancouver and the history that haunts it.

Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act by Dan Rubinstein (ECW Press)
The humble act of putting one foot in front of the other transcends age, geography, culture, and class and is one of the most economical and environmentally responsible modes of transit. Dan Rubinstein traveled throughout the U.S., U.K., and Canada to walk with people who saw the act not only as a form of transportation and recreation, but also as a path to a better world.

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear (Doubleday Canada)
In a world that values big and fast, Maclear looks to the small, the steady, the slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that leave room for contemplation. This is a deeply personal year-long inquiry into big themes – love, waiting, regrets, endings – and ultimately about how the act of seeking beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying and meaningful lives.

Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Valérie Boivin (Kids Can Press)
In this lively informational picture book, Susan Hughes provides a fictionalized story of the life of Jane Jacobs, one of the world’s greatest urban thinkers and activists. Walking in the City with Jane makes a terrific resource for studying civic engagement, urban life, the history of New York and Toronto (where Jane moved later in life), and the role of city planning.

Walking by Nelson Ball (Mansfield Press)
For nearly six decades, Nelson Ball has gone for walks and recorded his observations. In Walking, Ball explores the nature of human relationships and human responses to being on this earth: love, mourning, curiosity, absurdity, memory, and the will to live, providing a compelling introduction for those new to Ball’s form of meditation and observation.

Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture by Lisa Robertson (Coach House Books)
Included among essays, many originally published as catalogue texts by art galleries, are seven walks, tours of Vancouver sites. Soft Architecture exists at the crossroads of poetry, theory, urban geography and cultural criticism, some place where the quotidian and the metaphysical marry and invert.

With thanks to the books’ publishers for their descriptive source copy.

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