Books for boots

I have always had a healthy collection of walk-guides, but the pandemic has seen me buy quite a few more, allowing me to undertake armchair walking and (I hope) forward planning. Just as one never sets out to cook every recipe in a cookbook, there will be paths in these books which I shall never tread. I hope that I can help readers decide which books they might enjoy, from my more recent purchases.

But first, Books for Boots. The title has been with me for over thirty years. During the latter part of the 1980s, a (sad to report, now late) colleague and I were asked to devise an extra-mural class for our institution’s foray into “university for the community”; we decided on a course called The Art, Craft and Science of Walking. Each week, a different theme, ranging from geomorphology to place-name analysis, conservation to literature, and this last we called Books for Boots. It was one of my favourite classes, and I think it was John’s overall favourite — an anthology of walking in fiction and non-fiction. Jeanie Deans walked out of Heart of Midlothian, as did David Balfour out of Kidnapped, and Kim, Rudyard Kipling’s hero of the book of that name. On the non-fiction side, there was Patrick Leigh Fermor, WH Murray, and Hamish Brown (yes, we had two Scots running the course). We always finished with the band of explorers setting out on their journey to the pole — Christopher Robin, Piglet, Pooh and the rest. I had to resurrect the title in John’s memory, though it serves a different purpose today.

Where there is a comparative review of books on a particular route (such as the GR34), the individual books’ details will be given on the review page.

The choice of reviewed titles may seem fairly random (as befits a statistical writer), but once a corpus emerges, some structure may develop. Let us wait and see.

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