Synopses & Reviews
From a brilliant new literary voice comes a groundbreaking exploration of how trails help us understand the world—from tiny ant trails to hiking paths that span continents, from interstate highways to the Internet.
In 2009, while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Robert Moor began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet: How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others devolve? What makes us follow or strike off on our own? Over the course of the next seven years, Moor traveled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds, from the miniscule to the massive. He learned the tricks of master trail-builders, hunted down long-lost Cherokee trails, and traced the origins of our road networks and the Internet. In each chapter, Moor interweaves his adventures with findings from science, history, philosophy, and nature writing—combining the nomadic joys of Peter Matthiessen with the eclectic wisdom of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.
Throughout, Moor reveals how this single topic—the oft-overlooked trail—sheds new light on a wealth of age-old questions: How does order emerge out of chaos? How did animals first crawl forth from the seas and spread across continents? How has humanity’s relationship with nature and technology shaped world around us? And, ultimately, how does each of us pick a path through life?
Moor has the essayist’s gift for making new connections, the adventurer’s love for paths untaken, and the philosopher’s knack for asking big questions. With a breathtaking arc that spans from the dawn of animal life to the digital era, On Trails is a book that makes us see our world, our history, our species, and our ways of life anew.
"Here is an erudite meditation on the communities of creatures who roam the planet, and how they decide where to go. Robert Moor’s eye scans from the dirt beneath his boot to the wide expanse of animal movement through time and through space. He is a pilgrim and a philosopher, walking and wondering, talking to thinkers and thinking wisely on his own; and his book is a lively companion, whether for your own long walks or for contemplating the lines we make across fields and through snow." Ted Conover, author of The Routes of Man and Rolling Nowhere
"There are revelations at every turn here, from the nature of shepherding, to the vast network of ancient animal and Native American trails that underlie modern North America, to the very qualities of the best trails—durability, efficiency, and flexibility—and how we learn from them even as we move beyond them....[A] deeply informed study of nature and history of trailmaking." Booklist (Starred Review)
"For a combination of adventure physical and intellectual, this book is tough to beat. And if you slice away the covers and trim the edges, it’s the perfect companion for a long hike someplace down the trail." Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature and Wandering Home
"A sagacious walker and writer guides us on a new journey of discovery, a different kind of road trip about roads themselves and what they mean. [On Trails] is consistently fascinating and entertaining. … With side trips to areas scarcely visited before, this is a fine guide to places with better views of the world." Kirkus Reviews
"An inspired exploration of the collective wisdom of trails. The warm, sinuous line of the narrative is its own reward." William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days
About the Author
Robert Moor has written for Harper’s, n+1, New York, and GQ, among other publications. A recipient of the Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism, he has won multiple awards for his nonfiction writing. He lives in Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia. On Trails is his first book.
Robert Moor on PowellsBooks.Blog
When I set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail back in the spring of 2009, the problem of literature vexed me. I knew that paring one's pack weight down to a minimum was essential to making a safe and relatively (but still, it turned out, not all that) painless walk from Georgia to Maine. But I also knew...