Synopses & Reviews
"The best outdoors book of the year" (Sierra Club), from a debut talent who’s been compared to Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, David Quammen, and Jared Diamond. On Trails is a wondrous exploration of how trails help us understand the world — from invisible 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 fade? 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. 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.
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 the world around us? And, ultimately, how does each of us pick a path through life? With a breathtaking arc that spans from the dawn of animal life to the digital era, the whole of On Trails allows us see our world, our history, our species, and our ways of life anew.
On Trails has been described as "stunning" and "wondrous" (Departures), "a wanderer’s dream" (The Economist), and "a deeply thoughtful human meditation on how we walk through life" (The Boston Globe). Moor is "a philosopher on foot" (The Wall Street Journal) and "a sagacious walker and writer, [guiding] us on a new journey of discovery, a different kind of road trip about roads themselves and what they mean" (Kirkus Reviews).
"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
"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)
"You might think of Robert Moor as the Roger Angell of trail-walking. Just as Angell’s reports on specific baseball games segue effortlessly into reflections on the venerable sport itself, so Moor looks up from whatever trail he may be on to see the big picture. Which is often very big, indeed.... Highly satisfying… On Trails is an engaging blend of travelogue, sociology, history and philosophy that might be summed up as a meditation on the centrality of trails to animal and human life." The Washington Post
"Stunning… a wondrous nonfiction debut.… In each chapter, Moor explores the same phenomenon in a surprising new context, from the fossilized traces of prehistoric smudges to swaths of jungle flattened by elephants, from the paths of nomadic Native Americans to the interstates that paved them over. Along the way, Moor reaches into the history of science, religion, and philosophy to trace similar lines of refinement in the amassing of knowledge and ideas.… It’s an exhilarating journey." Departures
"The best outdoors book of the year.… An outstanding work that should be read by anyone who has spent time following a footpath through the woods. Robert Moor’s debut book, On Trails, trips through natural history, anthropology, gonzo reporter’s adventures, and memoir in a ramble that unpacks the many meanings of the routes we humans and other animals sketch on the land.… The prologue alone is worth the price of admission: a nearly-30-page set piece about hiking the A.T. that puts Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed to shame. (Moor actually, you know, completed the full thru-hike.)" Sierra Club
"Part natural history, part scientific inquiry, but most of all a deeply thoughtful human meditation on how we walk through life, Moor’s book is enchanting." The Boston Globe
"Like Montaigne, Mr. Moor writes about one subject as a way of touching on 100 others. Although his ostensible topic is how humans and other creatures make the routes that get them from A to B, On Trails also considers Greek mythology and the origins of life, the intricacy of caterpillar nests and the stealth of elephants, the physicist Richard Feynman and the Biblical Cain. The thicket of information here comes to resemble a densely wooded trail itself — one that Mr. Moor expertly navigates. He’s a philosopher on foot, recording his journey through miles of wilderness and through a mind sorting out the meaning of travel itself.… The only constant in On Trails is the promise of surprise." The Wall Street Journal
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.