Walking to Listen: 4000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time,  Andrew Forsthoefel, 2017 

Forsthoefel, a recent graduate of Middlebury College, decides to find himself and his purpose by walking from outside Philadelphia to the Pacific Ocean via New Orleans with a sign on his backpack that reads “Walking to Listen”.  I abandoned this book about 50 pages in convinced that I had little to learn from this 24 year old walker, but I returned to the book a couple of weeks later and read straight through.  I was right in one sense:  Forsthoefl didn’t really have much wisdom to pass on.  On the other hand, what an amazing quest and feat and what an amazing group of people he met on the road!  His writing is good enough to keep one going and the tale is quite worth the time.  In addition, his quotes from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Rilke’s Letter to a Young Poet are worth the read by themselves.  Favorites include:  Rilke: “Be attentive to what’s arising within you, and place that above everything you perceive around you.  What is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it.”  “For ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters, we are unspeakably alone.”    Whitman:  Then there are Forsthoefel’s words themselves about walking and people as follows:  “You amble along, and it’s like being whited out in a snowstorm.  You can’t see anything and you’re not aware of anything, and it’s going on around you.  It don’t amount to a whole lot, but the sum total is it’s a beautiful experience when you get through.  It clears your head.  You’re “All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me,/Now I stand on this spot with my soul.”  “To walk up my stoop is unaccountable…I pause to consider if it really be,/That I eat and drink is spectacle enough for the great authors and schools,/ A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”   there.” And “Of course, all these people were far more than the titles I’ve just given them, but that’s taxonomy, finding some kind of order in the chaos and classifying it. …Because then an amalgam of indistinguishable faces splinters off into hundreds of millions of fragments—individual human beings.  The closer you look, the more varieties you find, and any goat-and-sheep dichotomy starts to look completely absurd.”  Forsthoefl actually does OK on the wisdom thing once you read closely.