Dan Rubinstein's Born to Walk is a perfect springtime read, an absorbing book that will awaken your senses to nature and your nature. Rubinstein takes a fascinating look at how the simple act of walking has the power to transform our lives and the world around us.
He talks to us here about great non-fiction, pedestrian surprises, and the perils of reading while walking.
49th Shelf: In Born to Walk, your project is huge—a mix of science, sociology, and memoir, crisscrossing continents, and approaches. What other non-fiction books did you have in mind as a template for organizing and synthesizing such a vast amount of information?
Dan Rubinstein: I live and breathe non-fiction, both books and long-form magazine features, but one of the challenges I had when looking for works to emulate is that most narrative non-fiction books, such as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, involve a single main character on one main journey. Into the Wild, The Golden Spruce, and Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein (no relation)—books that I consider to be among the finest of this genre—were not great templates for me. They feature the mix of reportage, personal storytelling, and travelogue that I love. But I wanted to write about a string of characters on a range of differ …
You know what it's like.
You've finished the arduous work of researching and writing a book. After months of solitary effort you send the manuscript to the publisher and suddenly, the hectic process of editing begins. Facts are checked, grammar is corrected, and entire passages are queried, scrutinized, and rewritten. Finally, the manuscript is ready and the work is sent to the printer. A few weeks later, a small box arrives in the mail with your finished book. It's done, and it cannot be changed.
A few days later, you read an article that changes everything.
The little book I've written is called Time and the Suburbs and it's a political and philosophical critique of the kind of suburban environments that we are constructing across North America. My thesis is that our cities are disappearing as a result of vast, new postmetropolitan environments that are extending across the landscape.These new regions are changing the way we live and interact with each other, not just on the new suburban fringes, but deep within our traditional cities.