Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s most memorable walks, Ben Shattuck’s journey is a thoughtful meditation on following another’s path in order to find his own way.
On a summer morning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau stepped out his front door to walk the beaches of Cape Cod. Over a century and a half later, Ben Shattuck does the same. With little more than a loaf of bread, brick of cheese, and a notebook, Shattuck sets out to retrace Thoreau’s path through the Cape’s outer beaches, from the elbow to Provincetown’s fingertip.
This walk through Cape Cod is the first of six journeys taken by Shattuck, each one inspired by a journey once taken by Henry David Thoreau. As he first traverses the Cape, then Mount Wachusett, Mount Katahdin, the Allagash, and then his own hometown, Shattuck encounters the unexpected—like the enigmatic millionaire who buys him dinner in a Provincetown pub, or the kind couple who take him in for the night as an oysterman once took in Thoreau—and comes to see for himself the restorative effects that walking can have on a dampened spirit. Over years of following Thoreau, Shattuck finds himself uncovering new insights about family, love, friendship, and impending fatherhood, and understanding more deeply the lessons walking can offer through life’s changing seasons.
Interweaving passages from Thoreau’s many writings alongside Shattuck’s own thinking and memories, Six Walks is an intimate, beautifully crafted meditation on Thoreau’s work and personhood, and a resounding tribute to the ways walking in nature can inspire us all.
About the Author
Ben Shattuck, a former Teaching-Writing Fellow and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is
a recipient of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize and a 2019 Pushcart Prize. He is the
director of the Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency and curator of the Dedee Shattuck Gallery.
His writing can be found in the Harvard Review, The Common, the Paris Review Daily, Lit Hub,
and Kinfolk Magazine. He lives with his wife and daughter on the coast of Massachusetts, where
he owns and runs a general store built in 1793.
I think Thoreau would have liked this book, and I think that's a high recommendation. — Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
Walking as means of healing, walking as a way of seeing what’s there, walking as a method of pulling you out of yourself and rejoining the world—in this beautiful, smart, and moving book, Ben Shattuck shows us where putting one foot in front of the other can take us. Thoreau’s footsteps serve as map, but Shattuck has made a fresh journey right into the heart of things. In painterly prose, he brings us along on his walks and proves the best sort of guide: curious, open to the chance encounter, deeply attuned to rhythms natural and personal and to the strange joys to be found even in periods of pain. Most of all, he reminds us, every step of the way, of what’s on offer every time we walk out the door. — Nina MacLaughlin, author of Summer Solstice: An Essay
By walking in Thoreau’s footsteps, Ben Shattuck ends up following the long trail left by wandering thinkers and writers like Rousseau, Muir, Walser, Benjamin, and Solnit. Along the way, Six Walks offers a moving meditation on nature and history—and what our precarious place between these two realms may be.
— Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance
Inspired by Thoreau, but soon onto something that is very much his own, Ben Shattuck takes us on a journey that bores into the history of both himself and his native New England. A book of loss and redemption, fear and fragile hope, Six Walks is rich, evocative, and like the boat gunwale that cuts off the tip of his finger, unexpectedly dangerous—in that best of Thoreauvian ways.
— Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Hurricane’s Eye