Have you ever taken a moment to look around your surroundings, at the roads, buildings and paths ever-present in our lives and wondered, “how did we get here?” In Robert Moor’s 2016 novel titled “On Trails: An Exploration,” Moor dives headfirst into the concept of how modern humanity shaped the planet we inhabit. Every path we take in life, both physical and figurative, is preceded by decisions we make, whether consciously or not. Moor attempts to unravel and understand these infinite decisions that created the course for our world in his book.
In a memoir-like fashion, Moor begins the book by telling the reader of his adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. Starting in the spring of 2009 in southern Georgia, Moor proceeded to hike the 2,181-mile trail until reaching the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine. It took him nearly five months. Along the way Moor began pondering the thoughts of how the trail came to be, and how many people had walked it before him to craft the path into what it is today. The many insights that enlightened his journey lit a philosophical fire within Moor, inspiring him to question his surroundings like never before.
The book is beautifully written, a “culmination of many years of research and many miles of walking,” Moor writes. Each chapter is devoted to an aspect of questioning about the most basic and yet most complex questions surrounding the trails we take in life. The first chapter begins at the dawn of life in the Precambrian era, and each subsequent chapter follows a loose historical timeline to the postmodern world, focusing on the paths offered to us in life, and the paths that we choose for ourselves. Each chapter answers questions you didn’t even know you wanted answered, and yet for every question answered Moor poses two more for the reader to contemplate.
The novel could be described as a study of life, and how change is constantly happening all around us at a rate too impossible to understand. But Moor does try to understand, and through his path to enlightenment he learns and teaches countless lessons along the way.
For those who yearn for deeper questions in life, or maybe are uncertain about the intersection between their past and their future, “On Trails” is a special something. Moor’s writing sweeps the reader away, and captivates its audience with wonders unlike anything else. If you’re looking for a sign in life to tell you which path should be your next one, look no further. Moor’s novel imprints on its readers with its imagination and emotion, and no one says it better than Moor himself. In conclusion I will leave you with an excerpt from the final paragraph of the prologue, which perfectly prompts the novel as a whole:
“In the maze of the modern world, the wisdom of trails is as essential as ever, and with the growth of ever-more labyrinthine technological networks, it will only become more so. To deftly navigate this world, we will need to understand how we make trails, and how trails make us.”