MOUNTAIN LINES is "a disarmingly engaging memoir by a millennial Kansan. . . . As his mileage mounts, a panoramic portrait emerges, not of the breathtaking alpine backdrop or of the author’s endurance but of the emotional landscape created by the fellowship of hikers."
—The New York Times Book Review (a NYT Summer Travel Reading Recommendation)
I wrote a book about a long walk through the French Alps called Mountain Lines.
The New York Times included it in their Summer Reading Roundup and called it a "disarmingly engaging memoir."
Publisher's Weekly said: "In the end, one of the pleasures of the book is that Arlan strives for no grand pronouncements as he reaches the end of his trail, just stating the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal and a reminding himself 'to take it slow, to not rush.'"
And from Booklist: "Arlan . . . recounts his experience with emotional honesty. Admitting to vacillating dread at the outset, a feeling magnified by his dubious physical fitness, Arlan considers giving up after his initial days of walking. Fortunately for readers, he perseveres."
Longitude Books wrote that Mountain Lines is ""[A] personable debut . . . As [Arlan] slowly conquers the Grand Traverse route from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean . . . [he] meets friendly, decent people and experiences both true exhaustion and true exhilaration."
Foreword Reviews wrote that, "by avoiding bombasity in favor of capturing moments on the trail, Mountain Lines invites interlopers in more graciously than other narratives in the genre. The trip proves to be a realignment for Arlan; its open-ended spirit of welcome invites the same sort of adventurousness in its audience."
GoNomad.com called the book a "genuine travel memoir . . . a compelling narrative, and travel writing in its truest form."
Praise for Mountain Lines
"No journey is too short or mundane if taken with an open and inquisitive spirit. The intimacy and candor of Arlan's narrated trek through the French Alps offer latter-day aspirational vagabonds something tangible: a gentle inspiration, a reminder that wandering, and wondering, can and should be an accessible miracle, easy to fall in love with and to pursue."
—Anna Badkhen, author of Walking with Abel and The World Is a Carpet
“Jonathan Arlan paints an evocative picture of what it’s like to walk through Europe’s highest mountains—arduous days, stunning views, friendly people—and his decency and self-deprecation make him an engaging companion for the armchair traveler.”
—Thomas Swick, author of The Joys of Travel: And Stories That Illuminate Them
"I felt I was riding in Jonathan Arlan's knapsack as he takes the reader on his grand trek from the villages of the French Alps, up through dense forests, past rushing streams, across wildflower-strewn meadows, over stony mountain ridges, and through storm and sun, hardship and good cheer. Reading Mountain Lines makes me want to try the Grand Traverse—or part of it—myself."
—Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire; A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
"Throwing caution to the wind, rain and snow, [Arlan] chose this monthlong classic mountain traverse as his first long-distance trek. Reading [his] account, I felt that I was back in the Alps, revisiting the high passes and quaint villages, dining at village inns and staying in remote mountain refuges. For a first-time visitor, he manages to capture what the trail is all about and his description is bound to inspire others to rise to the same challenge. . . . This is [Arlan’s] first book, and it certainly won’t be his last."
—Paddy Dillon, author of The GR5 Trail
"[Mountain Lines] vividly illustrates what can happen when a person decides to stop dreaming about adventure and—with a bit of apprehension (and perhaps not enough preparation)—sets out on foot to live one."
—Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
From Publisher's Weekly:
First-time author Arlan, a self-described “intensely lazy person,” decides at age 30 to leave “a boring career behind to travel alone” on a walk that starts on the southern tip of Lake Geneva and continues to through the French Alps and finally to the Mediterranean Sea—an idea that he stumbles across while Googling “various permutations of the search terms ‘long,’ ‘mountain,’ ‘hard,’ and ‘walk.’” What he finds—and what he admirably and amiably describes in this memoir—is a journey of self-discovery that encompasses“the breathtaking pain that blasted upward from the soles of my feet” after his first walks; the beauty that he sees almost every day on the road (“the light on the mountains turned every direction I looked into gorgeously rendered landscape paintings”); and the surprising similarity to parts of his journey to his native Kansas (“The scenery moves so slow that you never feel like you are making any progress”). In the end, one of the pleasures of the book is that Arlan strives for no grand pronouncements as he reaches the end of his trail, just stating the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal and a reminding himself “to take it slow, to not rush.”
“A popular hiking trail in Europe, the Grand Traverse of the Alps extends almost 400 miles, from Geneva to Nice. In 2015, one of its perambulators was Arlan, who recounts his experience with emotional honesty. Admitting to vacillating dread at the outset, a feeling magnified by his dubious physical fitness, Arlan considers giving up after his initial days of walking. Fortunately for readers, he perseveres, gains confidence and better muscle tone, and revels in the views he encounters on the way. As obstacle and inspiration, the mountainous terrain presents ascents and descents as Arlan progresses southward and seaward, his way made civilized by inns along the way. In such hostelries, Arlan meets and dines with fellowwalkers, some of whom he briefly accompanies. He also shares the trail for several days with an American friend, Colin; they overcome a getting-lost crisis, then part ways, leaving Arlan to exultantly complete his odyssey on his own at the Mediterranean coast. As much an interior as a geographical journey, Arlan’s first book is enjoyable, companionable travel writing.”