Take a stroll with the 'Starkville Walk Reader': Will Malone

Walk-reader Will Malone strolls around the Drill Field as he devours his latest novel. He has been walk-reading since 2013.

Plenty of people choose to liven up their campus walks by listening to music or an audiobook, but it is not every day you see someone walking while reading their favorite hardback.

However, for Mississippi State University students, it is something they see every day.

Will Malone, a library associate who works in access services at MSU's Mitchell Memorial Library, is known fondly around campus and town as "The Starkville Walk Reader."

If you find that hard to believe, just go to @starkvillewalkreader on Instagram and peruse the many community-submitted photos of the walk reader.

The account, started and managed by the walk reader's wife and MSU admissions counselor Casey Malone, features photos of Will Malone walk reading all over the town and campus, and even includes pictures of him walk reading up and down stairs.  

"He thinks it's completely normal. I would disagree," Casey Malone said, laughing. "It's not normal."

Will Malone said he began walk reading in 2013 after a near miss with a car while he was walking with earbuds in, listening to music.

"I had a close call with a car one time that just sort of almost grazed me. And it was kind of a step back realization that hearing all around you is at least as important as seeing what's in front of you," Will Malone said.

He started practicing walk reading around his apartment complex then slowly expanded to longer distances, until COVID came and took his game to the next level.

"Early COVID lockdowns I was trying to get out of the house and I basically ended up walking like Forrest Gump or something all over town trying to distract myself," Will Malone said.

Now, Malone takes a four-mile walk in a loop around town every weekend, weather-permitting. He also walk reads across campus during the week at lunch time and other breaks.

While Malone does not spurn podcasts or digital media, he is dedicated to the concept of the classic paper-and-print book.

"I guess I'm kind an old man when it comes to the book as an object, you know. We have enough screens as it is, and I don't want to substitute reading for another screen," Will Malone said.

Malone's reverence for books and readings comes from his mother and grandmother and was instilled in him from the earliest of ages.

"I remember my grandmother—up until she passed at 80—she would read novels with a magnifying glass. So seeing one of the elder figures in my life that I looked up to and respected doing all that she was able to be able to read was something that stuck with me," Will Malone said.

While the walk reader is aware of the Instagram account started in his honor, he has not seen a single post from it, nor does he want to. 

"He doesn't really like attention," Casey Malone said. "So I think that he can pretend to ignore it if he doesn't look at it, which is pretty funny because he sometimes will notice people taking pictures of him, but most of the time he doesn't even notice— because he is legit reading."

Casey Malone recounted one of her favorite submissions to the account.

"I had a student send me a picture of him walking past her reading towards the Union, and then he walked away with some Chick-fil-A. So I sent him a message and said, 'How is your Chick-fil-A?' And he said, 'Wow, I haven't even opened the bag yet.' But then that gave me the opportunity to poke fun at him for not eating what I had cooked for him to eat," Casey Malone said.

Vyusti Yadav, a sophomore business administration major, works for Will Malone in access services at the library and is a frequent contributor to the walk reader Instagram account.

"I'd see him walk out of the library with a book and think 'Oh OK he's probably going to go sit down outside,' but then over the months you just see him walking (with a book). He doesn't look up," Yadav said.

Do not be fooled by the post on April 1 that said the walk reader fell while walking. In fact, Will Malone said he has never once tripped, fallen or run into somebody while walk reading, a skill he attributes at least partly to being so familiar with the local terrain.

"I'm a Starkville native. So I think that's part of what allows me to walk around and read without falling on my face ... I know where all the cracks in the pavement and the wonky sidewalks are," Will Malone said.

So, on any given day when you walk past the now-famous walk reader, what might he be reading?

Malone's current read is "White Noise" by Don DeLillo, and the most "satisfying" book he has ever read is "Suttree" by Cormac McCarthy, a book he described as a rare treasure. His favorite genre is '60s and '70s-era crime fiction.

Malone's wife, Casey, also loves reading, but she likes doing it while stationary.

"I love to read, but I have a Kindle and I like to read on my couch or in the bed. I like to be in one spot moving at zero miles per hour," Casey Malone said, laughing.

The walk reader's love for books extends to his job, where he finds satisfaction in helping others obtain access to research materials they need.

"I mean, I think libraries in general are sort of synonymous with an eccentric character here and there, and if I'm associated with that, that's fine." Will Malone said.

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