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Walden (and Civil Disobedience)

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The classic book, Walden, is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, and manual for self reliance. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. This Book, optimized for the Kindle with an activ The classic book, Walden, is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, and manual for self reliance. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. This Book, optimized for the Kindle with an active Table of Contents, also contains the famous Henry David Thoreau work: Civil Disobedience. ********************************** We are pleased to offer thousands of books for the Kindle, including thousands of hard-to-find literature and classic fiction books. Click on our Editor Name (eBook-Ventures) next to the book title above to view all of the titles that are currently available. **********************************


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The classic book, Walden, is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, and manual for self reliance. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. This Book, optimized for the Kindle with an activ The classic book, Walden, is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, and manual for self reliance. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. This Book, optimized for the Kindle with an active Table of Contents, also contains the famous Henry David Thoreau work: Civil Disobedience. ********************************** We are pleased to offer thousands of books for the Kindle, including thousands of hard-to-find literature and classic fiction books. Click on our Editor Name (eBook-Ventures) next to the book title above to view all of the titles that are currently available. **********************************

30 review for Walden (and Civil Disobedience)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    The tale of a man who dared to live in his parents backyard and eat dinner with them, and then lived to write about it. Compelling.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    A naturalist, a transcendentalist or an individualist? Thoreau’s principles could be labelled with the previous statutory concepts and yet none of them would suffice to provide a full description of him. He struck me as a man who didn’t want to be restricted by category; he chose experience and common sense as modus operandi to lead a deliberate lifestyle and to reach his own conclusions without meaning to inculcate them on others. Walden is the result of Thoreau’s minute observations that he com A naturalist, a transcendentalist or an individualist? Thoreau’s principles could be labelled with the previous statutory concepts and yet none of them would suffice to provide a full description of him. He struck me as a man who didn’t want to be restricted by category; he chose experience and common sense as modus operandi to lead a deliberate lifestyle and to reach his own conclusions without meaning to inculcate them on others. Walden is the result of Thoreau’s minute observations that he compiled while he lived in a rustic shed near a lake in Concort, Massachusets. Full of all kind of practical detail, the book is more than a diary but less than a philosophical abstraction. It arises as a fragmented tapestry of the meditations of a man concerned about his surroundings and the society to which he belongs, even if he makes a conscious effort to disentangle from his contemporary fellowmen in order to think straight, in order to stablish priorities without the social distractions attached to community living. The idea that shines brighter in Thoreau’s discourse is that actions should be faithful mirrors of belief, so he decided to act consequently and he cut back comfort to be more in charge of his simple, frugal life. Man lives in constant stimulation to consume above his real needs according to a general interest that doesn’t necessarily correlate to his own. It’s important not to mistake Thoreau’s aversion to frivolity with unfounded rejection of modernity or technological progress by default. He professes that man can achieve spiritual and physical serenity by contemplation of the natural world, and redefine the notion of welfare, which shouldn’t imply accumulating wealth, but rather making use of it only when it is required. Austerity, self-reliance and a clearly defined frame of values are essential to write one’s destiny without giving way to external pressures. Thoreau’s “original experiment” doesn’t aspire to preach or to impose a guideline to create a following. Instead, it invites to reflect about the principles that rule our lives and question whether we are investing our limited time on what is really essential. Far from being a grumpy hermit, Thoreau sings the praises of a good conversation and basks in the company of those with inquisitive minds, dismissing the lulling tonality of generalized academic discourse. Poet, philosopher and fisherman share equal positions in Thoreau’s mental horizon because they all have a close relationship with nature and they don’t take its precious gifts for granted. Walden is in fact a hymn to the natural rhythms and seasons, to the trees and vegetation that blooms and decays in perfect communion with the birds and fauna that populate the wilderness. The pond is the ever-present witness to Thoreau’s unusual moral firmness, to the authenticity of his resolutions, and sometimes overwhelming culture that is exquisitely balanced out with his surprising sensitivity. Ice melting into transparent-blue water that later acquires a greenish tint when the spring sun hauls the earth finds the ideal recipient in Thoreau’s ideals of justice and beauty. Personally, I might not fully agree with everything that Thoreau exposes in this work, his reasoning might end up being repetitive and it runs the risk of sounding a bit like postulating, but I can’t help but admire the man who knew how to include as much poetry in his life as life in literature and inspire future generations to fight for what they believe is right.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    This book alerted me to the fickleness of my own opinions. At first it all seemed rather nice "the majority of men live lives of quiet desperation" and all that. But then I found out about the doughnuts. Apparently every so often Thoreau would walk down the road to the nearby town where his Mum lived and she would treat him to doughnuts. Thoreau in Walden doesn't mention the doughnuts, instead detailing the amount of beans he grew but for me the doughnuts torpedo the project in three ways. Firstly This book alerted me to the fickleness of my own opinions. At first it all seemed rather nice "the majority of men live lives of quiet desperation" and all that. But then I found out about the doughnuts. Apparently every so often Thoreau would walk down the road to the nearby town where his Mum lived and she would treat him to doughnuts. Thoreau in Walden doesn't mention the doughnuts, instead detailing the amount of beans he grew but for me the doughnuts torpedo the project in three ways. Firstly in crude calorific terms, secondly by underlining how Thoreau's experiment in independence is possible only within the context of his dependence on society both in the sense of the goods that the wider society produced and in the sense of social interaction, thirdly it presents his conversation with the passing Irishman and his family in a different light - what Thoreau shows us inadvertently is not the contrast between life in the woods and life as a wage slave but the contrast between a life of being born into privilege, in which one has the personal connections that allows one to live on someone else's land and eat doughnuts without have to earn the money to buy them, and not having privilege in society. What Thoreau could do was impossible for the Irishman and his family who he looks down on. To clarify slightly (view spoiler)[ or to confuse matters further depending on your point of view (hide spoiler)] following on from comments below, I'm not interested in the question of hypocrisy. What I see is that Thoreau lived an experiment but published false results. Despite what ever he may write to the contrary while man can live in the woods, it is not sufficient. Even the most reclusive of men are social animals, even though they deny it, one does not escape Aristotle quite so easily (view spoiler)[ except in the case of biology (hide spoiler)] . (view spoiler)[ Also with regard to comments below I point the gentle reader in the direction of the Podcast by the woman who wrote Who cooked Adam Smith's dinner? on the same subject, again this insight torpedoes Thoreau as it does Adam Smith in my opinion in the disregard for an aspect of the daily realities of life that both experienced but turned a blind eye to in their pontifications (hide spoiler)] Another reading might be that even if wood dwelling was a reasonable possibility for all people, Thoreau's experiment demonstrates the need for centres of doughnut production within easy walking distance of even the most widely scattered hermits. And if we need doughnut production, it follows we require a social and economic apparatus that enables it. But Thoreau, despite how dear doughnuts were to him, doesn't want to admit to this in his writing. On reflection, and at my advanced age, I find this sad, self denying. Perhaps Thoreau intuited that there could be no reconciliation between doughnut eating and a life of freedom when the former involved slavery (view spoiler)[ on account of the sugar (hide spoiler)] , international trade, coercive labour management, ecological upheaval, a technically developing society and so on. Perhaps this is one reason why we speak of "the American Dream" rather than the American reality. Having said all that he also has many beautiful things to say about nature and living a life with intention and integrity. But as a reader we can enjoy his doughnuts and have them a little salted (view spoiler)[ unless you have high blood pressure... (hide spoiler)]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Walden: I take issue with a wealthy man living in a shack for a period and pretending that living one mile from town and having his mother do his laundry qualifies him to advise mankind to "sell your clothes and keep your thoughts." An experiment in simplicity, getting close to nature, I'm all for it. But when your experiment ends in a renewal of your previous lifestyle, how can you advise others to make changes that would leave them in the position permanently?

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

    I often credit this book with my philosophical awakening. Thoreau presents a criticism of modern life, technology, economy, and wasteful culture from the perspective of one who has simplified his life and experienced something much closer to real independence than any other modern man. Some have criticized him for not being truly and completely independent - he lived on Emerson's property, he visited friends for the occasional dinner, he washed his clothes at his mother's house - but I think the I often credit this book with my philosophical awakening. Thoreau presents a criticism of modern life, technology, economy, and wasteful culture from the perspective of one who has simplified his life and experienced something much closer to real independence than any other modern man. Some have criticized him for not being truly and completely independent - he lived on Emerson's property, he visited friends for the occasional dinner, he washed his clothes at his mother's house - but I think these criticisms miss the point. Total and complete self-reliance is impossible in the modern world. Thoreau came closer than any other writer or philosopher of his time. Read it for his pure and earnest love of nature, his witty and idiosyncratic style, his subtle humor, and his benediction to all of society that we always have an alternative to supporting an immoral status quo.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Lentz

    Henry David Thoreau is best known as an American writer and transcendentalist who wanted first-hand to experience intuitively and understand profoundly the rapport between man and nature. In a sense Thoreau is Adam after the Fall living East of Eden as a bachelor in a humble cabin built beside Walden Pond by his own hands with tools borrowed from Concord neighbors and sustained by the fruits of a bean field sown in his garden and with resources granted to him by the wilderness. He wants to trans Henry David Thoreau is best known as an American writer and transcendentalist who wanted first-hand to experience intuitively and understand profoundly the rapport between man and nature. In a sense Thoreau is Adam after the Fall living East of Eden as a bachelor in a humble cabin built beside Walden Pond by his own hands with tools borrowed from Concord neighbors and sustained by the fruits of a bean field sown in his garden and with resources granted to him by the wilderness. He wants to transcend inauthentic, everyday life in Concord and awaken his “over-soul” to the beauty and harmony of life by living mindfully in every moment in the subtly beckoning arms of the woods, ponds, rivers, seacoast and mountains of New England. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life,” Thoreau writes in Walden in "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For." This deliberate action to immerse himself in nature would pulsate with a circadian rhythm throughout his brief, vibrant life as he canoed the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, walked the beaches of Cape Cod and traveled in the wilds of Maine with Native American guides. Thoreau studied at Harvard College between 1833 and 1837. Living in Hollis Hall, he read rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics and science, and became a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. With his brother, John, they opened a grammar school in 1838 in Concord Academy but their school ended when John became fatally ill from tetanus in 1842 after cutting himself while shaving: John died in Henry's arms. In Concord he met Ralph Waldo Emerson, who took a paternal interest in Thoreau and introduced him to local writers like Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, Ellery Channing and his future literary representative, Horace Greeley. On April 30, 1844 he and his friend, Edward Hoar, accidentally set a fire that consumed 300 acres of Walden Woods between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. After fishing they built a fire in a tree stump near the pond to make chowder. Amid brisk winds in near-drought conditions, the fire spread from the stump into dry grass. When the fire reached the trees, Henry ran through the woods ahead of the flames, encountering an owner of the blazing woods. Atop Fair Haven Hill he watched aghast as the old forest of pine, birch, alders, oaks, and maples spread through the drought-stricken woods. With Concord at risk the fire burned for a day until volunteers subdued it. In March 1845 Ellery Channing told a restless Thoreau, "Go out, build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no other alternative, no other hope for you." Thus, Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in living simply on July 4, 1845, when he moved to a modest cabin that he constructed on 14 acres of land owned by Emerson on the shores of Walden Pond. As a protégé of Emerson, Thoreau transformed into a supremely self-reliant individual, which is a core value of transcendentalism. Transcendentalists hold that an ideal spiritual state transcends, or overcomes, the physical and empirical world around us and that one achieves insight through personal intuition. Nature is the outward manifestation of one’s over-soul by expressing the "radical correspondence of visible things and human thoughts," as Emerson wrote in "Nature" in 1836. At Walden, Thoreau seeks a deep dive into the over-soul like a wood duck on a tranquil pond at dawn and he finds the engine of this crossing-over into a transcendent understanding of life by his immersive communion with nature in all of its pure manifestations. In solitude Thoreau distances himself from others, not only by a few miles of geography to the pristine purity of the water of Walden Pond, but also by a worldview intent upon surveying the botany of the Garden undistracted by the common, quotidian pursuits of his Concord neighbors. “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” he writes. As he confronts his most basic need for shelter in the woods, he writes, “Before winter, I built a chimney.” He borrows an axe from a neighbor but returns it sharper than he received it. In “Higher Laws” he poses the central existential question to his Concord neighbors to which Walden is his answer: “Why do you stay here and live this moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you?”

  7. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! This month, two hundred years ago, Henry David Thoreau made his way into the world. Thus it seemed like a good time to revisit his thorny classic, which filled me with such contradictory feelings the first time around. This time, I was struck first by how current Thoreau’s book reads. A vegetarian before it was fashionable, or even respectable; a pioneer of nature writing and conservationism; a godfather of activism and p How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! This month, two hundred years ago, Henry David Thoreau made his way into the world. Thus it seemed like a good time to revisit his thorny classic, which filled me with such contradictory feelings the first time around. This time, I was struck first by how current Thoreau’s book reads. A vegetarian before it was fashionable, or even respectable; a pioneer of nature writing and conservationism; a godfather of activism and protest; an author of lines that, even now, wouldn’t be out of place in any self-help book; and the originator of the “stunt-book”—doing something unusual and then writing about it—anticipating both performance art and reality television in his classic account of his life “in the woods.” It is very easy to dislike Thoreau, or even to despise him. Thoreau took himself very seriously. He comes across as pretentious and magnificently condescending, while at the same time as naïve as a child. For all his practicality, he was astoundingly impractical. His insistence that everyone in Concord learn enough Latin and Greek to read the classic texts is characteristic of him—a snobbish and pointless piece of advice, delivered with disdain. His authorial personality is so often prickly and misanthropic, rebuking the world at every turn, and this mood is never lightened by an easy humor. There is no Montaigne in this self-chronicler; instead, like Iago, he is nothing if not critical. You wonder if anything but loons and books ever pleased him. He was, in a word, a dour man. The case against Thoreau is more serious than just his off-putting authorial personality. The most common charge made against him is that of hypocrisy. His book purports to be the record of a bold experiment in living in the woods. He describes how he built his own house, grew his own beans, baked his own bread, and rhapsodizes about the solitude and isolation he created for himself. But in reality he was living just 20 minutes from his ancestral home, squatting on land lent to him by his friend Emerson, and receiving frequent and plentiful visitors. Apparently he went home weekly to get cookies from his mother, who also kindly delivered doughnuts and pies to our hero. It is not reported whether he ate his cookies and doughnuts with milk. This is a damning fact, considering that Thoreau carefully documents all of his expenses and goes into excruciating detail as to his eating habits—without mentioning a single cookie. He gives the impression that he was a hermit on the very edge of society, living on the produce he created, savoring his lonely retreat from the world. And all this is recorded with the stated intention of showing that self-sufficiency is possible. But if Thoreau himself can bear neither a diet of pure beans nor the stark isolation of true life in the woods, his whole experiment is a sham. It is one thing for an ordinary citizen to be hypocritical; it is another thing for a moralizing philosopher who repeatedly stresses the necessity of living in accordance with one’s tenets. The case against Thoreau goes ever further than this. For, if his practice didn’t align with his preaching, his preaching didn’t align with his preaching either. Walden is a baffling bundle of contradictions. Did Thoreau like the steam engines or hate them? He excoriates them one moment, and the next he goes into rhapsodies about the locomotive. He praises hunting as a way of bringing oneself closer with nature, and then he condemns all killing and eating of animals. Here he is enjoining us to ignore fantasies and pay close attention to reality: “If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.” And here he is telling us to do the opposite: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.” The perplexing thing about this inconsistency is that Thoreau never admits to hesitation or doubt. He rattles off his opinions with the fervor of a zealot. And yet even his zealotry is inconsistent, for it was Thoreau who famously said “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured and far away.” This famous paean to self-determination is ensconced in a book filled with biting scorn for those who do not agree with Thoreau. In all likelihood, Thoreau himself was the least tolerant man in Concord. Considering both his inconsistency in action and speech, it is difficult to know what exactly Thoreau, who is always urging us, is actually urging us to do. But I think that a strong case can be made for Thoreau, too—especially now. For Walden has aged remarkably well. If anything, Thoreau’s classic has become even more relevant in our harried age. Thoreau flees to the woods because of a growing horror with every aspect of his contemporary society—the unjust government, the growing consumerism, the obsession with technology, the increasing specialization of labor, the absorption of all leisure by work, the constant petty conversation, the disregard of wild nature. The sources of this horror are, I think, in part mysterious to even himself, which might be one explanation for his inconsistency. He is like a boxer swinging wildly at an invisible enemy, or a doctor prescribing medicines for an unknown malady. But to be fair, we haven’t gotten much closer to solving the problems that Thoreau tried to tackle with such spirit. For my part, I think Thoreau’s instincts are right, even when his diagnoses and his cures are wrong. His abhorrence of economic exchange, of interdependence, is an excellent example. Modern society obviously could not exist without exchange; the economy would collapse if we all chose to live like Thoreau advocates, and technological innovation would come to a standstill. Yet Thoreau’s abhorrence of intedependence is neither political nor economic, but moral. He recognized quite clearly, I think, that in a complex economy, we are enmeshed in processes that have moral implications. When we buy a product, for example, we don’t know who made it or how they were treated. When we patronize a shop, we don’t know what the owner does with our money. When we throw something away, we don’t know where it ends up. Since the morality of any action is partly determined by its effects, and since many of those effects are hidden from view in a complex economy, to a certain extent we can’t even know the morality of our own life. This is why it was so inspiriting for Thoreau to build his own cabin and farm his own food; he could be sure of his “ethical footprint,” so to speak, and so could take full responsibility for his actions. Now, I don’t think Thoreau wanted to do this for the sake of others—he is extremely wary of do-gooderism—but for himself, since we cannot live authentically if we cannot know the effects of our actions. To borrow an idea from the philosopher John Lachs, this state of ignorance as to the sources and causes of our moral lives is one part of that modern alienation that Marxists have described. When jobs become highly specialized, we might not be completely sure about our own effects within the organization in which we work. I myself have been in that situation, churning out data to be used by unknown people for unknown ends. Everyone in a complex economy, even a commercial farmer, is in this situation. Thoreau's solution, isolating oneself in the woods, is I think undesirable—since it consists in dissolving society completely (which the misanthropic Thoreau might not have objected to)—but his experiment does at least help us to identify the causes of our “quiet desperation.” Thoreau is also refreshing on the subject of work and leisure. The glorification of works carries with it the denigration of leisure, which Thoreau realized. When we consider only those activities as worthwhile that can make money for us, we spend our free hours in thoughtless relaxation or idling. And yet working, even if it is remunerative, is too often degrading—largely thanks to excessive specialization, which demands that we do the same thing over and over again, neglecting the full range of our capacities. Work consumes our time and energy and leaves us few moments for reflection and self-improvement. And because we consider leisure only a respite from work—since free time doesn’t pay, it is not for serious exertion—we do not even use what moments we have to achieve perspective and to develop our latent potential. Again, Thoreau’s prescription for excessive work—to squat on someone else’s land and farm only the bare minimum—is disappointing and (pardon the pun) unworkable. And his advice for how to spend one’s free time—reading ancient books in the original language—is, at the very least, limited. But once again, his thrashing responses at least point the way to the malady that ails us, and his deadly seriousness can remind us to take our free time seriously and not squander it. Thoreau is perhaps most valuable for his insistence on the time and space to think. Often it seems that the modern world is a conspiracy to prevent thinking. We work until we’re bone tired, and spend our free time in endless, meaningless small talk. Thoreau said: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” Imagine if Thoreau could see us now, ceaselessly connected to each other with mobile telegraphs in our pockets, with scarcely anything more to say. The point, of course, is not that the telegraph is inherently bad—nor are smart phones for that matter—but that these things can easily become distractions, distractions in the existential sense, allowing idle chit-chat to intrude into every corner of our lives. News also comes in for abuse. Too often we read the news, not with a genuine desire to learn about the world or to help us change it, but out of habit, worrying about distant problems that seldom affect us and that, in any case, we seldom try to solve. Sure, it is easy to dismiss Thoreau when he makes such dogmatic pronouncements as “To a philosophers, all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.” Yet I know many for whom the news is an addiction, and consuming news is the full extent of their political engagement. (And I don’t think I’m any better in this regard.) Again, the point is not that we shouldn’t read the news, but that we should not let ourselves develop a false sense of urgency that prevents us from examining our own lives. Thoreau demands space for genuine thought. But what is genuine thought? I think this is what Thoreau had in mind with his famous lines “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Genuine thought, in other words, is thinking about the best way to live—what is deeply and lastingly important to us, and what is only temporarily or superficially important. I personally have found that even a week of relative isolation can be clarifying. It is amazing how fast anxieties and problems melt away when we remove ourselves from our usual environment. We spend so much time worrying about how to get things that we don’t stop to wonder if we really want them. It is easy, too easy, to accept goals and priorities from our environment without scrutiny. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Thoreau was reacting against problems of the modern world, problems that have only become more pervasive. His solution, which I find extremely unconvincing, is to reject society completely—and in practice, his solution is only viable for well-connected, single men with no children. Thoreau achieves a kind of purity at the expense of advocating something that is totally non-viable for the vast majority of humanity. But reading his book was, for me, a clarifying and a rejuvenating experience—a reminder to consider the more important questions of life, and also a reminder that these questions can perhaps never be definitely answered. You may disagree completely with me about the philosophical merit of Thoreau. But his skill as a writer is indisputable. This book is a magnificent monument of prose. Whether he is describing his beloved pond or narrating a battle of ants, his writing is clear, forceful, and direct; and his fingertips occasionally touch the sublime: If you stand right fronting and face to face with a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a scimitar, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. Thoreau’s power as a writer, combined with his undeniable originality—anticipating all the things with which I opened this review, and more—will make this book last until Thoreau’s next centennial, even if sometimes he's an insufferable teenager.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Walden is not for everyone. This is why it is so accurately and justifiably cherished by its admirers, and so ridiculously and criminally misunderstood by its detractors. The critics of Walden levy ad hominem after ad hominem against Thoreau, as if the utmost specifics of his experience detract from the purported "arguments" he puts forth about the absolute means everyone "must" live their lives. Clearly his meditations on cherishing solitude are false, because he did enjoy company every now and Walden is not for everyone. This is why it is so accurately and justifiably cherished by its admirers, and so ridiculously and criminally misunderstood by its detractors. The critics of Walden levy ad hominem after ad hominem against Thoreau, as if the utmost specifics of his experience detract from the purported "arguments" he puts forth about the absolute means everyone "must" live their lives. Clearly his meditations on cherishing solitude are false, because he did enjoy company every now and then; clearly he wasn't truly "cut loose" into the wilderness, as he had a safety net accurately called Emerson's backyard. Walden is much simpler than that. It is not gonzo journalism; it is not stunt non-fiction. It is not proto-Krakauer hullabaloo. All it is, plain and simple, is intellectual pursuit. This does not engage some people. It's introspective, thoughtful, and focused, which generally means it goes unread and derided by people who only have a cursory knowledge of the tale passed down generation by generation of mouth-breathing hill-people in a tragic game of literary telephone. But beyond the beautiful imagery and sophisticated metaphor and all those enchanted little things lies this notion of mindfulness; Thoreau succeeded in fulfilling this need to be surrounded by that which will keep one's mind alert. Thoreau ultimately needed an environment that broke the barriers of habit and allowed for his mind to enter a state of stimulated, unfettered wakefulness. These things tend to atrophy without ready labor or measured gratification. Perhaps this is why I thought Walden so satisfying; it succeeds greatly as a treatise on depression. Whether or not it is Thoreau's intent is debatable, but my reading experience was enriched by how entrenched my sorrow is in habitual alienation and a constant sense of insufficient physical and mental exertion. Where is the product to which I am lending my services? How do I train myself to make a white fluorescent wall endlessly stimulating? Walden expanded several of my hypotheses with regard to depression in a positive way; it gave breadth to the soul-searching I regularly perform to monitor and assess my own sadness. The opportunities for expanding perspective and allowing for growth are multiple in Walden, and I admire a book for presenting those opportunities. One of the ways it did that was to espouse solitude, embrace simplicity, and not necessarily champion self-reliance, but find simpler yet deeper means of satisfaction in more antiquated notions of economy. Surely his devices will not work for everyone, but seeing his own efforts manifest themselves, by making something tangible and note-worthy, and lending himself over to the power of observation are all things I truly envied in him. The barriers that perhaps routine, modern gratitude, and an alarming sense of inter-dependence can place on happiness are almost too palpable now, and sadly, the means to attain Thoreau's level of immersion are almost lost. I do not think there is wilderness to speak of anymore. Perhaps depression is a means of my brain to beg me to lock into a long-term, serious, substantial issue, and solve it to the betterment of my own health and to the contentment of others; depression is certainly a means to enter a ruminative cycle of focused thought. Could that cycle be liberated if I found myself doing that serious, substantive work? Could it be liberated by finding the degree of stimulation Thoreau discovered in a nearly constant stream of unfiltered newness? Enough about that; Thoreau is a romantic, and I don't believe so much that Walden is meant to be taken as a how-to gospel or even a polemic. It is a personal experience captured, a journey taken and a journey ultimately discovered. There is little reason for it to be taken as more than that, and, as such, it is rife with beautifully-crafted aphorisms, insights that could benefit you depending on who you are, and it is wall-to-wall equipped with very helpful and comforting insights to those of us struggling to make ways in the world as it stands now. It's a mental journey that can cure what ails you, if you're the kind of person for it, and believe me, my copy is riddled with underlines, and its margins covered with ink. This book was the perfect recommendation for myself. (As a side note, I am only rating Walden, and am not incorporating the essay Civil Disobedience into this evaluation, which I have disregarded if only to emphasize that part of the text which I consider more essential.)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    So as part of my reading challenge for this year (mislabeled as being done in 2016, not 2017), I'm re-reading books 'everyone' loves (everyone being just a general consensus, not literally everyone) and which I hated / didn't like / was unmoved the first time I read it. This March's book was Walden. 1. I don't know when I first read this. I think it was in Grad School 1.0, but it might have been as an Undergrad 2.0. No idea. 2. Shameful admission, I don't think I ever read the entire book the fi So as part of my reading challenge for this year (mislabeled as being done in 2016, not 2017), I'm re-reading books 'everyone' loves (everyone being just a general consensus, not literally everyone) and which I hated / didn't like / was unmoved the first time I read it. This March's book was Walden. 1. I don't know when I first read this. I think it was in Grad School 1.0, but it might have been as an Undergrad 2.0. No idea. 2. Shameful admission, I don't think I ever read the entire book the first time. Which makes me think it was part of a survey class required of everyone in my department in Grad School. My guess is I was required to read the long first chapter (which happened to be the only chapter marked up at all in my copy with notes and underlines), along with a couple of Emerson Essays and "Schopenhauer as Educator" by Nietzsche in the week on Transcendental philosophy or thought. This makes sense in a way because my previous review (which is one of my more popular ones I have ever written at a whopping two lines) made a note of him living in his backyard. This isn't mentioned in the book itself and seems like the sort of fact that the cynical professor I had for this class would have said and imprinted on my brain. But it's also the sort of thing that a snarky professor I had in undergrad might have said, and I could see this book being used in the Philosophy of Utopias and Dystopias class he taught. 3. I found that I generally agree with Thoreau on more things than I thought I would. I'm not sure why my younger self didn't like this more than he did. Oh wait, I do know why, and that is... 4. I don't like Thoreau. As a person, I imagine wanting to punch Thoreau in the face. I'm sure my college self saw him as an old timey version of the hippies / Deadheads / Phish fans he went to school with and hated hated hated. Thoreau comes across as a fairly smug self-important twit. Everytime, I would find myself agreeing with him and finding myself enjoying the book he would go off on some tangent or write something that came across as insufferable. 5. I think I liked this book more than when I first read it (or at least read the first chapter (which in fairness is the meatiest part of the book)), but I'm still placing it in the three star area. I used to hate when people said this kind of thing about books, so I feel like a dick for saying it, but it was too long. There were parts that just went on and on way too much. Since it's a 'classic' and beloved by people I have to admit that the book must resonate with people, but I still feel like it could have been more powerful in its message if it had been honed down a bit. I should have written this while the book was fresher in my mind. I'm sorta glad I re-read it. I definitely appreciate it more than I did, but I still don't love it. It did make me want to try reading some Emerson again, and if I can figure out where in my stacks of books my copy of his complete essays is I'll probably givem them a read in the near future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    KC

    I listened to the audiobook of this and unfortunately the narrator made it somewhat unbearable to listen to, but I did complete both Walden and the essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. I found Walden to be a pleasant telling of Thoreau's departure from society and living freely in the woods of MA. I enjoyed his philosophies with one in particular; where one can live easier, less stressed and freer when one has less to procure or work for. Civil Disobedience was a bit more fascinating and qui I listened to the audiobook of this and unfortunately the narrator made it somewhat unbearable to listen to, but I did complete both Walden and the essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. I found Walden to be a pleasant telling of Thoreau's departure from society and living freely in the woods of MA. I enjoyed his philosophies with one in particular; where one can live easier, less stressed and freer when one has less to procure or work for. Civil Disobedience was a bit more fascinating and quite relevant due to our current political climate. I am happy to have completed this classic. I am looking forward to a great dialog with my middle son-the transcendentalist.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I first read Walden in perhaps the most ideal set of circumstances possible -- for an entire semester my first year of college, in a highly popular seminar made up of 20 first year students and a brilliant professor of intellectual history. All of the students had been chosen at random from among those interested in the course, and we felt lucky to have been selected. Each class, the professor would ask us to do a close reading of the next chapter, plus re-read all the preceding chapters, and th I first read Walden in perhaps the most ideal set of circumstances possible -- for an entire semester my first year of college, in a highly popular seminar made up of 20 first year students and a brilliant professor of intellectual history. All of the students had been chosen at random from among those interested in the course, and we felt lucky to have been selected. Each class, the professor would ask us to do a close reading of the next chapter, plus re-read all the preceding chapters, and then in class we would closely examine the text to try to uncover what Thoreau was up to in his often epigrammatic way. For our many written assignments, we would be given a slip of paper with one or two sentences from the text and be asked to "explicate, in one page," which was about the best learning experience for critical writing I have ever had. Thoreau's actual ideas were pretty interesting, and he shed light on some of the movements of his period, but I think he's most relevant now as an example of the kind of impact good, crisp, topical writing can have.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    Here's the thing: I like what Thoreau did here, and I agree with many of his philosophical points, and I hate giving up on books. That said, dude was pompous and long-winded. I've been trying to read this for about a month, but it has become that archetypal High School Summer Reading Book. You know, the one that you hate but is looming over you from the moment you get out of school until you finally look up the spark notes the morning of the first day that fall before the bus comes. I stopped re Here's the thing: I like what Thoreau did here, and I agree with many of his philosophical points, and I hate giving up on books. That said, dude was pompous and long-winded. I've been trying to read this for about a month, but it has become that archetypal High School Summer Reading Book. You know, the one that you hate but is looming over you from the moment you get out of school until you finally look up the spark notes the morning of the first day that fall before the bus comes. I stopped reading it because it felt like too much of a job. I came to the decision to give up when he had been talking about how much he paid for the materials to make his shack and listing all of the items in it for what felt like roughly 700 pages (but was actually just a cruel 10 or so). Perhaps it's just the wrong time in my life. Perhaps I'm illiterate swine. Or perhaps Thoreau's arrogance is so off-putting that he drives away people who would be very sympathetic to his work and beliefs.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    THIS BRO. I had a crush on Hank (or his modern-day counterparts) several times over in college. I am really glad I outgrew that phase. His self-contradictory, misrepresentative memoir of living a mile out of town on Walden Pond is one of the most aggravating, arrogant things I've had to read in a while. (For reference to just how REMOTE and NATURAL this setup truly was, remember that it's where Amy fell through the ice in Little Women, so the walk back to Concord wasn't too long or she would hav THIS BRO. I had a crush on Hank (or his modern-day counterparts) several times over in college. I am really glad I outgrew that phase. His self-contradictory, misrepresentative memoir of living a mile out of town on Walden Pond is one of the most aggravating, arrogant things I've had to read in a while. (For reference to just how REMOTE and NATURAL this setup truly was, remember that it's where Amy fell through the ice in Little Women, so the walk back to Concord wasn't too long or she would have frozen to death.) Anyway, NOT ALL MEN, but YES ALL WOMEN.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Milo

    I actually got to visit Thoreau's cabin for my brother's birthday this April. Despite it being below freezing the mosquito's had already started to breed. When we approached the pond we were engulfed in a cloud of them. I could almost hear them singing with delight as they began to feast. Almost... perhaps intermittently between screams. (As a side note I would like to say that I am terrified of bugs. Especially the flying ones that like to bite) In denial of the adject horror I was experiencing I actually got to visit Thoreau's cabin for my brother's birthday this April. Despite it being below freezing the mosquito's had already started to breed. When we approached the pond we were engulfed in a cloud of them. I could almost hear them singing with delight as they began to feast. Almost... perhaps intermittently between screams. (As a side note I would like to say that I am terrified of bugs. Especially the flying ones that like to bite) In denial of the adject horror I was experiencing due to these troublesome creatures I trudged onward; looking upon the house where one of my personal heroes had lived had always been a dream of mine. Thoreau had build the cabin himself. It was a small, isolated alcove in the woods where Thoreau could be alone to write. When we arrived I couldn't believe how small it was. It was like a modern day closet with barely enough room for more than five people. His statue was just outside the front door. He was a small guy. I'd wager a little over five feet tall. He looked even smaller next to all of my relatives who all break six feet. As I peered into the Thoreau's brass face I began to remember why I love this guy. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." There was a billboard with this quote next to the spot where the real cabin - which has fallen apart long ago - had stood. After reading about how Thoreau was arrested for refusing to pay six years of missed tax payments I began to appreciate Thoreau for what he really was. A true American and a very humane person. He wasn't afraid to stand up and fight for what he believed in; nor was he frightened to suffer for it. He was no fool to be trodden over by men who supposed they had the right. His essay Civil Disobedience was instrumental to almost all subsequent social reforms. He inspired monumental figures like Mohandas Gandhi and MLK Jr. and his work did more to preserve the spirit of freedom in America than any other. I would be hard pressed to recommend a more prolific American philosopher.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    Man this book was tedious as hell. There were a handful of cute thoughts and clever poeticals strewn throughout this sucker but mostly it's just some obnoxious dude going "Yo have you ever looked at a bird?" for a coupla hundred pages. It's like hanging out with someone who's on mushrooms when you're not. "Snipes and wood-cocks may afford rare sport, but I suspect it may be nobler game to shoot oneself." Yeah okay, you first dude.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    Thoreau is kind of a brat. I'm sorry! I understand and appreciate his commitment to shedding material goods, living off of his own labor, valuing the natural world, etc. But every time he describes conversing with someone else, he comes off as painfully condescending, whether he's just marveling at the purity of their simplistic minds or smirking at a family that's had him over for dinner, who seem, to him, far too burdened with their material possessions. He rarely describes the hardships encou Thoreau is kind of a brat. I'm sorry! I understand and appreciate his commitment to shedding material goods, living off of his own labor, valuing the natural world, etc. But every time he describes conversing with someone else, he comes off as painfully condescending, whether he's just marveling at the purity of their simplistic minds or smirking at a family that's had him over for dinner, who seem, to him, far too burdened with their material possessions. He rarely describes the hardships encountered throughout his two year experience, and when he does, it's to illuminate how easily he handled them. "I occasionally roasted a rat for dinner [NO KIDDING] and was glad to have something fill my stomach" or "I was wandering delusional and hungry in the winter woods but wow the majesty of trees yadda yadda" and just seems generally oblivious to the practical reasons most people don't just jump off the grid (like maybe they don't send their laundry home to be washed while living in the woods, as Thoreau did? Or they don't want to eat rats!!) So he ignores the practical working of this lifestyle while prescribing it for everyone, and then just spends pages on the formation of bubbles in the ice of the pond and by this point I was rolling my eyes so hard I started to get a headache. I don't know! I love the majesty of nature too! The pacing and structure just never grabbed me, and I had way more questions about his life at Walden than he seemed interested in answering. Civil Disobedience was the main reason I picked this up. I've seen it quoted here and there (most recently in an Anthony Burgess essay reprinted in The New Yorker), particularly the bit about it not just being a right, but a responsibility to rebel against the government. Okay! I can get behind that. But as maybe I should've guessed from Walden, he's absurdly libertarian almost to the point of anarchy, and it's really frustrating. Dude refuses to pay taxes (he's jailed for this at one point, but an anonymous benefactor pays his debt and he's released) and insists that he feels free to refuse the protection of the state and refuses to give it his allegiance. Which, fine, whatever, he's an abolitionist and wants the state to recognize ALL men and this is good, obviously. EXCEPT then he talks about how if he IS in actual danger someday then he'll pay some taxes and get the state's protection but until then NO THANK YOU. HENRY DAVID, HOW DO YOU THINK THIS WORKS. Agh, I don't know. It was frustrating. Now I'm being a little unfair- the first section of Walden, in particular, had some great stuff about our expectations of comfort, versus how supposedly "savage" native Americans organize their communities. Everyone in a native community lives in simple huts or longhouses and everyone has housing, whereas we've achieved these amazing levels of luxury and comfort and a good portion of our population have less than nothing, and what a waste that is of supposed civilization and technology. His ruminations on shelter and how far it can be reduced to its bare elements are all really interesting. He talks a bit about the structure of community and the word "co-munity", as in munitions/defense, and the purposes social structures can serve. It just seems like the great ideas he has in theory translate to a practice where he basically shrugs and says "I, a single white male with no family or debt and a mom who'll do my laundry, could do it, so why can't you?" which is of course frustrating. Maybe he's better in small doses and epigraphs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I really had no clue what to expect when I picked this book up. I had never read it, and was only introduced to Thoreau through a grad course reading requirement of his. I fell in love then and this book continued that love. While many of his ideas are now cliche, to think that he was speaking them at a time when it was unheard of is incredible to me. There were many "ah ha" moments, when I realized things about everyday life that had not been clear to me before. Ideas about living simply and th I really had no clue what to expect when I picked this book up. I had never read it, and was only introduced to Thoreau through a grad course reading requirement of his. I fell in love then and this book continued that love. While many of his ideas are now cliche, to think that he was speaking them at a time when it was unheard of is incredible to me. There were many "ah ha" moments, when I realized things about everyday life that had not been clear to me before. Ideas about living simply and therefore more happily. That owning things can sometimes weigh you down much more than being "poor". He was an enlightened being who recognized the power of human will and thought. I think most people had to read this in high school which I don't agree with. At that stage in life I dont believe many are ready for all the ideas presented. I read it at the perfect time in my life and can't wait to read more of his works.

  18. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    I have espoused the belief in the past that, like Ayn Rand, Thoreau is just one of those writers that turns his readers into insufferable assholes for weeks afterwards. Ears clapped shut 'neath clammy palms, one feels driven to flee this politically adverse duality. Thus, I have never read "Walden". Until now. It's easy to mock Thoreau--if you've never actually read the work. For all his seeming pretensions and the empty, wrong-headed criticisms leveled against him as "the guy who lived in someon I have espoused the belief in the past that, like Ayn Rand, Thoreau is just one of those writers that turns his readers into insufferable assholes for weeks afterwards. Ears clapped shut 'neath clammy palms, one feels driven to flee this politically adverse duality. Thus, I have never read "Walden". Until now. It's easy to mock Thoreau--if you've never actually read the work. For all his seeming pretensions and the empty, wrong-headed criticisms leveled against him as "the guy who lived in someone's backyard and hardly, HARDLY, lived off the land", one, after a reading, can protest, so what? To take this sort of approach to his work is a determination to never see the forest about Walden for the trees. Thoreau's Walden, like Melville's works, poorly comprehended during his life, is more of a shocking, crass challenge to our insipid age of speaking, mispelling thumbs and screens and twitter-twatter and make-believe brick-block arrangings (not to speak of abominations such as those that lurk amongst social media) than he ever was to mid-19th century American society. Maybe this is why he bothers people so much. His sermonizing and quiet invocations of a simpler life, unfettered by superfluous modern accoutrements, would make the meanest twatter/social media piranha blanch and splutter and this is why he matters. "The universe is wider than our views of it," he gently scolds us. Peel away all the false novelty and take a peek at the world as it is. Our world has a living poetry, he tells us, if only we would listen. His exhortations and criticisms are mild in comparison to the crimes against sense and community that they could excoriate. Sure, there's a lot to criticize on other grounds. Passages beginning with "Ah! The pickerel of Walden!" are passable and he does drone on about the fauna and natural bits he encounters, but remember, this was a guy who divorced himself, estranged himself from his former way of life: Walden was his theatre. Stylistically, no objection can be raised. The guy was a poet through and through and his rendering of his seasons and senses of the world, reborn outside of much of what "civilization" had on offer for him, are simply wonderful to read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Yes, I am an English teacher who had never read WALDEN. I did not have certification to teach American Lit, so I ignored all American lit until Twain. So, sue me! :) Reading Thoreau as an old woman gives me a distance to measure his enthusiasms against the realities of the world over time. He's insufferably smug, for sure. But he's observant, passionate, willing to study and learn. But I doubt he'd ever change any of his youthful sure-ities for the uncomfortable uncertainty of a long life with ex Yes, I am an English teacher who had never read WALDEN. I did not have certification to teach American Lit, so I ignored all American lit until Twain. So, sue me! :) Reading Thoreau as an old woman gives me a distance to measure his enthusiasms against the realities of the world over time. He's insufferably smug, for sure. But he's observant, passionate, willing to study and learn. But I doubt he'd ever change any of his youthful sure-ities for the uncomfortable uncertainty of a long life with experiences we cannot control. Glad I read it. There are passages I will remember...all the good lines have already been gleaned by others.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    I like nature, like to read people's experience with it. Not so much about the details of building a $28 cabin to live in it. So for that, I give Walden 2 stars, but Civil Disobedience gets 4. This is a must read, and I feel still very relevant! I can't wait to share it with friends. So, splitting the difference and granting this read 3 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Margerison

    Awful. Just genuinely unbelievably terrible. A waste of time. Do not read. Honestly just use spark notes.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I never have understood why this dense book is assigned for schoolkids to read. Yes, it is unprecedented in American literature, a great book--without being particularly "good reading." It's formidable, and I have never gotten through it, chapter after chapter. I find it a great dippers' book, and maybe those who assign it are exactly that, dippers. Several of Thoreau's other works are more engaging and accessible, from the Maine Woods (perhaps my favorite) to Cape Cod, even A Week on the Conco I never have understood why this dense book is assigned for schoolkids to read. Yes, it is unprecedented in American literature, a great book--without being particularly "good reading." It's formidable, and I have never gotten through it, chapter after chapter. I find it a great dippers' book, and maybe those who assign it are exactly that, dippers. Several of Thoreau's other works are more engaging and accessible, from the Maine Woods (perhaps my favorite) to Cape Cod, even A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and especially, Selections from the Journals (see my GRds rev). The Maine Woods has its challenges, too--for example, Thoreau's fascination with, and dictionary of, native Indian language (Abnaki, not Pasamoquoddy). Also, as ever in Thoreau, botanical classifications in Latin--his Harvard education actually benefitted him as Bill Gates' arguably did not, except for affiliations (no reason to go to school, yet the prime reason in 21st C for most status schools like Harvard Biz). HDT's Cape Cod varies tremendously, including journalistic reporting of a terrible shipwreck on the South shore of Massachusetts (not unlike the one that killed Margaret Fuller returning from Garibaldi's Italian revolution and losing her MS on that seminal event). But also, perhaps Thoreau's funniest story ever, the Wellfleet Oysterman chapter. Hilarious. Ironically, Walden is not Thoreau's best book, but it is the only one most students ever encounter. It vocalizes the aspirations of a young college grad to higher thoughts--and such thoughts permeated the literature of the Nineteenth Century, especially in America.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this for one of my university English courses. Okay, so coming to the end of "Walden" (we didn't read "Civil Disobedience"), I was just completely unimpressed. Thoreau is so redundant and he contradicts his own ideas multiple times. The plot of the book (if you can even call it a plot) focuses on Thoreau's experience living on his own for two years, supporting himself solely and living off of the land near Walden Pond. This experiment was meant to prove that he could be self-sufficient wit I read this for one of my university English courses. Okay, so coming to the end of "Walden" (we didn't read "Civil Disobedience"), I was just completely unimpressed. Thoreau is so redundant and he contradicts his own ideas multiple times. The plot of the book (if you can even call it a plot) focuses on Thoreau's experience living on his own for two years, supporting himself solely and living off of the land near Walden Pond. This experiment was meant to prove that he could be self-sufficient without society, while expanding his mind both spiritually and philosophically through nature. All of this Transcendentalist stuff really just isn't my cup o' tea, so I'm biased, but man...I don't really see how anyone could enjoy this book. It's just a long, overdrawn essay. Thoreau doesn't even practice what he preaches. He wants the reader to believe he was really roughing it, but he was actually just living on his pal Emerson's land. All that aside, it's just thoroughly boring to read. In all honesty, I'd say this is the most boring book I ever read. Coming from a literary standpoint, I suppose I understand its significance in the world of literature, but if you're not into Transcendentalism and if you're not required to read this for a class, SKIP IT, I implore you.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    For those who love nature and being in the outdoors, how can you not like Walden? He immerses you in a simpler life led in a small cabin in the woods and can be evocatively descriptive at his best and excruciatingly wading in the minutia of his life at his worst. Throughout his 2 yr sojourn at Walden as he muses on the lives of others or his interaction with society he can seem contradictory at times in espousing philosophy and principles, which if one is seeking to divine greater meaning from t For those who love nature and being in the outdoors, how can you not like Walden? He immerses you in a simpler life led in a small cabin in the woods and can be evocatively descriptive at his best and excruciatingly wading in the minutia of his life at his worst. Throughout his 2 yr sojourn at Walden as he muses on the lives of others or his interaction with society he can seem contradictory at times in espousing philosophy and principles, which if one is seeking to divine greater meaning from this work than I suppose it could be exasperating. I choose to glean the beauty and wonder of nature from his writing. Civil Disobedience on the other hand gives a better clue into his Transcendentalist bent, and I think he would find himself quite at home with the Libertarians of current day. I would have like to have this essay expound more on his anti-slavery sentiments.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broa "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." HDT

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    For every thoughtful and insightful comment, of which there are many, there are about 10 pages of disorganized, stream-of-consciousness prose. Walden was clearly written by a somewhat pretentious and privileged man who had a narrow understanding of the world and sought to romanticize or vilify any experience that deviated from his own. When I first read Walden as a young teenager, I loved it and felt a strong connection. However, age and greater knowledge of literature has taught me what good wr For every thoughtful and insightful comment, of which there are many, there are about 10 pages of disorganized, stream-of-consciousness prose. Walden was clearly written by a somewhat pretentious and privileged man who had a narrow understanding of the world and sought to romanticize or vilify any experience that deviated from his own. When I first read Walden as a young teenager, I loved it and felt a strong connection. However, age and greater knowledge of literature has taught me what good writing is and what it can be capable of - Walden is not it. Walden and Thoreau are still worth reading in terms of environmentalism and the joys of solitude, but that is the extent of its value.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    ‘Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer.’ This more or less sums up Walden. Thoreau only spends the last half of the book detailing this veritable utopia. But he spends the first half telling us why we should just go. Sometimes, I think that sounds pretty damn appealing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    JDR

    I really give this a low 3/5 because although I did like it during the first half, I read it for school and that can be very detrimental to your enjoyment. + Philosophical Discussions + Unbelievable air of beauty in certain chapters - Long BUY/BORROW/SKIP: Borrow Final Rating: 5.8 / 10

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Ranney

    It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.                                                   *  *  *  But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, which has them not, is rich as a savage? The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.                              It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.                                                   *  *  *  But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, which has them not, is rich as a savage? The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.                                                   *  *  *  As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.                                                   *  *  *  The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep, he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain-tops. But lo! men have become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for shelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven.                                                   *  *  *  We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.                                                   *  *  *  I went to the wood because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.                                                   *  *  *  Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets. When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existences, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.                                                   *  *  *  Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.                                                   *  *  *  Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness.                                                   *  *  *  I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.                                                   *  *  *  In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.                                                   *  *  *  Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise this as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Howard Tobochnik

    Notable quotes from Walden & Civil Disobedience: Already a non-conformist, during his Harvard days he disregarded honors, neglected unattractive studies, and deplored the necessity of spending five dollars for a diploma. (Biography) He believed in the fundamental premise that it is not necessary for me to lead the “lives of quiet desperation” most of them do, that it is not necessary to take “a thousand stitches today to save seven tomorrow,” as most men do in a society where work is glorified Notable quotes from Walden & Civil Disobedience: Already a non-conformist, during his Harvard days he disregarded honors, neglected unattractive studies, and deplored the necessity of spending five dollars for a diploma. (Biography) He believed in the fundamental premise that it is not necessary for me to lead the “lives of quiet desperation” most of them do, that it is not necessary to take “a thousand stitches today to save seven tomorrow,” as most men do in a society where work is glorified as an end rather than as a means and where fruitful idleness is frowned upon. (Introduction) He was willing to let his neighbors sleep, for he was a crower, not a missionary; he would not allow himself to be forced nor would he force anyone else, since he believed that “living one's own life to the full is the best means of helping one's fellow man.” (Introduction) I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. (3) Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives. (3) Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them... he has no time to be anything but a machine (5) Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown. (8) The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel; for not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success. (10) Is it impossible to combine the hardiness of these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized man? (10) For while Food may be regarded as the Fuel which keeps up the fire within us, - and Fuel serves only to prepare that Food or to increase the warmth of our bodies by addition from without, - Shelter and Clothing also serve only to retain the heat thus generated and absorbed. The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us. (10) With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor... None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty (11) To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. (11) When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced. (12) Instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. (15) I do not mean to insist here on the disadvantage of hiring compared with owning, but it is evident that the savage owns his shelter because it costs so little, while civilized man hires his commonly because he cannot afford to own it... by merely paying this tax the poor civilized man secures an abode which is a palace compared with the savage's. (23) The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. (23) It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so diligently follow... I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart, with a free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way. (27) The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature... He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain-tops. But lo! Men have become the tools of their tools... The best works of art are the expression of man's struggle to free himself from this condition, but the effect of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higher state to be forgotten. (28) It is the life of the inhabitants whose shells they are, and not any peculiarity in their surfaces merely, which makes them picturesque: and equally interesting will be the citizen's suburban box, when his life shall be as simple and as agreeable to the imagination, and there is as little straining after effect in the style of his dwelling. (35) The student who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure fruitful. “But,” says one, “you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?” I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? (38) If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and sciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where anything is professed and practiced by the art of life; - to survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned... Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month, - the boy who had made his jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this – or the boy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the meanwhile and had received a Rodgers penknife from his father? Which would be most likely to cut his finger? … (38) As with our colleges, so with a hundred “modern improvements;” there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance … Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at. (38) This spending of the best part of one's life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. (39) Nations are possessed with an insane ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave. What if equal pains were taken to smooth and polish their manners? One piece of good sense would be more memorable than a monument as high as the moon. (42) When formerly I was looking about to see what I could do for a living, some sad experience in conforming to the wishes of friends being fresh in my mind to tax my ingenuity, I thought often and seriously of picking huckleberries; that surely I could do, and its small profits might suffice, - for my greatest skill has been to want but little, - so little capital it required, so little distraction from my wonted moods, I foolishly thought. (51) Some are “industrious,” and appear to love labor for its own sake, or perhaps because it keeps them out of worse mischief; to such I have at present nothing to say. Those who would not know what to do with more leisure than they now enjoy, I might advise to work twice as hard as they do... (52) Philanthropy is not love for one's fellow-man in the broadest sense. Howard was no doubt an exceedingly kind and worthy man in his way, and has his reward; but, comparatively speaking, what are a hundred Howards to us, if their philanthropy do not help us in our best estate, when we are most worthy to be helped? (55) All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere … Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour … To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men (66) I know of no more encouraging fact that the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor … TO affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. (67) I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. (67) Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or thousand … Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion … (67-68) The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way, are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. (68) Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine to-morrow. (68) For my part, I could easily do without the post-office … To speak critically, I never received more than one or two letters in my life – I wrote this some years ago – that were worth the postage … and I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. (69) When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations. (71) ...The adventurous student will always study classics … For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? … To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem … Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. (75) Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage … Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind. (77) A man, any man, will go considerably out of his way to pick up a silver dollar; but here are golden words, which the wisest men of antiquity have uttered, and whose worth the wise of every succeeding age have assured us of,- and yet we learn to read only as far as Easy Reading, the primers and class-books, and when we leave school, the “Little Reading,” and story-books, which are for boys and beginners; and our reading, our conversation and thinking, are all on a very low level, worthy only of pygmies and manikins. (79-80) How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find somewhere uttered … Moreover, with wisdom we shall learn liberality. (80) I had this advantage, at least, in my mode of life, over those who were obliged to look abroad for amusement, to society and the theatre, that my life itself was become my amusement and never ceased to be novel. (84) We are the subjects of an experiment which is not a little interesting to me. Can we not do without the society of our gossips a little while under these circumstances,- have our own thoughts to cheer us? Confucius says truly, "Virtue does not remain as an abandoned orphan; it must of necessity have neighbors." (100) I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. (100-101) Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war... we live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. (101) But the intellectual and what is called spiritual man in him were slumbering as in an infant. He had been instructed only in that innocent and ineffectual way in which Catholic priests teach the aborigines, by which the pupil is never educated to a degree of consciousness, but o it to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child. (109) But labor of the hands, even when pursued to the verge of drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness. It has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result. (116) It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable, experience, to be lost in the woods any time. (128) Wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. (128) I am convinced, that'd all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take place only in communities where some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough. (129) ...days when idleness was the most attractive and productive industry. Many a forenoon have I stolen away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; no do I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the teacher's desk. (143) The practical objection to animal food in my case was its uncleanliness; and besides, when I had caught and cleaned and cooked and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially. It was insignificant and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little bread or a few potatoes would have done as well, with less trouble and filth. (160) Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized. (161) Goodness is the only investment they never fails. (163) The surface of the earth is soft and impressive by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! (239) If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. (241) CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which governs least," and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. (251) It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right. (252) All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. (254) There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and saw that they know not what to do, and do nothing... They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. (255) There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man. (256)

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