Thoreau: Walden And Other Writings

ISBN: 055314488X
ISBN 13: 9780553144888
By: Henry David Thoreau

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Reader's Thoughts

Taylor

Despite being a bit long winded at times, Thoreau has some of the most quote worthy lines throughout the book. Many passages require a line by line evaluation with dictionary close to hand, just beware of the words that a pocket dictionary does not contain. His command of the English language is beyond impressive and absolutely puts the mean grasp of English to shame.A delightful read with plenty of food for thought, though it is not a book to devour whole at once, but rather to pick apart and savor slowly.

Jon

This is a classic bit of lit from Mr. Thoreau. I'm only about halfway through Walden, but you get the picture of a stubborn, bitter, sarcastic but brilliant writer who saw through all the technology and modernism of his day. At times, Thoreau waxes quite spiritual, quoting from the Bhagavad Gita and other Eastern texts. If you can muddle through his tangents on Philosophy, excesses of modern man, condemnation of the lack of education, etc. and imagine yourself sharing his airy home on Walden Pond, you will thoroughly enjoy this book!-JR

dead letter office

i know i'm supposed to like this book, but i had trouble. walden read in large part like a compilation of shopping lists and an ode to miserliness. and really, thoreau wasn't nearly so far removed from civilization as he seems to have felt he was. there are moments when his philosophizing is worthwhile, but on the whole i thought it was a bit of a cranky, tedious diary.civil disobedience and life without principle are something entirely different, though. if it weren't for the "other writings" this would not have gotten that 3rd star.

Chris Wojcik

Henry David Thoreau explores two worlds in Walden. The natural world and the world of the mind. The writing itself is largely divided into these two categories as well. Thoreau will go on for passages analyzing the mind, his ideas about humanity's place in the world, and the workings of society. Then he will turn to pure description, observing the world around him for pages at a time. It is at moments like these that the book becomes trying. I love the ideas that Thoreau muses on regarding humanity and society, but the pages and pages of describing ice melting, or the depths of Walden pond can be a chore to get through. Although, it is worth it. Thoreau's thoughts on living a simple life unburdened by the pressures of society are fascinating, and some of his straight observations can be as well. I loved his description of the ant colony war that he stumbled upon one afternoon.It's a book worth checking out at least once in your life.

David Waterman

The idea of writing a philosophical essay sounds at first to be incredibly self-centered in that it is an assumption of people's interest in your own opinions. However, in this collection of essays (both short and long) by Henry David Thoreau, the author doesn't allow room for opinion. He states his case as matter-of-factly as possible without giving the reader an opportunity to question. Instead of giving a verbose opinion of whatever topic he is covering, Thoreau instead presents his case as pure fact which allows the reader to feel that they're being informed of the truth rather than persuaded to an opinion. The result is a series of informative essays that speak on the human condition and that not only criticize but give hope for a brighter future.

Chad Warner

We read some excerpts of Walden in my high school American Literature class, and I've heard Thoreau quoted many times over the years, so I decided to finally read the book. It was definitely a different type of book than I usually read, because Thoreau records his daily activities and philosophical musings while living an experimental, mostly self-sufficient life by Walden Pond. He includes a lot of detail of the plants, animals, and people he saw and interacted with at the pond. These details had two effects: they bored me silly, but they also made his descriptions richer and more realistic. I could hear the loon and see the blue ice he talked about. I liked his many references to Greco-Roman mythology, which always lends an air of intellect to literature. However, other than being able to pick out a few famous quotes as I read, this book wasn't worth my time.The copy I read contained not only Walden, but also Civil Disobedience, Slavery in Massachusetts, A Plea for Captain John Brown, and Life Without Principle. I passed on Slavery in Massachusetts and A Plea for Captain John Brown after reading a few pages, but I did read Civil Disobedience and Life Without Principle. Notes follow.WaldenPeople act like machines, working their lives away and not enjoying it."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.""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.""A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.""Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.""For I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; nor do I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the teacher's desk.""As if you could kill time without injuring eternity." "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.""We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us.""Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness.""Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.""Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? 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, how ever measured or far away."Civil DisobedienceThoreau spent a night in jail for refusing to pay his taxes. In this work, he explains his belief that government is too involved in the lives of Americans, and just gets in the way. He believes that the government can't do anything without the consent of the people. He says that slavery and war are wrong, and refuses to pay the government that supports them. In fact, he objects to paying for any society that he didn't sign up for; the local church, the state, and the federal government. His motto: "That government is best which governs least."Life Without PrincipleThoreau rages against the trivial things that people waste their time on, especially news and gossip. He says he'd rather fill his mind with nature than useless facts and gossip."Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.""The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living, to get 'a good job,' but to perform well a certain work; and, even in a pecuniary sense, it would be economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, or even moral ends. Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it."

Angie

Sublime at times. "There are probably words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to our lives...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." But his judgementalism of others is a bit hard to take at times. He thinks himself more pure and conscientious than the farmer down the road whom he accuses of never noticing the sunrise. Tedious at other times.

Matthew K.

Still reading.......very slowly. Walden is a classic; A Week on the Concord and Merrimack is intriguing because it was the author's first book and about taking a canoe trip with his brother (which I've done a time or two); his text is highly quotable and his philosophies foreshadow his later writing....however, he hardly mentions his brother which demonstrates how detached he could be from others around him.

Christopher Daniel Miles

Though I read this once when I was in my teens, and again later in college, it continues to be a revelation to me. Thoreau as a philosopher and commentator challenges all of our assumptions, and sees as relevant today as in 1854. Thoreau is the true heir to the ancient Stoic philosophers, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

Mark

Waldenby Henry David Thoreau2.21.10I read Walden right after graduating high school, so it’s interesting that I pick it up now, one month after graduating college.This book can be as dull as the wet leaves of winter, without life or color. That is the case when you read Walden just to get through it.I learned something of how to read this time around. I learned that if I slow down, I can catch not only their words, but the richness of the intent. Even more, it can teach me things not on the paper.Walden is the kind of book to read slowly, carefully, like drinking a cup of tea. “Deliberately” is the appropriate word.“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.” (p. 86)This is one of my great fears—to live a life not worth living, to be carried away by someone else’s expectations and philosophies, and to live a life without meaning to myself or those around me.“The mass of men lead quiet lives of desperation.” (p. 8)Page 86 is truly amazing. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life to live 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.”The book inspires to excellence, to introspection and circumspect conduct. It challenges the reader to understand his own life, to be his own master.“What does Africa,--what does the West stand for? Is not our own interior white on the chart? Black though it prove, like the coast, when discovered. Is it the source of the Nile, or the Niger, or the Mississippi, or a Northwest Passage around this continent, that we would find? […:]Be rather the Mungo Park the Lewis and Clark and Frobiher, of your own streams and oceans; explore your own higher latitudes,--with shiploads of preserved meats to support you. […:] Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state.” (301)Thoreau concludes with something of what he has learned.“ 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.” (303)I think he could add that our dreams should be the right dreams. It seems ironic that this is the most quotable line, being that his argument is not to just live any ol’ dream that society gives us. In the previous line he explains:“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.” (303)“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”I give this a 5/5. That’s well deserved. It’s at once boring to the boring reader, and incredible to the reader who can think outside himself. It inspired me to live more simply. The irony of reading this book, Walden, while moving to and living in New York City, was beautiful. It really opened up nature and life and beauty and inspiration to me. It was the perfect read at the right time of my life, as I struggle to make the next step, figuring out my career, my priorities, my goals; and trying to find the stillness of what life really is while surrounded by the humming of the restless city.

Gayle J

I didn't care for Thoreau's condescention towards his uneducated neightbors, and I wonder just how solitudinous his time really was since he seemed to have a steady stream of visitors and walked into town almost every day to pick up gossip. I did like the idea of simplicity in life. I just wish Thoreau's style wasn't so dense and self important.

Andrea

Love Walden!! It makes me laugh how everyone perceives Thoreau to be a serious writer....but if you really read what he is saying he is very sarcastic and witty. I laughed so hard. He also has a lot of really great insights about life and people. For example, he only spent six weeks of the year working to make money to suppport him for the rest of the year. Sign me up for that work schedule!

Russ

Walden is a series of essays that are best appreciated through repeated readings over an extended period of time. While I've finally read them, the density of the individual pieces are such that I'm not sure I can say I fully understand them, let alone appreciate them. This is a book I expect to come back to from time to time.

Barrett Brassfield

Have to agree with E.B. White (author of Charlotte's Web, among other things) who once said that every high school senior should be given a copy of Walden upon graduation. Many of course will choose not to read it but for those who do, and make it through the slog that is the first chapter, Thoreau's timeless classic offers much wisdom on thoughtful living. Why thoughtful living? Because Walden is full of what of what buddhists refer to as the fire of attention. Each chapter, even the dreadful first, Economy, is full of an intense attention to detail both philosophical and practical. Walden may have been written by a 19th century New Englander but it's implications travel far beyond that limited scope of time and space. At the very least, readers of Walden in any age will be encouraged to forgo the way of the lemming and instead give a little thought to each step taken in life, as opposed to just mindlessly stumbling off the proverbial cliff of life.

Shana

I've begun this book nearly three times since my 18th birthday and I'm determined to keep it on my night table until I finish it. Not because I'm terribly compelled by it or it's language, but because my fictional main character has read it. :-/ Also, for my own sanity, I am interested to see what philosophical avenues early Americans walked, and perhaps where they've led to today.

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