Thoreau: Walden And Other Writings

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

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Reader's Thoughts

Lauren

This collection of essays divulges some terrific themes and axioms; however, it is just too self-indulgent and verbose for me. I have a problem with Thoreau's hypocrisy (given, for example, Thoreau's mom is said to have done his laundry while he was at Walden) and the fact that he spends a whole chapter talking about ants, for example, is a little too much for me.

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.

Jennifer

I am giving 5 stars to "Life without Principle," "On Civil Disobedience," and the following chapters from Walden: Economy, Where I Lived and What I Lived For, Reading, Solitude, Higher Laws, Conclusion. The rest of the book was about nature. While I'm thumbs up when it comes to experiencing nature, I'm thumbs down when it comes to reading about it. I wish I could appreciate the way he describes grass blowing in the wind and ants fighting with each other, but I just couldn't, so I'm not rating his nature writings. His philosophy, however, is great. He can be a sarcastic little bastard too. I didn't learn much from his philosophy, since I already have his beliefs and a very simple lifestyle, albeit not in the woods. But it was very comforting having a dead friend to hang out with for awhile. Everyone considering joining the military should read "On Civil Disobedience" and the Conclusion to Walden. I wish I would've had Henry as a respectable reference the time a date walked out on me for calling military men mindless robots. I wish I would've had Henry as a reference all those times people criticized me for never reading the newspaper or for not owning a home. But I have that sexy pile of bones as a reference now! Oh Henry, I wish I could be the hoe you used on your bean field! Anyway, below are some of my favorite quotes:"In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while." (Replace post office with cell phones and blackberries and the world is flooded with inward life failures)."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? ....As for the pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.""To a philosopher all news , as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.""The news we hear, for the most part, is not news to our genius. It is the stalest repetition.""What is called politics is comparatively something so superficial and inhuman, that practically I have never fairly recognized that it concerns me at all.""Of what use the friendliest disposition even, if there are no hours given to friendship, if it is forever postponed to unimportant duties and relations?""Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.""The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it.""...for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them.""Men have become the tools of their tools.""...be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.""Merely to come into the world the heir of a fortune is not to be born, but to be stillborn, rather.""What is it to be born free and not to live free?"

Enamul Haque

In Walden, Thoreau wanted to get the most from his life by determining what was really important, and he did that by removing himself somewhat from the normal life of Concord, Massachusetts in the 1840's. Thoreau focuses a lot on details in his writing. Every sentence the reader reads is filled with captivity. The words he puts on paper come to live as one reads his book. It seems as though he sometimes gets carried away when writing about something, because it almost gets boring, however, the point the he is carrying across is intellectual, and inspirational. Thoreau’s view on life’s necessities being frivolous is almost extreme; however, if one thinks about it, Thoreau is right. Reading about Thoreau and his transcendentalist experience really changed my perspective on a lot of things. There are so many things each person has, half of them that they don’t even need. Thoreau’s experience teaches people a lesson and gives them something to be thankful for without taking anything for granted.

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.

George Shetuni

Walden is a long book, about 325 pages. Many people consider this length a piece of cake. But not me. It took me 10 months to read this book, mostly because I put it on and off. It is about Thoreau who goes to live in the woods for 2 years. He is for the most part a solitary man in a solitary land. He has no neighbors, except for nature itself and the occasional visitor. He is highly interested by nature. He spends lengths of time describing it and he likes observing birds and animals, especially their behavior. He is more interested in animals than people and views them as companions. However, his unceasing description of nature is at times wearisome and painful. And his solitary life reads a bit lonely at times.However, Thoreau is smart, eloquent and unconventional. In this book one will find glimpses of great reflection and great expression. He is among the best American writers. But he is a naturalist as much as a writer. He never thinks of writing as a gift. He prides himself on being able to take care of his needs-cooking, cleaning, raising crops, cutting fire wood. He values his lifestyle more than being able to write about it. But he does write about it in excellent terms. Strangely enough his gift to society is his independence from society; his idea of “self-reliance,” that he literally puts to action here. He does criticize people for settling for “the okay”, but only to inspire them to do better and to reach higher. He was an unorthodox person, who thought and fought for himself. He may have preferred nature to civilization, but he was free.

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.

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.

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.

Jen

Well, I FINALLY finished this, and I'm glad I did. I had a preconceived notion of Henry David Thoreau as some sort of god of philosophy, with whose every word I would, of course, agree with. Uh-uh. While I did enjoy his writing about nature, I found his tone in the philosophical sections condescending -- especially the part where he's telling a farmer whose house he stops at how wonderful his life would be if he just lived like Thoreau. I agree with his ideas about living life simply and doing one's best to enjoy it, but wow, was he a curmudgeon.

Adam Rabiner

Thoreau's contribution to American letters was not fully appreciated in his time nor even today. Hawthorne and others found him a bore and one of my college friends kind of gagged when I said I was reading Walden and his other writings collected in this book. Yes, Thoreau is not easy reading. But when he is not waxing poetic or citing Greek mythology or Indian Vedas, he's imparting a timeless wisdom and psychologically astute vision for productive living. He's funny, and cantankerous, and his close observations of nature can be beautifully written. I think Walden is a deserved American classic. Thoreau was a truly original thinker and his continuing influence is undeniable. It's a challenging read but you could do worse than learn from this brilliant, anti-authoritarian yet gentle soul.

Juergen John Roscher

Date Read: 11-Aug-2009 - A Week on the Concord and Merrimack RiversRating:☻☻☺☺☺I finished the section of the book titled “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers”. I found this narrative of Thoreau's adventure with his brother to be almost unreadable. Thoreau displays a vast knowledge of the plant and animal life along the rivers but he is constantly drifting away from the journey to pontificate on some other topic. It was difficult to follow this account of his outing on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

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.

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