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.Ashley
If you'd like to read more about what I thought of Walden, visit my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.I'm giving this 3 stars, although I feel it probably deserves a 2.5 or so. I was not impressed with Thoreau. I felt that his writing was presumptous and self righteous. He seems to condemn everyone and really speaks sometimes with this annoying air of superiority. I felt that there were many times he rambled on about nothing of importance, and that the 300+ pages could have probably been better written in 100. That being said, I would like to try and reread this book in a few years. There were several little kernels of wisdom that struck me, and a few times that I was really interested in what I was reading, but for the most part, it bored me and I fell asleep or dozed off reading this book far more than any other book I have ever read. Hopefully the next time will be better. I really wanted to like this one!I haven't read all of the other writings in the book, although I've read parts. I should get to those soon. Who knows, maybe starting smaller (Civil Disobedience wasn't so bad...) will be helpful.Ammie
I did not finish this book. I made it a third of the way through, all the while hoping that perhaps he would begin to talk about actually living in the woods instead of just complaining about how everybody should live in the woods, and then I stopped. Maybe he does later on. But seriously, I got tired of all the whining about other people. Blerg.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.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!-JRdead 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.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.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?"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."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.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.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.Jenifer
From an old journal entry of mine; "Interesting that just now developers are trying to buy Walden Woods for the purpose of building apartments or office buildings or something of the sort. Some popular singing artists, headed by Don Henly are trying to save the woods. I listened to an interview of Mr. Henly recently in which he said that Thoreau was in fact one of our first "environmentalists" and that saving the symbol of this important movement should be first on our list of actions to be taken. It took me awhile to catch on to Thoreau's philosophy and style of writing. I would like to read "Walden" again, especially taking notes of some of his striking comments for quotes."Fred
Thoreau is kind of a douche. Not gonna lie. This is a guy who thought that he would get back to nature by living in a shack on mommy and daddy's property. He makes some good points of philosophy but so does the drunk at the end of most bars. All in all, I think that Thoreau is vastly overrated.