Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau

ISBN: 0394601556
ISBN 13: 9780394601557
By: Henry David Thoreau

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Reader's Thoughts

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?"

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.

Bridget

Walden isn't an easy read - the first section in particular is long, dense, and occasionally annoying. But it's also very quotable, and later sections are filled with wonderful images. I'm not usually one for descriptive writing, but I've marked passages in this book just for their loveliness. In short, it's worth the attempt. Even if you don't get far, you'll get to read some great stuff.

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.

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.

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.

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