Walden

by Henry David Thoreau

Hardcover, 2004

Status

Available

Publication

Boston : Shambhala, 2004.

Description

One of the great books of American letters and a masterpiece of reflective philosophizing. Accounts of Thoreau's daily life on the shores of Walden Pond outside Concord, Massachusetts, are interwoven with musings on the virtues of self-reliance and individual freedom, on society, government, and other topics.

User reviews

LibraryThing member subbobmail
What's left to say about Walden?

The first time I read Walden, I was twenty-three years old, about to leave the relatively bucolic small cities of Maine and take up residence in New York City. I remember taking Thoreau's crochety dismissals of society as warnings. Even in Manhattan, I thought, I will try to march to the sound of my own drummer. (Easier said than done; in the end, the antlike denizens of New York marched right over me.)

This time through the book, I paced myself. Reading Thoreau is an exhausting business. His prose is very much like poetry: highly compressed, highly allusive, and very closely observed. He combines the precision of the naturalist with the airy philosophizing of a sage. This melange is not always a success, but when it does work, the effect is spectacular.

Thoreau is like Whitman in that he contains multitudes and contradicts himself and does not care. He is unlike Whitman in that he rejects much of humanity instead of embracing all of it. He doesn't have a philosophy so much as a series of attitudes and tendencies. Walden doesn't really make a coherent argument, but it's a beautiful tapestry. Thoreau did not set out to make a series of points and back them up; he set out to explore, and to set down his contradictory thoughts as clearly as possible. In the end, his greatest skill was as a maker of sentences like diamonds: compressed to a great hardness, clear as water, and brilliant.

Thoreau now seems to me like Ralph Waldo Emerson with some of the mist removed from his brain. Both men sang vaguely of the Infinite, but Thoreau also knew how to grow beans. I prefer my sages to have at least one foot on the ground.
… (more)
LibraryThing member ctpress
Some years ago I walked around Waldens Pond just outside Concord. A nice and sunny autumn day - imagining how it must have been for Thoreau back in 1845 to move into his tiny house he built with his own hands.

He stayed there for two years - a self-imposed "exile" - leaving the bustling city behind, dedicated to a life of simplicity and solitude. This book is an exploration of his experiences and his many thoughts on life in general. It's more relevant than ever - thinking how much stress and unnecessary things that fill our lives and gives us constant worries.

Rereading his book I feel much more alive again. It's brimming with curiosity, enthusiasm, individuality and the wish 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".

A mixture of philosophy, observations about nature, wildlife and crops, guidance on how to live life to the fullest, not following the crowd but being yourself, living in the present. This book has so much to offer - and completely deserves it's status as some of the finest american literature ever.

Thoreau's unusual attention to ordinary things in life fills me with joy - just the pleasure he gains from a cold bath in the lake each morning and his way of putting it in a wider context of living is remarkable. As with so many other things. From the food on his table, to the birds in the air. Nothing escapes his keen eye for details we so often just ignore.

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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jawalter
eBook

I feel guilty for not liking this. I managed to avoid reading this during school, but it still seems like one of those books that high schoolers are forced to read, yet never appreciate. SIt always embarrasses me to agree with the high schoolers, but I can't help but find Walden vastly overrated, both as a book, and as an exploration of the American character.

Certainly, there were lines, ideas, and passages that I enjoyed, and I'm not necessarily willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater just because the narrator is such a self-righteous prick. Maybe it's just because of what I've been reading recently, but it was hard to get past the flimsy nature of the man's entire worldview. A lot of my recent books have revolved around the theme of bullshit, and I can't say that I'm willing to exclude this one. Thoreau's pronouncements sound pretty enough, in the same way that the ramblings of a stoner can seem to uncover hidden truths, but after a while, context takes over. The difference between his self-perception and reality is just too wide to take him seriously.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Achromatic
When I wrote the following lines, or rather the bulk of them, I read and wrote alone, in my house, a few meters from any other neighbor, in a house which I hadn't built myself, on the side of Wanneroo Road, Yokine, and earned my living by the labor of my two hands only.

I had considered occasionally what it would be like, to live in the country alone, bucolic landscapes and only the sounds of wildlife, in the manner of these ecologically minded romantics such as Thorea, and decided to conduct the social experiment of reading one of their books for a time.

Here is a summary of my expenses during this time:
Walden ebook, from project gutenberg: $0.00

In discussion with a learned friend, on one of my sojourns from reading, for I am considered by others as a hermit, we felt perhaps that many of these texts, if one had already received their rustic message, actually reading them with their quaint style was not really necessary.

That said, there was some, altogether rustic, charm in the 19th century style and I do not regret reading the book and its plenitude of subordinate clauses; but I don't think it's for everyone.

Here is a summary of Thoreau's main points:
Make your own stuff and it will be super great
Patch your clothes when they get holes, don't buy new stuff.
Grow your own food
Acquire a plot of land to live on by squatting on your friend's land and build a log cabin on it.
Everyone should learn Ancient Greek and Latin and read The Illiad and The Odyssey
Vegetarianism is great and if you have any soul you'll stop eating the meats
Being a hunter is almost as good as being a vegetarian and by being a hunter you'll eventually turn into a vegetarian
Give your child a gun so it can hunt things and then become a vegetarian
Being poor is SO GREAT and way better than being rich
Be passive aggressive to your visitors so they won't stay too long
Taxes are bad, so is the government
… (more)
LibraryThing member HankIII
The very first time I read Walden my immediate response was to begin torching its pages one by one and sacrificing each page as literary cow paddies written by a pompous celibate pretentious boob who masqueraded as self-appointed demigogue for the collective conscience of the gods; and of course, when read this way it certainly fits at times Thoreau's rhetoric.Many years later, I took my paperback copy off my shelf and was ready to pack it up to be dropped off at the nearest thrift shop, but then as I sat on my floor with my fat old textbooks and other worn clothing ready for donation. I begin reading Walden again, and there's just something about it that resonates from another time, another place, and another writer.Thoreau's conceit can certainly be provocative, but I think he wants that to be exactly the case for his readers; he's mourning the interaction of souls as modernity encroaches upon both the physical landscape and the landscape of the mind. Living in the woods, facing himself and nature on a equal foothold can be a daunting task, but Thoreau writes about it and makes it so much a part of himself. He wants to be heard within the deepest regions of our souls. Walden is a spiritual work about our world and ourselves, and our failure to connect the two.At least Thoreau tried, and Walden shines in that attempt.… (more)
LibraryThing member HenriMoreaux
This certainly is an amazing book. It follows a bit over two years in the life of Henry Thoreau, July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1847. It is during this time period he makes the decision to move to the shore of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

The book follow his journey of essentially self discovery, and his observations of life during this period - including building himself a cabin, farming and reading/books amongst other things.

It really is quite an interesting glimpse into not only the past, but also one mans views of the world. I don't agree with all his positions (like meat not being worth the effort to hunt/obtain), but I certainly do agree that a simpler life can be a more rewarding life. I certainly also would go build myself a cabin on the shores of a lake and live a simple life if such a thing were possible in this day and age but alas, even if buys such a piece of land you still can't build such a cabin thanks to local government rules - how the world has changed in a mere 200 years!

I will end this review with a paragraph from the end of the book: "However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode."
… (more)
LibraryThing member jimmaclachlan
His whole 'back to nature' & simplistic look at life do have their appeal. I don't subscribe to transcendentalism, but did find his musings broken up by the seasons to be interesting. Like most philosophers, his view on life tends to ignore minor details (like reality) that don't fit into his worldview, but he does stay in the real world most of the time. Luckily, he had some money, good health & people he could borrow from. I don't particularly like the man, though. His comments on marriage being "a ball & chain" for the man were absolutely offensive. It's no wonder he never married or had kids. His self-centered nature wouldn't allow for such distractions. Even more offensive was the way he treated the axe he borrowed. I don't care much for tool borrowers anyway, having had too many people borrow mine over the years & then 'treat them as if they were their own'. That means they beat them up or never return them. That's exactly what Thoreau did, ruined a fine axe as if it was of no consequence. An axe in 1845 was a useful & fairly expensive tool. Generally, handles were handmade by the owner to their pattern. Often the axe head was handmade by the local smith. It required folding one piece of softer steel or iron to create the hole for the handle & then welding the ends back together. Then a higher quality piece of steel was forged on to the blade end. Different tempering was required for the two pieces. Thoreau used his borrowed axe to both build his cabin & grub roots out with. Usually only a very old axe was used for the latter since hitting rocks & dirt dulled it quickly & shortened its life. After breaking the handle, he BURNED the old handle out of the head, which ruined any temper it had. His ill-fitting replacement handle required him to soak it in water, which expands the wood to fit, but does so only briefly. Once dry, the fit is even looser since the expanding wood fibers are crushed by the iron head. Yuck!Anyway, this is why I was often distracted from his discourse on nature - I wanted to throttle him too often.… (more)
LibraryThing member stacyinthecity
Thoreau built a cabin in the woods on the shore of Walden Lake and there attempted an experiment - how simple could he make his life. He found he could be happy with very few things. This is the book that recounts his experience. He writes about his philosophy, about living with less. I found myself agreeing with him in so many ways, until he got to the part about not needing to eat much, just a potato and some water. I had to draw the line somewhere! He describes the sounds, the color of the lake, the passing of the seasons, and the animals. The ant battle was particularly interesting. He also described the actual building of his house and other endeavors, sort of like a manual.

I don't agree with all of his philosophy, and some of his notions are clearly dated, but I agree with his overall concept - we have too much extraneous stuff in our lives, and these things only serve to complicate it. We should live "deliberately," to quote Thoreau. We need to live our life the way we want to, not let things happen to us, not to collect belongings without thinking about how they will affect our life.
… (more)
LibraryThing member briandarvell
Walden turned out to be everything I expected. It was both an advocat for nature and environmentalism before such ever really existed in our minds. It was also a plead for simpleness and thought on behalf of the 19th-century people. He could see that people were changing and things were far too removed from what the original human condition used to be.

This book is very applicable today, and I might even venture to say moreso than even at the time it was written. In the book Thoreau complains about how trains are making life too fast. What would he think of people who cannot even go to the grocery store without wearing a Bluetooth? What would he even think of a giant grocery store?

Thoreau mentioned many of his colleagues whom came to his cottage or who he met during his walks. Although many of them weren't rich or worldly he still admired many for their straightforward approach to life. He was very critical of the modern cosmopolitan.

The author gives a very plain look to doing things well. Almost too plain in my eyes since in the book nowhere does he mention what I believe is a very important aspect to life: responsibility to others. Be that as it may, his advice is still sound and pleasing to hear.

My favorite portions of the book were related to his thoughts about lifestyle and reading. The concluding chapter is excellent as a summary of his beliefs in case one doesn't want to read through some of the tedious details in his later chapters (ie: size of ponds and how thick ice freezes in certain areas). I would happy recommend this book but it not so much an easy read anymore since the style is quite old-fashioned and I believe one could get almost as much out of reading half the book as the whole thing. If one is interested in reading a book that stands the test of time in the topics of simple and rewarding living this would be a great choice.
… (more)
LibraryThing member aulsmith
I am continually amazed at the people who claim to have read this book and then say "Thoreau went off and built a cabin in the woods." He actually went into Boston, met an Irish immigrant, bought his family's shanty, and had it shipped to Concord. (I would like to think the Irishman was able to better his family's circumstances with the money, but immigrant life being what it was, I suspect the family ended up homeless. Not that Thoreau cared one way or the other.)

He then "lived a solitary life in the woods," except he was only about a mile from his friend Emerson's house, so whenever he got tired of living alone, he sauntered over and had dinner.

Much of the romance of "simple" living is only possible because the people romanticizing about it are surrounded by a first world culture they are dependent on. Those who don't acknowledge this are missing one of the most important facts we need to deal with on an over-populated, climatically unstable planet. Read this critically or give it a miss.
… (more)
LibraryThing member olliesmith160
Walden is an essential book for all readers. It is a guide book, a manual and a working document. It teaches us to examine the way we live, the way we perceive our own means of living. It raises questions of nature, beauty, society, God and the universe.

These are the essential facts surrounding Walden;

-One day Henry David Thoreau borrowed his neighbours axe and walked out into the woods.
-Once there we made himself a home and planted himself some crops. -He spent his days working and his night times reading or walking. -He largely lived in solitude. He paid no taxes.
-During and after his time their he composed 'Walden'

This book is a powerful narrative on life which should be read by one and all. It is the most revolutionary book of its time and opens up the philosophies of Emerson and his contemporaries. Thoreau dares to do what others only think or dream of.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jveezer
What can I say that hasn't already been said? This is one of my all time favorite books. I have three(...and counting) copies and my son's middle name is Thoreau. At fourteen, he shortens it to Thor since the God of Thunder is cooler than some philosopher that lived by a pond for a year.

It is alone in nature away from the clutter of the world that we can look inward; and it really shows in this book. I like the way he mixes the mundane with the transcendental. His experiments in simple living still have merit in our ever more materialistic culture.… (more)
LibraryThing member heidilove
To read this when one is a teenager is ideal. After that, it's pretty easy to start looking at the transcendentalists and saying "but if we all did that, what would get done?"
LibraryThing member RonTyler
I live in a suburban neighborhood, it’s quiet and the lots are a nice size. The lot has a small tract of woods beyond the back yard, and the property ends at a creek. So even though I’m in a suburban neighborhood, It’s easy for me to imagine (I pretend a lot) that I’m in or near the woods and alone, as I never see, and hardly ever hear, the closest human neighbors. As I was reading Thoreau, I realized that this is my Walden. This book is amazing, and I was struck by how coincidentally similarly I’ve been considering the natural goings-on in my yard and woods while I pass much of my day on the porch. Especially the local wildlife that visits here: the crows, the squirrels (my favorite to watch), deer and their young feeding just beyond the fence, owls during the night, the occasional armadillo (always seen or heard at night). And now the songbirds are returning, too. It’s been nice to have such activity, easily observed from the porch.

Reading this book put me in a very relaxed, calm state. Reflective and undisturbed, easy to think or not think and just watch the natural world going about its business. Thoreau is wonderful and I highly recommend this book. I know it is one I will frequently re-read.
… (more)
LibraryThing member seanj
Halfway through "Economy" I was ready to toss a few bare essentials into a rucksack and head to the nearest woods for more simple living. Not quite, but I did begin to reconsider some of the ways I'm spending my life--the things I'm spending it on--and that was good. I enjoyed the first half of Walden so much that it surprised me when reading the second half of the book became kind of a chore; in the end, I didn't make it to the end. I wish Thoreau would have applied his make-do-without-the-non-essentials philosophy to his writing: he can be pretty long-winded sometimes, and sometimes while reading I was more than ready for him to move on to a different topic. But there's a lot to like about Walden. And every time I pick it up, I feel (cue the cheese) motivated to go out and live more purposefully. I can't say that about too many books I've read.… (more)
LibraryThing member nobodhi
The first American to translate philosophy from India (parts of the Lotus Sutra), Henry David (HD) Thoreau had read that ice was being shipped from America to India, and decided to retreat to a cabin in the woods by Walden Pond, "to live deliberately."

Later, Gandhi had read and was influenced by Thoreau. Later still, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had read and was influenced by Gandhi. Still yet later, kdis in Tiananmen Square, 1989, were quoting Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. So this book is an important genome in the spiral DNA-helix, between east and west. A treasure.

… (more)
LibraryThing member dste
The beginning has a lot of deep thoughts all at once, and the rest of it has so much description. I liked parts of it, but I felt like other parts of it dragged on. At times though, I got the feeling that this was more of a problem with me than it is a problem with the book. In our society today, I don't think that many of us have the patience and attention spans needed to really appreciate a book of this type, especially considering that it's so focused on nature. Maybe that's a sign of something...

I'm found a lot of the description to be nice (especially some of the descriptions of animals that made me smile), but I felt myself wanting to be there to see and experience for myself instead of reading Thoreau's often highly individualized descriptions.

Some parts of this book really stood out to me, like the image of millions of ants battling to the death enveloping Thoreau's cottage. I might try to read this again someday, but in smaller bits, taking the time to appreciate each new idea and image. Maybe I'll like it better a few years from now.
… (more)
LibraryThing member thebookmagpie
I got 100 pages in and wanted to stick my head in a vat of boiling water. I HATED this book. I really hated it. How can one man talk so much shite about absolutely nothing? It honestly made me want to set things on fire. Who cares?! Who care about anything this man has to say? He doesn't care what anyone else has to say, so why listen to him? ARGH.… (more)
LibraryThing member bflatt72
On my short list of all time favorite books, this one is up there at the top. It doesn't attain the #1 spot, but it's up there, definitely top five.

I think it is very interesting to read the reviews and notice that the vast majority of the bad reviews are coming from the young, mainly teenagers who were made to read this in school. The vast majority of the good reviews are coming from the older and the more wizened.

I think the youth of today are just so totally enamored with technology and what's cool and popular. I know I was when I was 17. But then you grow older and hopefully more wise, you live life a little and you no longer care about what's cool or what's popular, you are no longer so enamored with technology and you begin to see how technology is actually killing us. You have some perspective to temper the youthful idealism.

I just loved everything about this book, but I never read it until my 30's. If I had read it in my teens, I probably would have thought it pretty stupid.

I think Thoreau was a genius, both with words and how he lived his life. He did not live on Walden Pond his entire life, by the way. Walden pond was an experiment, not so much a way of life. His time there was meant to show people how superfluous most of our lives are, that it can be simplified, to our soul's benefit, not to mention the benefit of our fellow human beings and the world at large.

He was not a stupid man, he was educated at Harvard. He knew that his way was not the way everyone could or would live. He was not advocating a new social order. He was merely trying to prove a point, that people's lives are way too complicated.

It has been said that Thoreau was the anti-Benjamin Franklin. Realize that even in his day, Thoreau was ridiculed. It is no surprise that he would be ridiculed today, mainly by those who just simply could not live without their iPods.
I read Walden as an ideal and it made me sad. I would love to live my life in the way he did on Walden Pond, but I'm just not so sure how possible it is to live that way in today's world or even how desirable. There has to be a happy medium. You don't have to run out and live as a hermit in order to be able to appreciate Thoreau. There is beauty in the middle way, one can learn to make small changes in their lives, to try and live more simply, as many today are trying to do, to lighten our footprint on this earth, for the betterment of all.

I do believe that people's lives are too complicated, that they can't see the forest for the trees,that their lives are only about making more money so they can buy more things. They have lost their way in the world, they have forgotten, if they even even knew, what life is about.

But running out to live by yourself is not the solution either. I am reminded of the story of Christopher McCandless, whose story was made into the movie Into the Wild. He learned too late that true happiness is not real unless shared. That without love, life is meaningless. And THAT is the reason that living on Walden Pond by yourself is not the answer. We are here on this earth for each other, to love. Without love, life is meaningless.

To live on Walden Pond by yourself for a period of time, to find yourself, or to prove a point, is all well and good, but as a permanent way of life, it's not utopia.

And Thoreau knew this, after his time in the woods, he went back to civilization, but he never lost his soul and he knew how the soul was refreshed... with love, with learning, and with nature.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is absolutely a classic but I still found it somewhat boring to read. But I'm glad I did because it is a good book overall, even if I did find it a little dry from time to time.
LibraryThing member shellyiam
I love this book! When I'm stressed out I just sit down and read a few pages and it all goes away.
LibraryThing member KendraRenee
there were about 60 boring pages between 170 and 230, but before and after that, I just kept underlining like mad and saying to myself, "yes! yes!" because I resonated with almost everything Thoreau had to say. One of the few books without a plot that I was able to finish from beginning to end. Loved it.
LibraryThing member PollyMoore3
I loved the evocation of great wildernesses, and his stubborn stance against the prevailing ideas of his society.
LibraryThing member BookAddict
What a fine book! I loved every word of it and savoured his descriptive passages of nature. His words were beautiful and he conjured up the clearest pictures in the imagination. He studied the minutest details of nature and his descriptions made everything seem utterly magical. I don't think I will ever see nature the same way again.
I was also fascinated by Thoreau's philosophy. I felt a kinship with him across time and space. I particularily loved the passages he wrote about being solitary. He expressed this better than anything I have ever read before.
He was radical in his day to have avoided taxes as a protest to his government and to have helped run-away slaves as they passed through.
He was a naturalist, essayist, environmentalist, and philosopher. I wish I could have known him.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Carolfoasia
This edition makes Walden come alive. The photography is gorgeous. As much as Thoreau and I differ in our worldview, I think he got some things very right, and this is a great work about simplicity and solitude that has endured for a good reason.

Language

Barcode

3658
Page: 0.452 seconds