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Originally published in 1854 Walden; or Life in the Woods is a vivid account of the time that Henry D Thoreau lived alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond It is one of the most influential and compelling books in American literature This new paperback edition introduced by noted American writer John Updike celebrates the 150th anniversary of this classic work Much of Walden's material is derived from Thoreau's journals and contains such engaging pieces as Reading and The Pond in the Winter Other famous sections involve Thoreau's visits with a Canadian woodcutter and with an Irish family a trip to Concord and a description of his bean field This is the complete and authoritative text of Walden as close to Thoreau's original intention as all available evidence allows For the student and for the general reader this is the ideal presentation of Thoreau's great document of social criticism and dissent


10 thoughts on “Walden; or Life in the Woods

  1. says:

    The first half is written by Thoreau the accomplished philosopher and soars much above my humble powers of comprehension; the second half is written by Thoreau the amateur naturalist and swims much below my capacity for interest After reading about the influence the book had on Gandhi I had attempted reading Walden many roughly four times before and each time had to give up before the tenth page due to the onrush of new ideas that enveloped me I put away the book each time with lots of food for thought and always hoped to finish it one day Now after finally finishing the book while I was elated and elevated by the book I just wish that Thoreau had stuck to telling about the affairs of men and their degraded ways of living and about his alternate views Maybe even a detailed account of his days and how it affected him would have been fine but when he decided to write whole chapters about how to do bean cultivation and how to measure the depth of a pond with rudimentary methods and theorizing about the reason for the unusual depth of walden and about the habits of wild hens sadly I lost interest I trudged through the last chapters and managed to finish it out of a sense of obligation built up over years of awe about the book The concluding chapter to an extent rewarded me for my persistence and toil In this final chapter he comes back to the real purpose of the book to drill home a simple idea 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 He will put some things behind will pass an invisible boundary; new universal and liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded and interpreted in his favor in a liberal sense and he will live with the license of a higher order of beingsThis I think was the core philosophy of the book if you pursue the ideal directionvision you have of how your life should be and not how convention dictates it should be then you will find success and satisfaction on a scale unimaginable through those conventional routes or to those conventional mindsI will of course be re reading the book at some point and thankfully I will know which parts to skip without any remorse


  2. says:

    I will go against the grain of society here and say that this was not worth it There are a few gems of wisdom in here maybe the Cliffs Notes or a HEAVILY abridged version would be tolerable Here's what I didn't like Thoreau went off to live by himself when in actuality he was a mere 2 miles away from town and could hear the train whistle daily Not exactly out there roughing it He lived in a shack on land that a friend of his owned so he was basically a suatter Most of the food he ate he was given by townsfolk who were alternately intrigued by his way of living or felt sorry for him These are the same people he is judging for their way of life yet he is dependent on them Also and this may be just because I already strive for a simplified life hardly a one of his truisms felt fresh or inspiring to me It was a book full of self importance and judgement on society not a man I would want to have an afternoon chat with I understand that at the time his ideas were totally out there and revolutionary but he is too bombastic about the whole thing as if he himself had single handedly figured it all out I was seriously dissapointed and hope Emerson will be better


  3. says:

    Or The Guy Who Liked to Go Outside and Do Stuff If Thoreau were alive today I bet he'd be one of those guys who won't shut up about how he doesn't even own a television Curiously however I don't think he'd smell bad And he'd find Radiohead neither overrated nor God's gift to modern music Just a talented band with a few fairly interesting ideas


  4. says:

    Reading Walden was kind of like eating bran flakes You know it's good for you and to some degree you enjoy the wholesomeness of it but it's not always particularly exciting The parts of this book that I loved the philosophy which always held my interest even though I sometimes didn't agree with Thoreau I really loved and the parts that I hated the ten pages where he waxes poetic about his bean fields for instance I really hated I also got the impression that Thoreau was the kind of guy I could never be friends with In Into the Wild which I read at the same time during intervals when Walden became too much to bear Jon Krakauer describes Thoreau as staid and prissy I agree and I'd also add holier than thou At many points in the book his attitude seems to be If you're not living your life exactly like me then you're just stupid Which aggravated me because while I can see the merit of his way of life I don't necessarily think one has to take it to the extremes he did to reap the same benefits That said there were parts of his philosophy that I want to try to carry out in my own life and I know that this is a book that I'll refer to again and again throughout my life But will I ever read the whole thing through again? Doubtful


  5. says:

    The never uite understood philosophy of a man who swam against the current of mainstream beliefs Sorry I borrowed these words from comments about another review a good friend not stealing though these are my own scribbles repeating the impressions here Henry David Thoreau a native of Concord Massachusetts a pencil maker the family business which financed his expensive Harvard education and published the at first neglected books A disciple of Ralph Waldo Emerson and at his urging in 1845 built a log cabin that he lived in for two years on the shore of Walden Pond it was his friend's land Thoreau first day the 4th of July a good omen future generations will be greatly influenced by his writings The mass of men lead lives of uiet desperation Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer All good things are wild and free The beauty of the lake its peacefulness the surrounding forest plants animals birds in the sky fish in the water all contribute to the enchanting magic such thoughts by Mr Thoreau were formed in a large part by his stay in paradise here Curiosity his greatest strength and worse enemy fellow citizens considered the unconventional person odd and maybe unhinged However the gentleman by himself erected a very comfortable home small but cozy kept him warm in the winter and cool in summer and during the very heavy fearsome rather frightening to say the least rains storms not a drop fell inside; even keeping furniture dry for his modest needs In the frigid winter when the pond freezes he walks to the middle and measures its depth by dropping a rock tied to a string after punching a hole in the ice102 feet deep He was never lonely friends and acuaintances freuently came to see the strange man to his annoyance too much he felt happiest alone looking at the blue and sometimes green lake always changing color Viewing a hawk in the air diving and rising repeatedly just joyful to be alive this was what he believed also nature is glorious nothing better on Earth A solitary figure looms inside a little boat floating on the water's surface contended not caring if he Thoreau caught any fish watching hour after hour dazzling birds on trees animals searching for food some put outside by him for them to eat observing the wild untamed creatures writing down their habits on paper fascinated Nonetheless a newfangled contraption a train roars nearby so called civilization creeps closer This book celebrates the magnificence of the world and man's destroying its beauty this must not occur prevent this crime and preserve nature Mr Thoreau believes and the Legend began with a single man in the woodsStill people want to make money they will try by any means to do the constant dilemmabeauty or profit? An important work for those interested and should be read Besides Henry David Thoreau was a fine writer and terrific onlookerwho preferred to sniff a flower than stomping on it


  6. says:

    Poetic prose or prosaic poetry? Either way a beautiful work It has the social commentary of a husbandry lesson and the spiritual depth of a prayer It's also apparently timeless Thoreau's ideas about simplicity and spiritual cleanliness are as relevant today as they were in the 1840s I cannot help but mention a college English professor's description of him he lived in a shack out on the outskirts of town he was a bum Still makes laugh


  7. says:

    When Henry Thoreau went to Walden Pond in 1845 I wonder what he really thought he was doing there I wonder if he had second thoughts about the whole idea; although when he began it was July and July is a good month to be outdoors whatever the weather The man and what he did and how he lived and what he lived for have always been a source of inspiration to me and to many others Walden is much than one man's account of the years he spent in the woods communing with nature; it is a statement of defiance Thoreau was educated at Harvard and spent some time as a teacher where he despaired of the idea of classroom learning He had a great respect for the Native Americans admiring their hardiness and skill He couldn't understand why people thought of them as inferior To him they were wise and strong and in tune with reality than the farmer with his insulated life He loved wisdom and spoke of an enlightened society based on compassion and simplicity He did not align himself explicitly with any religious viewhe was a philosophical person Solitude was what he valued not just because he was a thinker but also because he believed it made you a better person a independent mind These ideas and the kind of existence they represent are important for me because I think that we're losing something very crucialnot just in the physical loss of the natural environment but also in the spiritual environment which is reliant upon it If it was obvious 150 years ago it is now the de facto reality and the uestion is what will it be like 150 years from now?Sowhat are we supposed to do about it? You can see how huge the problem is global warming overpopulation poverty corporate hegemony You look at it all and it floors you; you can't see the edges of it because it's all around you everywhere It's just how things areit's what you're used to seeing And it's horrible but that's also accepted to a certain degreethe wrongness of it is tolerated because people feel powerless or bogged down or maybe they're just tired of tryingall valid points and very understandable ones I think Henry would look at it as a conseuence of a compulsively complicated culture and once you look at the massiveness of what we have done the sheer size of our footprint maybe you can see it too Going to the woods ain't gonna cut it But for the people who feel the way Henry felt who see what he saw in the deep waters of Walden Pond the option of inaction is no option at all The real power of his words is in the actions of those they inspirethe good people doing the hard work of trying to make this culture a less complicated one and maybe they'll succeed and maybe they won'tthe value is in the attemptIt begins with an idea; ideas are the seeds of change they are what our culture rests upon But like a seed they will become nothing without the proper attention and care The best one's change the world the worst one's bring the world to it's kneeswhich is where we are now Is it a good idea to continue polluting the planet when we know that it will kill us in the end? No but that continues Is it a good idea to pamper the wealthy and tax the poor? No but that continues People see these things and forget about Walden Pond because it seems small and ineffectual It says something about the spirit of a society when the best ideas are purposefully abandoned for shiny complicated bad one's But the people who benefit most from the bad ideas are the people who are effectively running the show And so they dress them up and give them interesting titles and wrap them in exciting packages and peddle them as good one's Henry built his home with the trees he took from the forest surrounding the pond at Walden He built it with tools he borrowed from his neighbors in good faith and used recycled materials for what he couldn't get from the woods It was a good house and it kept him warm in the winter cool in the summer and dry when it rained The great wisdom of his life was in how he lived it with care and appreciation and respect for what was in his environment Is it a good idea to live as a student no matter your age? Yes and also to be a teacher of good ideas as Henry wasThoreau stayed at Walden Pond for two years wrote extensively in his journal then left He could have stayed I suppose but solitude is not something which benefits forever I think he says as much though I'm not sure He stayed long enough to learn what he needed to then he moved on There is wisdom in that too Take what you need and leave the rest Things are changing despite how it seems sometimes People are angry They're tired of being scared Maybe they won't go to the woods; maybe that's not even an option any The woods now are a state of mind a world view Whatever happens Walden will be there as full of good ideas as it ever wasbecause a truly good idea will always be good no matter what the censors say


  8. says:

    I've read Walden many times now since that first time in high school I will always love this book and it reveals itself anew with each reading When I first encountered Thoreau in high school his words rang in my soul like a prophet's manifesto I admired what seemed to be his uniue courage and absolute integrity He inspired me to want to live deliberately but I knew that a solitary life in a cabin was beyond my abilities His will seemed so much resolute than anything I could ever be capable ofThat was a couple of decades ago What struck on this latest recent reading is just how much this is a young man's book The voice is that of an idealist a passionate and lonely misfit who longs for a better way to live and for authentic relationships with others as well as with himself I know now that Thoreau lived like an energetic slacker than a true renunciate He was too principled to work as a schoolmaster he refused to beat his charges and there wasn't much he cared to do apart from reading writing and observing nature closely He didn't have a family to take care of and his parents were indulgent of his wishes His life at Walden was bracing but it wasn't filled with hardships His cabin was just a short walk from Concord and Thoreau went home for Sunday dinners and stayed at the Emersons' place when it got too cold His folks took care of his laundry His life of simplicity was strictly voluntary and he had numerous safety nets While these facts make Henry David a bit less intimidating they also make him recognizable as a human being I like this young man with his snobbery and his idealism but I know that as a flesh and blood person he would have been hard to get to know and even harder to love He was probably afraid of intimacy and even afraid of failing to live up to his exacting standards Thoreau was fascinated with purity His disgust for brute appetites is something that we now think we understand as related to a fear of sexuality He was deeply interested in Hindu dietary laws and had an aversion to all forms of consumption For him the ideal was to become so pure that a few drops of nectar would be sufficient sustenance Like Thoreau I'm an ethical vegetarian so I understand somewhat that urge toward purity But my appetites are huge and my life is in many ways a big sloppy comfortable mess In contrast Thoreau wanted to be free of all social constraints free of the taint of commerce free to be wild But his vision of wildness was of a clean solitary life He didn't want to merge or mingle with anything or anyone The descriptions of Walden and the surrounding landscapes are sublime They will never get stale and I enjoy them even now that I live a few miles from Concord and have visited the pond in different seasons I look forward to reading this beautiful book again in a few years I wonder what I'll notice next time?


  9. says:

    If you find yourself having difficulty sleeping this book is a fantastic cure for insomnia Just writing a review about it makes me want to lie my head down and close my eyesThat being said I suppose Thoreau's pretentious self righteous douchebaggery was extremely revolutionary for the time it was written He went to live in a shack in the woods and decided that gave him the right to impart truisms about life Some of them are almost interesting too except that Thoreau's prose is so overwritten and dull that you have to work really hard to dig out the gems underneath


  10. says:

    Woefully overwritten to the point where most modern readers who might be moved by Thoreau’s transcendentalism will be put off by the prose alone If that doesn’t get them his elitist attitude probably will Thoreau took Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ideals of choosing for yourself and added “but you’re an idiot if you don’t choose mine” Too many of his asides are condescending views of society or normal people evidencing that Thoreau was stuck on other people even if he claimed to be independent or above them Every few years I’ll fool myself into thinking this book isn’t as bad as I remember but even last month when I helped a girl with her paper on it I was reminded that it truly is a dreadful love affair between a writer and his own thoughts For a clearer shorter nearly crystallized version of Thoreau's thoughts in his own words and illustrated by some firmer anecdotes see his Civil Disobedience