Tuesday, May 21, 2013


by Henry David Thoreau
360 pgs

Thoreau published Walden in 1854, after having spent two years, two months, and two days in relative seclusion living in a cabin he built on the banks of Walden Pond. Inspired by the transcendentalist movement that was popular in New England during the early 19th century, Thoreau decided to spend a period of time isolated from civilization where he could live off of the land, without the support that comes from being part of a community.

Thoreau divides the book into several chapters, each one touching on a particular theme he ruminated on while living a life of extreme simplicity, themes such as solitude, sounds, reading, and higher laws. With the exception of a battle to the death he witnessed between two ants, there is no action in this book. There is no suspense, thrill, or excitement. The only element of mystery in the book involves Thoreau's attempts to discover the depth of the pond which had long been rumored to have no bottom. It's not a beach read or one to read on a plane. But it's a great book nonetheless. He describes the importance of contemplation, and self reliance, of living a life of simplicity and closeness to the natural world around us, lessons whose importance and applicability if anything, are more relevant today.

Part of the reason I enjoyed it is because I see the appeal in doing what Thoreau did. I don't find
solitude unsettling and the idea of spending an extended period of time in isolation from most of the world and its accompanying hassles is something that I think I could quickly get used to. That's not to say that I'd be able accomplish what he did with any degree of success. I have no practical skills that would help me survive and sustain my own life all alone. If I tried, I have no doubt it would either end quickly as a result of my inability to protect myself from some predator, or slowly as a result of my inability to build shelter or acquire food and water. But the idea is nice just the same.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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