"If the bell rings, why should we run?" (p. 16)
"The question is not what you look at but how you look & whether you see." (p. 242)
"My profession is to... attend all the operas in nature." (p. 4)
"Who hears the rippling of the rivers will not utterly despair of anything." (p. 353)
"Think of it, he stood half an hour today to hear the frogs croak, and he wouldn't read the life of Chalmers." [said by Thoreau's aunt] (p. 450)
If you've never read Thoreau, this is the perfect introduction. If you tried reading him before but found it hard going, this book will convert you. And if you're already familiar with his writings, you'll love this little book.
I first discovered Thoreau in my Norton Anthology during American Lit class. I rediscovered him when I saw the beautiful cover of the recent Oxford World's Classics edition of Walden. I started reading it on the subway to and from work, and I was hooked. It seemed to resonate with me at the time, helping to reduce the mind-numbing monotony of the daily commute.
I was pleasantly surprised by how compact The Quotable Thoreau is. Though it is not pocketable, it does fit neatly in the hand. I take it with me when I go for a walk, whether on a city sidewalk or in the woods. The natural tempo of walking coupled with the inspirational quotes makes for a very soothing experience. I once read that "Reading is the best way to relax. . . . Even six minutes is enough to cut stress by more than two-thirds." Reading a book such as this is especially relaxing.
The text font is a decent size, and the typeface used is the highly readable Adobe Minion Pro, one of my favourites. After some research I identified the beautiful cover font as Monotype Hadriano Light.
The white dust cover, while beautifully designed, soils easily. I usually remove it when reading. Besides, the green binding underneath is made from a sturdy cloth and looks great.
Though not "richly illustrated" as claimed on the inner dust flap (only 20 small photos among 500 pages), the illustrations are well-chosen: a reproduction of Thoreau's signature, written with eyes closed; a picture of his flute; and five images of the man himself, including one full-length portrait in pencil. My only cavil is that there are not more of them, especially photographs of Walden and Concord by Herbert Wendell Gleason. There is one on page 349. Why not more? Princeton University Press, the publishers of Quotable Thoreau, produced an edition of Walden in 1973 with 66 of Gleason's photos dating from the early 20th century. This volume (ISBN: 9780691062662) is now sadly out of print. The Sierra Club brought out an edition in 1975 entitled Thoreau Country: Photographs and Text Selections from the Works of H. D. Thoreau (ISBN: 0871561441) but it, too, is out of print.
More recently the Folio Society of London brought out a generous-sized deluxe edition of Walden with 19 Gleason photos printed in large format, including two foldouts. Apparently, of the 6,000 negatives in the Gleason Collection, almost 1,200 are of Thoreau country. Some of the images are online here: [...] and also here: [...]
The volume's extras are all worth reading, from the insightful introduction to the essay on how to pronounce Thoreau's name (THO-row or Tho-ROW?). There's even a useful bibliography and a very thoreau (oops, make that thorough) index.
After spending some time immersed in this little book, you may find the pace of life slowing. And glancing up from your reading, you may well look around you and wonder with Thoreau: "Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?" (p. 16)
[One small point: Thoreau was not born in May as mentioned on page xxii, but rather on July, as noted correctly on page xliii.]