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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic of American literature and social thinking
If you have any interest in anti-consumerism, anti-commercialism, or just simplistic living / downscaling you MUST read this book (and visit the pond in Concorde if you get the chance...)

Thoreau provides an exquisite window onto a world that more and more people in society today are hungering for. He articulates the principles behind a simpler way of life,...
Published on 26 Nov. 2009 by South Wales tech lover

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying
I know, I know: it's a classic of early American literature. But it's too both polemical and too detailed. For the interminable first chapter you are, by turns, being ranted at, and being given the full minutiae of his home economy. Yes, yes, we're all terrible for being frivolous and materialistic, and we could live forever in a hut on Indian grain, but would you want...
Published on 30 Nov. 2012 by Frootle


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic of American literature and social thinking, 26 Nov. 2009
If you have any interest in anti-consumerism, anti-commercialism, or just simplistic living / downscaling you MUST read this book (and visit the pond in Concorde if you get the chance...)

Thoreau provides an exquisite window onto a world that more and more people in society today are hungering for. He articulates the principles behind a simpler way of life, and then goes that step further than most authors on the subject, and lives the life that he preaches (until US Taxation Laws force him to abandon the idyll that he creates...)

Don't buy it - in true Thoreau style, go and get a copy from your local library!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to live simply, 11 July 2009
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Dr. John D. Fleet (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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Walden is a masterpiece by Thoreau, about his years living in a cabin by a lake. He explains the advantages of a vegetarian way of life, saving money otherwise spent on meat, coffee and tobacco. It is the perfect book to take with you for that quiet retreat. I read it on Bardsey Island, living in a simple cottage in peace and tranquillity, and it has inspired me to simplify my life!Walden: Or, Life in the Woods (Dover Thrift)
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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jewel, 11 Dec. 2003
By 
Jimbob (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I find it hard to believe that the above reviewers are talking about the same book. This book is one of my personal treasures. Thoreau seems to embody the intelligence and wit of a great thinker with a childlike enthusiasm and excitement about the beauty of the natural world. When you combine that with his desire to live life and his respect for even the most humble of his fellow men you are in for some profound literature. This is not a book to be scan read or rushed through. Savour it, I don't see how you could be disappointed.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Tis a gift to be simple, `tis a gift to be free..., 27 Mar. 2011
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John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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And `Tis a shame that I cannot claim this is a re-read after 40 years or so. I can only cite the very well-worn cliché: Better late than never.

Walden is a pond, just outside Concord, Massachusetts, and for two years in the mid-1840's Henry David Thoreau lived a largely solitary existence there, in a simple wooden cabin which he constructed. This book is a collection of his mediations on the natural world, and a person's place in it. Thoreau also ruminates on an individual's place in society and certainly demurs about the hurly-burly existence led by so many, or, in an expression that I had always attributed to T. S. Eliot, but was first coined by him: "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

The first third of the book is on "economy," and the house that he built near Walden. He describes his labor, and provides a table indicating the total cost, and compares that with the annual rental cost of housing. Similarly, he covers his food, clothing and fuel expenses (the "essentials"), and the underlying theme remains the subject verse, taken from a Shaker song, "Simple Gifts," written about the same time: if you simplify your life, and rid yourself of the bondage of so much self-imposed clutter, you really are much freer, and that includes having the opportunity to take a ramble in the woods, which was a major aspect of his two years at Walden. As Thoreau phrased it: "Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them." Or in another passage: "I also have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters." Contrast that with the constant exhortations of our consumer society to "buy, buy, buy" and if we can only get the American consumer spending again, our "economy" will be OK. The beauty of Thoreau is an independent mind writing against the grain of conventional thought.

Much of the latter portion of the book features his observation and outlook on the natural world around him. These observations range from the scientific to the poetic, with an emphasis on the latter, but he does not hesitate to make controlled measurements, like determining the true depth of the pond, which had previously been the subject of speculation. He describes how ice is harvested from the pond, and shipped to Boston for summer use, and is continually intrigued by the color of both the ice and the water in the pond. For those who are overwhelmed with "light pollution" and do not know what the phase of the moon is, Thoreau provides a suitable admonition: "It would be well, perhaps, if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots."

There is much else as well. He describes the life of poverty of his nearest neighbor, an Irish family who are recent immigrants. He also observes a battle between red and black ants, and plays "hide and go seek" with a loon on the lake. He leans towards vegetarianism, but praises hunting, and considers it a vital rite of passage for any boy (and yes, it was so long ago, the other half were not even considered).

Walden is not an easy read. In part it is due to the turgidity of Thoreau's prose style. There is also the aspect that portions of the book resemble the Desiderata poem that was plastered to so many bedroom walls in the 60's: a string of exhortation on the proper way to conduct one's life. The meaning of some of these aphorisms are quite understandable, for example: "While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally"? But it would take some true assumptions and extrapolations, and they could be quite divergent, to squeeze the meaning from: "The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement. Their truth is instantly translated; its literal monument alone remains. The words which express our faith and piety are not definite; yet they are significant and fragrant like frankincense to superior natures." I'd welcome reader comments as to what that really means.

Walden was hardly a "commercial success" in Thoreau's lifetime, but its impact on numerous historical figures was significant. He was admired by the naturalists John Muir, Joseph Wood Krutch, Loren Eiseley, and David Brower. His companion volume, Civil Disobedience (Thrift Editions) influenced Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, as well as many others.

It is a book to be read slowly, with some tolerance for his style, and the occasional still quirky observations. Walden remains a 5-star read, and is an essential book for everyone to read, at least once in their life, even if it is in the latter phases.

Finally, proving that once again there are those unlikely connections that add the zest to life: each day I look 70 miles to the west, and enjoy the view of the mountain most commonly called Mt. Taylor, named after Zachary Taylor, the President of the United States who started the Mexican-American War, and is the reason this piece of earth that I inhabit is part of the USA. Henry David Thoreau practiced civil disobedience, and was briefly jailed for his failure to pay his taxes as a protest against that war.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on June 28, 2010)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Bible, 17 Feb. 2011
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Must be read! Must learn about Thoreau in the schools! H.D Thoreau was maybe the first ecologist of the world.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy, not a record or instruction manual, 11 Jun. 2010
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Jeff Tupholme (Salisbury, UK) - See all my reviews
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Walden was not what I was expecting in one way, in that it isn't a very complete record of how Thoreau actually lived. Yes there are details of his plantings and his accounts, but I was expecting it to be more hands-on in the details of self-sufficiency. However, that is not to say I was disappointed by any means, rather the book is full of WHY he lived in this way and that is much more valuable and interesting. Nearly every page has some deceptively simple thought that opens the mind and allows one to see the world in a different way. He is at his strongest when considering the human condition, and it is worth persevering through some of the denser passages as taken overall this has to be considered a classic.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a different brand of spirituality, 15 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
although reading about potatos and bean fields is less than thrilling,Thoreau's simple and impactful words strike a chord and directly address the side of us that so easily becomes overshadowed in a consumerist society. With lines of such force as "Men do not own their homes, but rather the homes own the men", Thoreau's view of life as it should be is revolutionary, fuel for human change.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying, 30 Nov. 2012
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Frootle (Canterbury, Kent) - See all my reviews
I know, I know: it's a classic of early American literature. But it's too both polemical and too detailed. For the interminable first chapter you are, by turns, being ranted at, and being given the full minutiae of his home economy. Yes, yes, we're all terrible for being frivolous and materialistic, and we could live forever in a hut on Indian grain, but would you want to? There's moments of brilliance (eg 'the mass of men leads lives of quiet desperation'), but there's a huge ocean of meandering ranting that you need to swin through to get these pearls.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 21 Jan. 2012
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Thought-provoking in many ways. Lose yourself and be inspired to change your life. Carry it with you and find some quiet times to escape into it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get into it, 31 Mar. 2010
Walden is a very heavy read. I must confess I couldn't get past the first few chapters. The writing style was just too inaccessible, which is a shame, because once you get past that, there does seem to be some thought provoking content. I highly recommend picking this up before buying it to see if you'll be able to cope with it.
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Walden, or Life in the Woods (Forgotten Books)
Walden, or Life in the Woods (Forgotten Books) by Henry David Thoreau (Paperback - 20 Feb. 2008)
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