Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop now Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardcover|Change
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 11 December 2003
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.
0Comment| 88 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 November 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!
11 comment| 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 December 1999
Recounting Thoreau's time spent in Walden woods, this text will force you to redefine your world view completely. It is a homage to the power of the self, emphasising what we can be if we were not tied down to external superfluities. In the consumer culture of the modern age, the book is made all the more powerful. The most important text I have ever read.
0Comment| 40 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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)
33 comments| 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Thoreau died, aged 44, in 1862. Walden: or, Life in the Woods, based on his experiment in subsistence living between 1845 and 1847, was one of only two books published in his lifetime. Neither was a commercial success. His `time' came later, and could plausibly be said to be still continuing. By the end of the nineteenth century a vast amount of his writing was in print, including much taken from the 39 notebooks of daily jottings that constituted his Journal. Each generation since has warmed to one or another facet of his writing - his philosophy, observation of nature, simple living, and refusal to pay taxes to a government that supported slavery and waged the Mexican-American War.

For purists, it is all too easy to pick holes. Thoreau's philosophy was far from rigorous in an academic sense; many of his observations from nature were not scientifically robust; building his log cabin only one and a half miles from his parents' home and continuing to buy essentials in Concord (he was on his way to the shoe-menders when arrested for non-payment of taxes), he cannot credibly be said to have cut himself off from society; and for his refusal to pay taxes he spent only one night in the local lock-up before an aunt paid his debt. But to pick holes would be to risk missing several important points. First and foremost, he did succeed in sustaining himself at a basic level for fully two years. His diet was essentially, though not exclusively, vegetarian; he drank only water; kept no pets or other livestock; and seems never to have even thought of acquiring and maintaining a family. In so doing, he successfully demonstrated that living in such a way demands only a very small cash income, so that it is not necessary to work anything like "full-time", thus releasing much time for walking, reading, contemplation and writing. He derived great personal satisfaction from that lifestyle and took particular pleasure in his cabin, built by his own hands.

The book is not an easy read and a measure of sympathy with the undertaking will be required to get most readers beyond the opening chapters. Even, then, all but the most enthusiastic would have to concede that the book is patchy. However, some of the best patches serve to make the whole worthwhile. Such a passage is a description of a hawk in flight found on page 210 of this edition ("On the 29th of April, as I was fishing from the bank near the Nine-Acre-Corner bridge..."). Incidentally, to get the absolute most out this passage, and the whole book, readers will need to know the length of a perch (as in rod, pole and perch, 40 to a furlong). It is sixteen and a half feet, or 5.08 metres.
review image
0Comment| 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 July 2009
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)
0Comment| 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 September 2000
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.
0Comment| 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 June 2010
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.
0Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 July 2016
Thoreau's 'Walden' is a beautifully written piece of American literature - describing the life and experiences of the author as he embarks on a year-long adventure: living a more simple, at-one-with-nature existence. Thoreau retreated from 'civilisation' and headed off to a remote woodland area, where he lived in a small cabin. It's here that he enjoys life at its fullest - without worrying about such things as money and bills, or keeping-up appearances. Thoreau lived by his own means - from fishing to picking fruit - and felt a new sense of freedom. He encourages other to pursue such an emancipated lifestyle - and presents this as a 'self-help' book.

If you are fascinated by the anarchist ideal of living separate from 'social order' (i.e. government by others), and the naturists ambition of relying on what the environment provides, then I highly recommend this book. Not only is the 'idea' a grand one, but the way Thoreau expresses himself is so eloquent as to make this book a timeless classic.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 31 March 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.
0Comment| 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items


Need customer service? Click here

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)