Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Walden by Henry David Thoreau


Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 Walden is an indisputable masterpiece of American literature. The book is an intensely influential philosophical work exploring Thoreau’s decision to expand his understanding of society through personal introspection from a small cabin at the edge of Concord Massachusetts.

Thoreau’s decision to move into the woodlands near Walden Pond initiates an exploration of a central theme; the exploration of barriers between man and nature (ultimately the divine). Imminently quotable and often paraphrased, Walden offers the reader a number starting points for examining our environment and the nature of our relationship with the aforesaid. 

Walden stands the test of time because the concepts explored within this work are perennial in nature. “We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us”, quoted from the book could easily question our 21st century relationship with digital technology. Moreover the American belief in self-reliance is expanded in Walden into the concept of spiritual self-reliance.

The adjoining work, Civil Disobedience is equally influential having informed the non-violent resistance movements of Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

- Henry David Thoreau

"In one book ... he surpasses everything we have had in America" - Robert Frost

"A century and a half after its publication, Walden has become such a totem of the back-to-nature, preservationist, anti-business, civil-disobedience mindset, and Thoreau so vivid a protester, so perfect a crank and hermit saint, that the book risks being as revered and unread as the Bible"

- John Updike