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The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man's Unlikely Path to Walden Pond
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The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man's Unlikely Path to Walden Pond

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  143 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Henry David Thoreau has long been an intellectual icon and folk hero. In this strikingly original profile, Michael Sims reveals how the bookish, quirky young man who kept quitting jobs evolved into the patron saint of environmentalism and nonviolent activism.

Working from nineteenth-century letters and diaries by Thoreau's family, friends, and students, Sims charts Henry's
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA (first published June 11th 2013)
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This book is interesting, straightforward and to the point. Very good, even if it is not a complete biography of Henry Thoreau (1817-1862). It covers his youth, his night in prison, his stay at Walden Pond for two years, two month and two days. It stops before the period in his life when he began publishing books, although they are listed. It stops after his trip to Maine following his stay at Walden Pond. The latter part of his life, the fifteen years after life at the pond, is summarized brief ...more

If you are looking for a well-researched, well-crafted book on a man's intellectual coming of age or natural philosophy then Mr Sims book is for you. If you are looking for a book about the 1800's or Thoreau then double bonus. If you are looking for a book about a certain literary circle or abolition, or New England geography then hat trick!

I cannot recommend this book enough. We all had to read Walden in high school. It was a good book. Mr Sims gives you a "making of" n
Kevin A.
The subtitle is a bit misleading--his path to Walden is not at all surprising. Indeed, if there were a category of "most likely to build a cabin outside of town and lead a semi-antisocial but self-reflective life" at Concord Academy or Harvard, he would have won it hands down.

Sims is a journalist, not a historian, so parts of this book suffer accordingly. For example, not only does he mention that the Cambridge Unitarian meetinghouse was a new structure when Thoreau was a freshman, but he mentio
Henry's journey to Walden Pond
BookPage Review by Catherine Hollis

Wild, irregular and free, Henry Thoreau cut a distinctive figure in 19th-century Concord, Massachusetts, whether carving “dithyrambic dances” on ice skates with Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne or impressing Ralph Waldo Emerson with his “comic simplicity.” More at home in the woods than in society, Thoreau began the first volume of his celebrated journals with a simple word that also functioned as his motto: solitude.

But Thoreau was
"I am a Schoolmaster— a Private Tutor, a Surveyor— a Gardener, a Farmer— a Painter, I mean a House Painter, a Carpenter, a Mason, a Day-Laborer, a Pencil-Maker, a Glass-paper Maker, a Writer, and sometimes a Poetaster."

Henry David Thoreau

Before I read "The Adventures of Henry Thoreau," I thought of Henry David Thoreau as the author of Walden; or, Life in the Woods and Civil Disobedience. I thought of him as a serious, reclusive student of nature, who also had strong political beliefs that led hi
I could really relate to Thoreau in some parts, and I felt this book really humanizes this great myth we apply to the man. He marginalized himself and doesn't follow the standard conventions of society, which I admire. It's tough to go against the grain of what's expected of you to really strike out and claim a life doing exactly what you chose to do. I find myself in a stage of life examining whether or not the choices I make are because I'm doing what people expect of me or if I'm brave enough ...more
Brian Bess
The evolution of the nature-loving iconoclast

With 'The Adventures of Henry Thoreau,' Michael Sims peels away the layers and labels of literary icon and idiosyncratic philosopher to reveal the raw material that developed into the life of Henry Thoreau. Obviously the nonconformist did not spring fully formed into the world or immediately start beating and marching to his unique drum at full volume in his early years. Those early stages of the man's development are often ignored, although the windi
A great biography of Thoreau's earlier years, before his writing reached much of an audience, when he was just young man trying to find his ways through life. It was a fascinating look into the forces that shaped his character. After his Harvard years, like many college grads as many of us were once, he stumbled bleary-eyed from an academic cocoon into the real world, where his ability to compose verse in Latin or write a book in ancient Greek was not deeply appreciated. If he was born in these ...more
From his childhood, through his time at Harvard, his years of drifting from one job to another, this narrative biography follows a literary icon. A quirky introverted intellectual, Thoreau was a teacher and a private tutor, a pencil-maker (actually improving on the process), and a handyman. He was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson (who was also his mentor), Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts. Thoreau had a deep love of the natural world which inspires many of his actions – a trip down the river ...more
This was a lovely read. There's no rating or review because this book is underwritten by scholarship that is close to my own, and I'm not using Goodreads for scholarly back and forth.
Artemisia Hunt
I've always been fascinated with the life of Henry David Thoreau. The book Walden and his essay "Civil Disobedience" both impressed me from the first times I came across them in junior high and high school. So I was delighted to see this brand new book about his life, his writings and his ultimate significance to so many issues and challenges, not just of his time and age, but even for today. The book drew from his own journals and writings, as well as accounts left by others from his community ...more
Keith Wilson
I loved Walden and it was an important influence on my life, but I don't think I would've liked the young Henry Thoreau. Come to think of it, I don't think I would've liked myself as a young man, either; for the same reasons. Too intense, too serious, too sure that everything he thought was right. A person like that might better go to the woods and live as deliberately as he wants.
A convenient retelling of Thoreau's early years, but for the most part nothing is here that hasn't been told before. Robert Sullivan's "The Thoreau You Don't Know" remains the most interesting and daring book on the subject. And time spent with Thoreau's journal is still the most rewarding way of getting to know him.
Disappointing, cursory look at Thoreau. Perhaps I expected too much after Richardson's brilliant look at Emerson's mind. If you want a quick overview of Thoreau, this works. But if you want to get into Thoreau's mind, to see the man inside out, look elsewhere. Far too often other people around Thoreau in Concord take the stage and Thoreau, himself, remains in the backdrop, out of reach.
What a lovely book. Thoreau didn't really live an eventful life in his 44 years, but Sims uses his story to describe what life was like more generally when he lived. Also, he writes in a calm, beautiful manner reminiscent of Thoreau's own work when he describes Thoreau's interaction with nature. Recommended.
A very well done biography of Thoreau and his contemporaries. The author gives us a picture of the times and of the northeast - Maine, in particular, in such a way that I could almost feel the dampness of the bogs and the chills in the air. I have never read any of Thoreau, but like many, I knew about Walden Pond. It was interesting that Thoreau seemed almost like a never-do-well in his lifestyle, yet he accomplished work that was influential on Martin Luther King and Gandhi and of such scientif ...more
Now I need to read more of Thoreau's works, including A Week on the Concord and Merrimack River. Thoreau is endlessly fascinating.
Jennifer Stewart
I really enjoyed reading this nicely researched bio on one of my favorite authors.
Lloyd Fassett
Feb 20, 2014 Lloyd Fassett marked it as to-read
Heard about it on Fresh Air 2/19/14. I was listening to Walden about the same time.
Wendy Bell
this book makes me want to visit walden pond.
This book covers the early life and career of writer Henry David Thoreau. For that alone this book is worth a read, but it also gives you a nice little portrait of Concord and New England in the early Ninetieth Century, as well as some of the larger changes within the United States. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this time period.
Peter Haik
Enjoyable read!
A wonderful book! It was one of those books that I never wanted to end.
Edward Sullivan
A richly detailed, vivid, and thoroughly enjoyable intimate portrait of the young Thoreau.
I loved this book. It's been years since I read Thoreau, and I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know much about him outside of his classic book. This biography tells what a truly special person he was.

(I did win a copy of this book in a giveaway, but that didn't influence my review. I really, really liked it!)
Cario Lam
A fairly detailed account of Thoreau's life. He was definitely not the hermit others made him out to be.
A fine, readable account of the young Thoreau.
Elizabeth marked it as to-read
Nov 27, 2015
Davis Das
Davis Das marked it as to-read
Nov 20, 2015
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Michael Sims is the author of the acclaimed "The Story of Charlotte's Web, Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination," "Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form," and editor of "Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories" and "The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories." He lives in western Pennsylva ...more
More about Michael Sims...

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