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Walden & Civil Disobedience

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  24,692 Ratings  ·  691 Reviews
'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.'

Disdainful of America's growing commercialism and industrialism, Henry David Thoreau left Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845 to live in solitude in the woods by Walden Pond. Walden, the classic account of his
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Published (first published 1854)
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Benjamin Richards I'm learning that folk have been craving a simpler lifestyle for a long time. Can you imagine Thoreau in the 21st century? Although his narrative is…moreI'm learning that folk have been craving a simpler lifestyle for a long time. Can you imagine Thoreau in the 21st century? Although his narrative is hard to digest, the evocation in his text is beautiful. Life can be more sedentary without suffering motivation. In fact if we aspired to live more in accordance with his ideals the world would change dramatically.(less)
David Lentz "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience" both are nonfiction. Thoreau actually lived for two years in a one-room, micro-cabin, built by his own hands with…more"Walden" and "Civil Disobedience" both are nonfiction. Thoreau actually lived for two years in a one-room, micro-cabin, built by his own hands with tools borrowed from Concord neighbors, beside Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts in 1847 and wrote about it in "Walden." He sought "self-reliance" and survived as a vegetarian by a bean field in his garden and lived on resources that he found in the woods. He wants to get beyond or "transcend" everyday life in Concord and awaken to the beauty and harmony of life by living every moment in Nature. “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,” Thoreau writes in Walden in "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For." His deliberate action to immerse himself in nature would repeat itself throughout his brief life as he canoed the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, walked the beaches of Cape Cod and traveled in the wilds of Maine. "Civil Disobedience" is his essay which called for improving rather than abolishing government: "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government." Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were vastly influenced by this essay, which couldn't be more relevant than right now: American Democracy seems to have lost its roots in its humanity, and is deeply and systemically in danger of becoming an oligarchy.(less)
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The tale of a man who dared to live in his parents backyard and eat dinner with them, and then lived to write about it. Compelling.
David Lentz
Apr 26, 2015 David Lentz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Henry David Thoreau is best known as an American writer and transcendentalist who wanted first-hand to experience intuitively and understand profoundly the rapport between man and nature. In a sense Thoreau is Adam after the Fall living East of Eden as a bachelor in a humble cabin built beside Walden Pond by his own hands with tools borrowed from Concord neighbors and sustained by the fruits of a bean field sown in his garden and with resources granted to him by the wilderness. He wants to trans ...more
Jun 24, 2007 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: recently-read
I often credit this book with my philosophical awakening. Thoreau presents a criticism of modern life, technology, economy, and wasteful culture from the perspective of one who has simplified his life and experienced something much closer to real independence than any other modern man. Some have criticized him for not being truly and completely independent - he lived on Emerson's property, he visited friends for the occasional dinner, he washed his clothes at his mother's house - but I think the ...more
Aug 18, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Walden: I take issue with a wealthy man living in a shack for a period and pretending that living one mile from town and having his mother do his laundry qualifies him to advise mankind to "sell your clothes and keep your thoughts."

An experiment in simplicity, getting close to nature, I'm all for it. But when your experiment ends in a renewal of your previous lifestyle, how can you advise others to make changes that would leave them in the position permanently?
Mar 12, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Walden is not for everyone. This is why it is so accurately and justifiably cherished by its admirers, and so ridiculously and criminally misunderstood by its detractors. The critics of Walden levy ad hominem after ad hominem against Thoreau, as if the utmost specifics of his experience detract from the purported "arguments" he puts forth about the absolute means everyone "must" live their lives. Clearly his meditations on cherishing solitude are false, because he did enjoy company every now and ...more
This book alerted me to the fickleness of my own opinions.

At first it all seemed rather nice "the majority of men live lives of quiet desperation" and all that. But then I found out about the doughnuts.

Apparently every so often Thoreau would walk down the road to the nearby town where his Mum lived and she would treat him to doughnuts. Thoreau in Walden doesn't mention the doughnuts, instead detailing the amount of beans he grew but for me the doughnuts torpedo the project in three ways.

Sep 11, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read Walden in perhaps the most ideal set of circumstances possible -- for an entire semester my first year of college, in a highly popular seminar made up of 20 first year students and a brilliant professor of intellectual history. All of the students had been chosen at random from among those interested in the course, and we felt lucky to have been selected. Each class, the professor would ask us to do a close reading of the next chapter, plus re-read all the preceding chapters, and th ...more
Here's the thing: I like what Thoreau did here, and I agree with many of his philosophical points, and I hate giving up on books. That said, dude was pompous and long-winded. I've been trying to read this for about a month, but it has become that archetypal High School Summer Reading Book. You know, the one that you hate but is looming over you from the moment you get out of school until you finally look up the spark notes the morning of the first day that fall before the bus comes. I stopped re ...more
I actually got to visit Thoreau's cabin for my brother's birthday this April. Despite it being below freezing the mosquito's had already started to breed. When we approached the pond we were engulfed in a cloud of them. I could almost hear them singing with delight as they began to feast. Almost...
perhaps intermittently between screams. (As a side note I would like to say that I am terrified of bugs. Especially the flying ones that like to bite) In denial of the adject horror I was experiencing
Sep 16, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for one of my university English courses.

Okay, so coming to the end of "Walden" (we didn't read "Civil Disobedience"), I was just completely unimpressed. Thoreau is so redundant and he contradicts his own ideas multiple times. The plot of the book (if you can even call it a plot) focuses on Thoreau's experience living on his own for two years, supporting himself solely and living off of the land near Walden Pond. This experiment was meant to prove that he could be self-sufficient wit
Mar 07, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really had no clue what to expect when I picked this book up. I had never read it, and was only introduced to Thoreau through a grad course reading requirement of his. I fell in love then and this book continued that love. While many of his ideas are now cliche, to think that he was speaking them at a time when it was unheard of is incredible to me. There were many "ah ha" moments, when I realized things about everyday life that had not been clear to me before. Ideas about living simply and th ...more
Jun 09, 2008 Tim marked it as favourites  ·  review of another edition
"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, to 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 broa ...more
Jul 01, 2015 julieta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there is one thing I loved about this book, it is just the idea of getting down to basics, and asking big questions while you are at it. At some moments he sounds kind of righteous, but then he sounds like what he probably is, an eccentric who follows his own drum. You don't have to agree with everything he says to enjoy it, this book is worthwhile just for some of the ideas it throws at you.
May 14, 2014 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own
During my progress through this book I kept bouncing back and forth between hating Thoreau and loving his ideas. Thoreau has some great concepts and his "economy" and "conclusion" sections of Walden really drew me in to his ideas. But. Thoreau is kind a self-important asshole. He's just so full of himself and how awesome he is for living in his little cabin and how much better it makes him than all those poor fools weighted down by their lives. I really don't think he has any right to be so full ...more
J.M. Hushour
Nov 23, 2014 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have espoused the belief in the past that, like Ayn Rand, Thoreau is just one of those writers that turns his readers into insufferable assholes for weeks afterwards. Ears clapped shut 'neath clammy palms, one feels driven to flee this politically adverse duality. Thus, I have never read "Walden". Until now.
It's easy to mock Thoreau--if you've never actually read the work. For all his seeming pretensions and the empty, wrong-headed criticisms leveled against him as "the guy who lived in someon
Jan 03, 2014 Steph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never read Walden in high school, and I always thought I'd hate it but I kind of liked it a lot.

If Walden were published today, it would be one of those tone-deaf voluntary poverty memoirs, with roots in some shitty blog with a large following of young white male libertarians. Thoreau was a Harvard-educated white dude who chose to live in the forest, and there's a particularly painful part of Walden in which he lectures an impoverished distant neighbor (who has a wife and kids) on how he shoul
Jan 02, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-classic
Thoreau is a great writer, despite his misanthropy and occasional moments of arrogance. Thoreau does not care what anyone else thinks, and he doesn't think you should care what other people think either. He describes his first year at Walden in intimate detail, and then sums up the second year in a sentence, saying it was pretty much the same. Surely he had some observations during that second year that we might find enlightening, but no. He's done. I find his grumpiness amusing, though I can se ...more
David Ranney
Dec 04, 2014 David Ranney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.

But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, which has them not, is rich as a savage? The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

The very simplicity and n
Jul 12, 2012 Betty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Thoreau is kind of a brat. I'm sorry! I understand and appreciate his commitment to shedding material goods, living off of his own labor, valuing the natural world, etc. But every time he describes conversing with someone else, he comes off as painfully condescending, whether he's just marveling at the purity of their simplistic minds or smirking at a family that's had him over for dinner, who seem, to him, far too burdened with their material possessions. He rarely describes the hardships encou ...more
Jan 15, 2011 E rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics-history
A professor of mine once said that all human thought since Socrates is mere footnotes to his ideas. Having all but minored in leftist political history from the American Civil War to the present, Thoreau's writings would strike me as unoriginal did I not know that everything I've read before now has simply been the footnotes.

I felt some degree of ideological stimulation and an immense sense of reverence when considering his political theories. I felt a chill while imagining Gandhi's and Dr. Kin
BJ Rose
Thoreau said, "A written word is the choicest of relics." As someone who loves to read, I agree completely.

There were some real gems in this book - the sections on 'Sound' and 'Solitude' may end up being my favorite part of the book, since I also love watching & listening to nature. And he spent a very interesting 4 pages describing a war between red ants & black ants! But then he followed that up with a long, boring description of Walden Pond, how its shoreline is made of a belt of smoo
Apr 18, 2015 ბექა rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
მემგონი ეს კაცი თანამედროვე სამყაროში სამოქალაქო დაუმორჩილებლობის ფუძემდებელია.ჩვენს ეპოქაში რომ ცხოვრობდეს 2 წელი არა და ალბათ სამუდამოდ გადაცხოვრდებოდა ტყეში.მართალია ნახევარი წიგნი ტბაზე,ლობიოს მოყვანასა და ფლორა/ფაუნაზე საუბრობს და ვინმეს ეს შეიძლება მოსაწყენად მოეჩვენოს,მაგრამ ვისაც წაკითხვა არ დაეზარება ძალიან განათლებული ადამიანის ძალიან საინტერესო მოსაზრებებს მოისმენს.ეს კაცი თავისი ნაწერით ცდილობს საზოგადოების გონზე მოყვანას და გათავისუფლებას და თუ როგორი მარტივია ცხოვრობდე ბუნებასთან ი ...more
Mark Sobralske
I love this book. His minimalist approach to life left him time to do what he'd rather be doing. Instead of buying a farm on a loan and working his whole life to pay it off, like his neighbors, Thoreau did what he wanted to do in life by living simply.
I look at this as a manual on how to cut the fat from one's life to focus on what one really wants to do rather than get caught up in the day to day. Just because Thoreau lived his way, doesn't mean we should live like him.. I don't think that's wh
Aug 02, 2012 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I didn't think there'd be a worse Important Book than Steppenwolf, but sure enough, here it is.

Surly primativist lives in woods & muses about beans, ice, animals, and suchlike. There's much consternation regarding the local village, the train, the citylife. Might have more reasonably entitled this Against the Townies.

"Civil Disobediance" is also a waste of space--libertarian propaganda not saved by anti-war & anti-slavery propositions.

Numerous pithy statements in both texts, but godsdamm
anday androo
Jan 26, 2014 anday androo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first started reading Walden, but only just briefly, on the Pacific Coast train from LA to San Diego, when I was a barely literate 21 year old, just emerging from a haze of Robert Jordan, Huxley, and Orwell. Also on that trip I read On the Road, somewhat appropriately. Well, I left the book on the train and here we are 10 years later.

I also maybekindasorta read Civil Disobedience in Mr. Carta's Sophomore English, but the likelihood is that it was mostly not read.


Henry David Thoreau woul
Jan 05, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, classics
For those who love nature and being in the outdoors, how can you not like Walden? He immerses you in a simpler life led in a small cabin in the woods and can be evocatively descriptive at his best and excruciatingly wading in the minutia of his life at his worst. Throughout his 2 yr sojourn at Walden as he muses on the lives of others or his interaction with society he can seem contradictory at times in espousing philosophy and principles, which if one is seeking to divine greater meaning from t ...more
Sairam Krishnan
May 05, 2014 Sairam Krishnan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing I should tell you about Henry David Thoreau’s celebrated book is that you shouldn’t choose it for a speed reading test. If you do, one of two things will happen. Either you will give up, or you will give up and run away to the hills. Both are very probable occurrences. Walden is both a pleasure and a labour to read. I enjoyed myself thoroughly in some places, and at other times had to rest before I could read any more.

But if you are going to spend the time needed to digest this

"A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; -not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself. The symbol of an ancient man's thought becomes a modern man's speech."

"I learned this, at least, by my experimen
Oct 13, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally!! Now, to avoid a completely subjective view, I'm trying a new rating system, at least for a book like this, which has literary value but was so difficult for me to get through.
So, here are five points of rating, each "worth" 20%. I will then add the percentages and give the book the appropriate star value.
Writing style: I like Thoreau's writing style. It's better aloud, which I discovered unfortunately when I was more than halfway through the book. I started reading it aloud, and it flo
I don't think I like Thoreau very much.
But I shall withhold judgment for now...


Four essays later...I have decided that I don't like Thoreau very much.

I read in a book that Thoreau actually didn't really go off and live by himself for two years...what he actually did was sit around in a little house in the woods by himself, and then come back to his house and society, just like any normal person...sort of like a little kid with a backyard fort?

I dunno for sure if it's true, but Thoreau sor
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Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau)was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, philosopher, and abolitionist who is best known for Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

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“The universe is wider than our views of it.” 151 likes
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” 74 likes
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