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Walden & Civil Disobedience

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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  33,922 ratings  ·  1,040 reviews
Henry David Thoreau's masterwork, Walden, is a collection of his reflections on life and society. His simple but profound musings—as well as Civil Disobedience, his protest against the government's interference with civil liberty—have inspired many to embrace his philosophy of individualism and love of nature.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Signet Classics (first published 1849)
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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 to…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)
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 h…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)

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Greg
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.
Dolors
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dolors by: My indigation over legislators and the political class
Shelves: read-in-2017
A naturalist, a transcendentalist or an individualist?
Thoreau’s principles could be labelled with the previous statutory concepts and yet none of them would suffice to provide a full description of him. He struck me as a man who didn’t want to be restricted by category; he chose experience and common sense as modus operandi to lead a deliberate lifestyle and to reach his own conclusions without meaning to inculcate them on others.

Walden is the result of Thoreau’s minute observations that he com
...more
Mario the lone bookwolf
Finding freedom from consumerism and opportunism in harmony with nature.

The principle of living in harmony with nature has been a topic for a long time until civilization alienated people from their original homeland. However, especially this opens up the possibility for introspection and reflection with the help of the simple life before apparently essential things like consumption, status and power lose their appeal.

Thoreau shows how a needless life can be filled with happiness and meaning by
...more
Jan-Maat
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.

Firstly
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
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?
James
Jun 24, 2007 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
David Lentz
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  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
Roy Lotz
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!

This month, two hundred years ago, Henry David Thoreau made his way into the world. Thus it seemed like a good time to revisit his thorny classic, which filled me with such contradictory feelings the first time around.

This time, I was struck first by how current Thoreau’s book reads. A vegetarian before it was fashionable, or even respectable; a pioneer of nature writing and conservationism; a godfather of activism and
...more
Mike
Mar 06, 2012 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
Greg
Apr 07, 2017 rated it liked it
So as part of my reading challenge for this year (mislabeled as being done in 2016, not 2017), I'm re-reading books 'everyone' loves (everyone being just a general consensus, not literally everyone) and which I hated / didn't like / was unmoved the first time I read it.

This March's book was Walden.

1. I don't know when I first read this. I think it was in Grad School 1.0, but it might have been as an Undergrad 2.0. No idea.

2. Shameful admission, I don't think I ever read the entire book the fi
...more
Jessica
Sep 11, 2007 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
David
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
KC
I listened to the audiobook of this and unfortunately the narrator made it somewhat unbearable to listen to, but I did complete both Walden and the essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. I found Walden to be a pleasant telling of Thoreau's departure from society and living freely in the woods of MA. I enjoyed his philosophies with one in particular; where one can live easier, less stressed and freer when one has less to procure or work for. Civil Disobedience was a bit more fascinating and qui ...more
Milo
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
...more
David
Man this book was tedious as hell. There were a handful of cute thoughts and clever poeticals strewn throughout this sucker but mostly it's just some obnoxious dude going "Yo have you ever looked at a bird?" for a coupla hundred pages. It's like hanging out with someone who's on mushrooms when you're not.

"Snipes and wood-cocks may afford rare sport, but I suspect it may be nobler game to shoot oneself."

Yeah okay, you first dude.
Lorena
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
This was the best choice to read during my quarantine. It transported me towards an almost isolated place, yet, in the nature, which by now I miss it so much. I enjoyed the detailed description of the author's life out of town, noise and civilization, nearby a pond, making the best out of the surroundings. Personally I am pro self sustainability, I think it requires very high moral background in order to adapt to this lifestyle, even though it seems too far fetched. However, it is all fun and ga ...more
Jessica
Feb 07, 2009 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
J.M. Hushour
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Claudia
Yes, I am an English teacher who had never read WALDEN. I did not have certification to teach American Lit, so I ignored all American lit until Twain. So, sue me! :)

Reading Thoreau as an old woman gives me a distance to measure his enthusiasms against the realities of the world over time.

He's insufferably smug, for sure. But he's observant, passionate, willing to study and learn. But I doubt he'd ever change any of his youthful sure-ities for the uncomfortable uncertainty of a long life with ex
...more
Olivia
Sep 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I like nature, like to read people's experience with it. Not so much about the details of building a $28 cabin to live in it. So for that, I give Walden 2 stars, but Civil Disobedience gets 4. This is a must read, and I feel still very relevant! I can't wait to share it with friends. So, splitting the difference and granting this read 3 stars.
Stefanie
Every so often a book comes along and makes you realize that if you meet someone who likes this book, they are instantly on the friendship blacklist because the ideas presented are so terrible/ludicrous/detestable that anyone who supports them must also be at least in part terrible/ludicrous/detestable. This is one of those books. (It joins Red Rising by Pierce Brown and anything by Ayn Rand on my personal blacklist.)

It is honestly almost laughable how immature Thoreau is. It reads like an eight
...more
Sarah M.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awful. Just genuinely unbelievably terrible. A waste of time. Do not read. Honestly just use spark notes.
Alan
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I never have understood why this dense book is assigned for schoolkids to read. Yes, it is unprecedented in American literature, a great book--without being particularly "good reading." It's formidable, and I have never gotten through it, chapter after chapter. I find it a great dippers' book, and maybe those who assign it are exactly that, dippers.
Several of Thoreau's other works are more engaging and accessible, from the Maine Woods (perhaps my favorite) to Cape Cod, even A Week on the Conco
...more
Sarah
Sep 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
...more
Tim
Jun 08, 2008 marked it as favourites
"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
Chris
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
sologdin
Aug 02, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 godsdammit he's
...more
Rebecca
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
For every thoughtful and insightful comment, of which there are many, there are about 10 pages of disorganized, stream-of-consciousness prose. Walden was clearly written by a somewhat pretentious and privileged man who had a narrow understanding of the world and sought to romanticize or vilify any experience that deviated from his own. When I first read Walden as a young teenager, I loved it and felt a strong connection. However, age and greater knowledge of literature has taught me what good wr ...more
Jason
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer.’

This more or less sums up Walden. Thoreau only spends the last half of the book detailing this veritable utopia. But he spends the first half telling us why we should just go. Sometimes, I think that sounds pretty damn appealing.
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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.

Thoreau's books
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