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Being Henry David

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  2,678 ratings  ·  460 reviews
Seventeen-year-old "Hank" has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything --who he is, where he came from, why he's running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or "Hank" and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of--Walden Pond in Concord, ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2013 by Albert Whitman Teen (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Cal Armistead
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book! But then again, I wrote it... (Hey, if I don't believe in my book 100%, how can I expect anyone else to?) :)
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it

i don't know why i am even bothering to write this, since the best thoreau-related book review has already been written, but i will try.

this book is not about thoreau. not directly.

it is about a boy who wakes up in penn station with no memory of who he is or where he has come from. all he has is ten dollars and a copy of walden, which one of new york's more colorful homeless individuals immediately tries to eat.

not a great day.

so, he doesn't know who he is, but he's got a strange feeling that h
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
I will now tell you bad, bad things about this book. If you’re uncomfortable with me telling you such things, you’d best look away ‘cause it’s about to start. Consider yourselves warned.

Being Henry David is a very ambitious project. I believe it was supposed to be a deep, cathartic experience, a heart-wrenching story about a young man unable to face the consequences of his actions. At least I think that’s what Cal Armistead set out to write. What she actually wrote, in my humble opinion, is an a
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

NetGalley ARC. Thank you, NetGalley!

2.5 Stars

A 17-year old boy wakes up at Penn Station with no memory. All he knows is he has $10 in his pocket, along with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden. Rather than confessing his bizarre story, he chooses to introduce himself as Henry David when he meets a kid named Jack who seems to know his way around the train station. Venturing out to the mean streets, he is nicknamed “Hank” by Jack and his sister,
Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile
What an amazing work of art, especially for a debut novel! This book had me sucked in for every single page right up until the end. I can't remember a protagonist I've so closely related to, even though our life experiences have been very different. I felt like I was in his head, thinking his thoughts and feelings his feelings. I do wish the ending provided more answers, especially as far as Nessa and Jack.
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I admit to a certain amount of trepidation at reading Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead. I am not a fan of Thoreau; I like the political attitude of civil disobedience he espoused, and his natural descriptions are compelling, but his "wouldn't it all be nicer if we just lived more simply" philosophy frankly irritates me. Sure, let's try that if we're not a relatively well-off white man in good health and see how it works out. Another cause for nervousness is that I really like YA books, and ha ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing

What I Liked:
If you've ever had that one person you can always confide in, that one place you can go to clear your head of all the hectic thoughts flying around your mind or even that one action you can perform that makes everything seem ... not worth all the hassle; then you're like Henry David - or in this case, Hank. Being Henry David was about a teenage guy named Hank. One d
Rachel Sharpe
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya, romance, drama, real-life
Summary: A boy wakes up at Penn Station without his memory. His only clue is a copy of Walden, which a crazy man just tried to eat. In the absence of a name, the boy calls himself “Henry David” and sets off on a quest to discover his past.

Along the way, he meets the runaway twins caught up with a drug lord, a former convict turned reference librarian and Thoreau enthusiast, and a diabetic girl with a beautiful voice turned love interest. (Yup, that’s right. A guy with no memory gets a girlfriend
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
I'm sorry to say that this book didn't work for me.

It didn't start out that way, actually. I thought the concept of this book was really interesting. A guy wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of any time before that moment, and his only possession is a worn "Walden". He has a huge lump on his head and with only $10 in his pocket, he is forced to find some way to survive and figure out where he came from. From author's blurb and from this promising beginning, I was hoping for a gritty surviv
Magdalena Deniz
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lost-interest
i’m sorry.

i tried. I TRIED. but i got 100 pages in and it STILL was boring and s o s l o w and i just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Maybe i’ll come back to this later, but i do wish the speed picked up right away, especially with the plot line.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (via NetGalley)

What a great book. It follows Hank, a teenager who wakes up at Penn Station, New York, without the first idea of how he got there, who he is, or where he is supposed to be going. He makes friends, escapes the clutches of a drug dealer, and ends up in Concord, Massachusetts because his only possession is a battered copy of Thoreau's Walden; here he seems to get some semblance of a life together. This is a book, not only about finding yourself, b
Review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Cal Armistead's Being Henry David is a young adult contemporary novel that examines the effects of grief and the fear that guilt creates within us. "Henry David", or "Hank", is the protagonist struggling to come to terms with who he is and why he is where he is.

I've never read anything by Henry David Thoreau, so reading the few snippets of his novel, Walden, was an interesting and
Debbie Narh
I don't understand how anyone could not love this book. The romance doesn't overpower the message the book is trying to get across nor does it stray. I could also relate to Hank as if he were an actual person, not just a character in a fictional story. Being Henry David touched my heart in a way that not very many have. I will forever cherish this book.

Of course the beginning is odd, it takes a few chapters for the story to really get its footing with an awkward writing style (at first) and a bo
Kristy Sartain
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing

It's refreshing to read a book from a male point of view. Henry's story is both heartbreaking and lifting at the same time. At times, I cried and didn't know if I was happy or sad for him.

Let me set the scene. A 17-ish year old boy wakes up to someone asking him if he's going to eat that. The boy has no idea who he is, where is, or how he got there. The only thing he has is $10 in his pocket and a well worn copy of Thoreau's Walden. The man asking him if h
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Teenagers
This was a good book. It reminded me of the movie DANNY DECKCHAIR, because, in this book as well as in that movie, a man lands into a life that he creates for himself, falls in love, and defends his love from a jealous rival.

However, there is a big age difference. Danny in DANNY DECKCHAIR is running away from a bad marriage. He doesn't have amnesia and he lands in a new town, falls for the woman who rescues him (a police officer) and stuns the town with his new and bold ideas. Danny in Being He
Jenny - Book Sojourner
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013, e-arc
The story we embark upon starts with "Hank" awaking at Penn Station with no memory of who he is and only the clothes he's wearing and a copy of Walden by his side. But he has this intuition that something is wrong and he's not ready to turn himself into the police as a missing person, which would obviously be the fastest way for him to figure out who he is. Instead he names himself Henry David, gets nicknamed as "Hank" by one of the interesting characters he meets, and starts this journey of dis ...more
Sheri (Tangled Up In Books)
Originally posted on my blog!! :) :)


I almost don't even know where to begin..I was hooked before I finished reading page one and couldn't put it down until I got to the end. I had about 15 pages or so left and I was getting so tired but, stubborn me, couldn't stop and sleep that close to the finish line!

"Being Henry David" pulls you through a full range of emotions. There were some humorous moments that made me, literally, laugh out loud. There were also a couple of parts that completely pul
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
A super YA book that is intelligent, relevant, and well-written (except for an overuse of the word "random" that drove me up a wall!) three qualities not often found in books of this genre. "Hank" wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of who he is. The only clue to his identity is a copy of Thoreau's "Walden" that he is carrying. After a difficult few days in NYC, he decides to escape to Concord, MA and see what HDT's words can reveal to him about his own life. As threads of memory start to em ...more
Mary Wu
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Middle School through adult
I enjoyed this book, and read it rather quickly to find out who Henry David was (it really was a page turner).

I don't want to give my review though, I want to give the review for my 11 year old daughter. This is a middle school/young adult book, so let's see what that audience thinks.

Some of my friends know that it has been difficult to get my daughter interested in reading. She'll often pick up a book and read a chapter or two and declare it "boring."

The morning after I handed this book to m
Jolene Perry
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book.
Great guy POV.
Excellent characterization and I never knew what was going to happen next.
LOVE the way this book wraps up - it's such a Jolene ending. Fantastic, w/ room for speculation...
Great read :-D
Colette Whitney
Oct 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Call me crazy, but I definitely thought that Being Henry David was a fantasy sci-fi type of book. You could imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a tragic hero/coming-of-age novel. I thought for sure that at some point he would realize that he was a time-traveler or an alien or, like, a robot. What I mean is that I didn’t expect this story. I didn’t foresee Hank’s path. I liked that about this book.

So Hank wakes up in New York with a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. So naturally, he
'Hank' wakes up at Penn Station in New York with no memory of how he got there, why he's there or who he is. He possesses nothing but the clothes on his back, a $10 bill and a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. He spends his first night after waking up on the streets with Jack and Nessa, two runaways, but after some trouble he escapes to Concord, where Thoreau and some of his contemporaries are much revered. Gradually he pieces back his memory, but with this comes guilt, grief and pain, and H ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs, ya
Upon first impressions I got maybe 2 pages into the book and decided I wanted to move on to something else. A couple days later I came back, and I'm so glad I did. Despite a couple of small issues I had with the book, I thought it was great. I'm not going to go into a plot summary because I'm terrible at those and I don't want to give anything away, but overall this book had heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me fall in love with a tattooed, motorcycle riding librarian. I enjoy ...more
Jenna Friebel
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Note: ARC received from NetGalley

I’m really glad I decided to read this book. It’s not something that I would normally choose, but I decided to give it a chance which ended up being a great decision. The story begins with a teen boy waking up at Penn Station in New York City with no idea who he is. He just has a feeling he should stay away from the cops, and his only clue to discover his identity is a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau that he has with him. He quickly gets swept into some sca
Mandie McGlynn
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
A quick and interesting read, and a great, accessible introduction for young adults to one of the great authors and thinkers of the "modern" age - Thoreau.

Being Henry David is a different kind of coming of age novel - one in which the hero has to learn who his is literally, as well as figuratively. "Henry David" aka Hank, is a teenaged boy who has awoken in Penn Station with amnesia. As he tries to scrape together some of his memories, or at least some semblance of a new life, we the readers le
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
actual rating: 3.5 stars

worth reading bc this kinda got me into henry david thoreau but the story is just ok.... the characters could've been more three dimensional and i didn't really like the whole romance thing with hailey but there was character growth and a focused plot so that was nice.
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
She's Got Books on Her Mind

I have a thing for nature books. I don't know if it was A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements or My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George or maybe it was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (all favorite books by the way) that got me into reading books that dealt with nature but one thing's for sure - if there's a book like that I will surely love it. Basically this book was a shoe in for me right from the beginning. It helped that it was a wonderful read with a great pre
Sara O'Connor
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed by Sara O'Connor for
5 out of 5 Stars

Contains no spoilers

THE GIST: A smart tale about a boy searching for his identity in a world that can be both cruel and kind. It is heartbreaking, enlightening, incredibly deep and smart. The writing was quick when it needed to be and slow when the moment called for it. Perfectly executed, I loved this book for so many reasons and it is a journey I recommend anyone read, not just young adult males. Plus, it is nice to see the wor
Angie Fehl
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A teen boy wakes up in Penn Station with absolutely no memory of who he is or how he came to be at the station. The only possible clue to his identity is a worn copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau lying next to him when he awakes. Not long after coming to, mystery boy meets two homeless youths, Jack and Nessa, who give him some company while he tries to get his bearings. Not knowing what other moniker to give himself, and inspired by the copy of Walden he continues to keep with him, our narrat ...more
Wandering Librarians
He wakes up in Penn Stations with no memories of who he is or where he came from. All he has are the clothes on his back and a beat up copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Taking Thoreau's name, Hank takes off for Concord Massachusetts, home of Walden Pond where Thoreau lived, in the hopes that the book is a clue to getting his memory back.

This was an odd little book. It took a long time to get where it was going. It was kind of slow. Despite that, I enjoyed reading it. When Hank first wakes u
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Cal has been a writer since age 9, when she submitted her first book, The Poor Macaroni Named Joany to a publisher. Sadly, this literary gem did not make it to print. But Cal continued pursuing her lifelong passion, and wrote copiously for radio, newspapers and magazines (Cal has been published in The Chicago Tribune, Shape Magazine, Body & Soul Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Chicken Soup fo ...more

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