Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Self-Reliance” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.03  ·  Rating details ·  6,854 ratings  ·  445 reviews
A Classic Essay by Emerson. Excerpted from Essays, First Series.
Paperback, 52 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by ARC Manor (first published 1841)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Self-Reliance, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) A great proportion of modern western society has become what Emerson espouses--self centred, setting self will up as the standard for everything. Two …moreA great proportion of modern western society has become what Emerson espouses--self centred, setting self will up as the standard for everything. Two year olds do it and people realise they need to grow up, but now adults are doing the same.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,854 ratings  ·  445 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Self-Reliance

6.0 stars. This book seriously affected me in a very postive way. It's not really even a book but rather a long essay. Essay or book, it had a profound impact on me. In fact, I was utterly floored while reading this and it has become one of my "All Time Favorites."

Other then gushing and throwing great heaps of praise on the work, I am not sure how best to describe the contents so as to do it justice. If I had to try and sum up Emerson's Self Reliance I would say that it is first and foremos
Book Review
This review was written during a college course years ago; it's funny how basic and immature my thoughts were... LOL

Aaaah! That’s all that I can say to Emerson. Last time when I read “The American Scholar,” by mistake, I thought the world of Emerson. Now that I read “The Poet” and “Self-Reliance,” I can no longer say that I like all his work and that I understand him. I was so lost by what I read last night, that I tried rereading it again today, but it was to no avail.
Riku Sayuj
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual, r-r-rs

Shreyaan swadharmo vigunah paradharmaat swanushthitaat; 
Swadharme nidhanam shreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah.

The Bhagavad-Gita, 3.35 (Chapter 3, Verse 35)

[Better is one's own Dharma, though devoid of merit, than the Dharma of another well discharged. Better is even death in one's own Dharma; to attempt the Dharma of another is fraught with danger.]

I felt that Self-Reliance is a book length homage to this verse. Emerson, while talking loftily of originality seems to have not the slightest compunctio
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very quotable. I've found myself slumping hard over this one.

In this essay, Emerson emphasizes the importance of solitude, the place where the only voice we can hear is ours. This is self-reliance—listening to that voice.

"These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world."

I have one problem with Emerson in this piece. I don't appreciate his grave insistence on Presence and his dismissal of the values of past experiences, book
Loy Machedo
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a collection of thoughts published by the author in the year 1841. It is indeed a very rare manuscript as it urges its readers to do the unthinkable – trust your gut feeling, your intuition, your common sense, your heart, your spirit and soul – rather than follow the will of the majority or the popular opinion of the masses.

Personally, I consider this, his masterpiece

But herein lies the twist.

I will request you not to read the book.

Simply because this book
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This was fascinating to read for English class and I enjoyed having a more philosophical view to read from
Maryam Rajee
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essay
"It's easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it's easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
Elsa Qazi
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Edit: (31.12.18)

I absolutely love this essay. Just like last time if not more. I read this because 1. I needed to complete the reading challenge for this year and 2. Self reliance was becoming increasingly hard without the person who recommended this :/

First review:
This essay was beautiful, thought-provoking and transformative for me.

"It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in midst of a crowd keeps wit
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it
For Emerson, the greatest good is to elevate and worship ones’ self, and the greatest sin is to look outside ones’ self. While who we are is a product of what has come before and will contribute to what will go on, Emerson sees a danger of looking to the past or considering the future in our actions. He preaches that we should have a focus entirely on the present. Being true to ourselves in the moment may cause inconsistencies and misunderstandings, but this is all part of his greater good. Emer ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-livros
This is a short essay, dense with wise words and food for thought. I struggled a bit with the XIXth century English but after a while I have got used to it and the reading became somewhat easier.

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back
Rick Davis
Aug 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
A veritable treasure trove of vague aphorisms and pithy quotations perfectly suited for:

1- the covers of glittery pink notebooks for teenage girls

2- young artists with cape-and-beret syndrome

3- sociopaths

No wonder Poe made fun of Emerson.
Emerson has a way with words that I find seldom matched by others. His prose is rich with imagery that it feels as though I am constructing a physical edifice out of his ideas as I read. My own bias is apparent in the fact that part of the reason I like Emerson so much is that my own meditations on life are similar to his. This particular book, for which is he is most well known for, emphasizes that nothing of true value can come from without and only from within. I can see though how his philos ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
I THUS PROUDLY DENOUNCE LOGIC - What Mr. Emerson is really trying to say.

I would like to start this review with a quote. Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote thusly: “Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think’, ‘I am’, but quotes some saint or sage”.

I think - I say again, I think - Mr. Emerson is a good writer; his way with words is undeniably extraordinary. As a philosopher, however, he demonstrates nothing but utter failure in this essay. “Self-Reliance” is
Sanjay Gautam
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
one of the greatest works I've ever read!
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Comments and passages.

Although this 1841 essay is somewhat imbued with “Divine Providence”, Emerson makes a cogent as well as eloquent argument for being your own person. As per John Ruskin, you must read this 19th century English work “letter by letter”, but it is worth it. A few sample passages:

“Ne te quaesiveris extra.”

(“Do not seek outside yourself.”)

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men- that is genius. Speak your lat
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in suc ...more
Neha Azhar
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Probably no writer has so profoundly influenced American thought as Emerson."

Self-Reliance, a term we often hear. Never realized the individuality, the "me, myself, and I" factor that Americans are known for, came from this man.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
“No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.”

This essay was waiting for me at this time of my life as a respond to my need at this strange stage that am undergoing beside its being required among the 'Comparative Lit' texts.
I quote some others;

“My life is for itself and not for spectacle.”
This is a good bomb for our societies ha-ha! :D

“It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after t
Leah Angstman
May 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is really tedious and bloated and booorrrring. I must honestly tell you that the language is so overly-flowery, pretentious, rambling, and disorganized, that I don't actually know what the essay is about. The gist is to be your own man and to stand out from the crowd, but with that is also the bashing of society's norms, a patriotic(?) attempt to get Americans to be better than people in other countries, a diatribe on religion that (I guess) culminates into you having 'one maker' who made y ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One word to describe both Emerson and his essay Self Reliance, profound. If you have been board as of late and feel like you want to intellectually challenge yourself and think, then I suggest you pick up Emerson. I've been saying to a few friends of mine how I've been mentally unsatisfied with some of the books we've been reading in our book club and how I've wanted something to challenge me more and make me think, well this is where i found it. Self Reliance is great and don't think your gonna ...more
Zey Ka
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
this is full of beautiful and elegant quotations but that's just it, they are just beautiful, nothing else. most of them are actually stupid. He was a transcendentalist and I can understand why he had all these pathetic romantic opinions but come on we've passed that era, it's bullshit. of course, there were some good parts but as a whole not impressed. "self-reliance" is good but it has some limitations, sometimes you should actually imitate the great artists because your own style is shitty. y ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This essay was full of brilliant ideas and sometimes it was like an inspirational speech, and if anything it was the whole essence of it. trust yourself :)
this was the 1st essay I read from R.W Emerson and I think I'll read more if I can.
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
So many great quotes and ideas to ponder in this essay!

"Man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages."

"The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks."

"The force of character is cumulative."

"Discontent is the want of self-reliance;it is infirmity of will."

"Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you
Aaron Goldfarb
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first time I read "Self-Reliance," I didn't. It was assigned summer reading before my senior year AP English class and I was too busy golfing and playing pick-up basketball to waste my summer on a book written by a dead guy with weird sideburns. At age 23, I read it the second time, printing out a public domain edition using a temp job's laser printer then plowing through it on my lunch break. This week was my third time to read it and by far the most valuable thanks to the Domino Project's ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
If your idea of "philosophy" is reading a text that presents itself as the be-all and end-all, while simultaneously contradicting itself every few sentences, you'll enjoy this. If you enjoy reading the self-satisfied elucubrations of Ivy League intellectuals, dig in. It's not for me, and this is at least the second or third time I've found myself obliged to read this wordy, convoluted, self-congratulatory text. I am reminded of what an old woman said about Natural Law in the Spiritual World: "I ...more
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
An attack on all the sheep of the world! Emerson stresses figuring out the world for yourself, doing what you feel is the right thing to do right now (even if you haven't always felt that way), honesty, living in the present, and never caving to things simply because other people do.

Full of great points, GREAT quotes and funny lines. The irreverent Emerson gets a little extreme for me sometimes ("If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own."
Jowayria Rahal
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Emerson and Thoreau are easier compared than contrasted since they both were proponents of the same trend; transcendentalism_ the idea that man, by meditating the self and examining nature can transcend his humanity and fuse into the soul of God to end up being one with Him.

Their themes are pretty similar : know yourself, trust yourself, examine nature to figure out what/who you are, do not rely on the government and man is inherently good. They both_as transcendentalists- were non-conformists
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Admittedly, this was the first time I read Emerson's work. I was in awed with his use of language. As a non-born English speaker, I have quite a lot of difficulties trying to understand his points most of the times. However, I have come to the conclusion that this whole essay wants to prove only a handful of statements- namely, "be true to yourself", "trust your guts", "contradict yourself", "do not conform".

While these advices are helpful in trying to establish your own thoughts, it borders too
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Self-Reliance by Ralf Waldo Emerson is as relevant today as it was when it was first written almost 180 years ago. The theme of his essay is conformity and consistency.

This read required my full attention. It’s deep and philosophical and discusses how one should accept life as it is and accept ourselves for who we are.
Mohamad Hosein  Eqbali
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great essay. Can be shorter, too!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Civil Disobedience
  • My Kinsman Major Molineux
  • Song of Myself
  • Rip Van Winkle
  • The Minister's Black Veil
  • Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
  • Young Goodman Brown
  • Walking
  • I Wander'd Lonely as a Cloud
  • The Birth-Mark
  • The Man of the Crowd
  • Walden
  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
  • The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men. Woman Versus Woman
  • Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey
  • Dr. Heidegger's Experiment
  • Life in the Iron Mills
  • Common Sense
See similar books…
in 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston. Educated at Harvard and the Cambridge Divinity School, he became a Unitarian minister in 1826 at the Second Church Unitarian. The congregation, with Christian overtones, issued communion, something Emerson refused to do. "Really, it is beyond my comprehension," Emerson once said, when asked by a seminary professor whether he believed in God. (Quoted ...more

Related Articles

Journalist and historian Craig Fehrman's new book, Author in Chief, tells the story of America’s presidents as authors—and offers a new window ...
41 likes · 24 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” 3440 likes
“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” 672 likes
More quotes…