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Walden and Civil Disobedience

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  29,386 Ratings  ·  831 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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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)
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)
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Community Reviews

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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.
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
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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
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
Elizabeth
Aug 18, 2007 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?
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 p
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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
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
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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
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
Meghan
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who would like this has already read it
THIS BRO. I had a crush on Hank (or his modern-day counterparts) several times over in college. I am really glad I outgrew that phase. His self-contradictory, misrepresentative memoir of living a mile out of town on Walden Pond is one of the most aggravating, arrogant things I've had to read in a while. (For reference to just how REMOTE and NATURAL this setup truly was, remember that it's where Amy fell through the ice in Little Women, so the walk back to Concord wasn't too long or she would hav ...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
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Tempo de Ler
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


Escritos no século XIX, tanto Walden (Walden ou a Vida nos Bosques) como Civil Disobedience (A Desobediência Civil) continuam a fazer todo o sentido à luz dos conhecimentos e experiência que adquirimos ao longo de mais de século e meio de tempo decorrido.

Ao partilhar connosco a sua experiência nos bosques de Walden, onde viveu dois anos isolado, Thoreau pretende mostrar-nos uma via alternativa; uma outra forma de viver, mais conscienciosa e em harmonia tanto connosco como com a Natureza. Quebra
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Betty
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
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
Sarah
Sep 03, 2013 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
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Olivia
Sep 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
J.M. Hushour
Nov 09, 2014 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
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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
Tim
Jun 08, 2008 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
Rebecca
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
Dux
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I really give this a low 3/5 because although I did like it during the first half, I read it for school and that can be very detrimental to your enjoyment.

+ Philosophical Discussions
+ Unbelievable air of beauty in certain chapters

- Long

BUY/BORROW/SKIP: Borrow
Final Rating: 5.8 / 10
David Ranney
Dec 03, 2014 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.

                            
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Steph
Dec 26, 2013 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
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Jordan
May 14, 2014 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
Thomas
Dec 07, 2015 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
E
Jan 12, 2011 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
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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
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sologdin
Aug 02, 2012 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
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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.” 181 likes
“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? 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 which he hears, however measured or far away.” 47 likes
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