Ashley's Reviews > Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations by Henry David Thoreau

Thumbing Through Thoreau by Kenny  Luck
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Jul 20, 2010

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Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing

Thumbing Through Thoreau is an illustrated collection of quotations from Henry David Thoreau, compiled by Kenny Luck. According to the introduction, Kenny Luck is an avid fan of Thoreau. In Luck's words, Thoreau is his "literary and intellectual soul mate." This book is his chance to gather the best of Thoreau's writings, ideas, and philosophies into one place and make it accessible for everyone.

Before I go into my review of this book specifically, I need to make clear my opinion of Thoreau generally. I read Civil Disobedience in high school and rather enjoyed it. We also spent sometime discussing several major quotations from Walden and discussing those short passages and individual quotations. I found them interesting and thought provoking. I read Walden last year in it's entirety, and had none of the positive feelings for Thoreau I experienced in high school. I found his writings to be pompous, pretentious, and demonstrative of an over inflated sense of self and self importance, not to mention a little self-righteous. So knowing that I don't particularly love Thoreau, why would I accept a book of Thoreau's writing for review? Because I recalled those positive emotions from high school reading small excerpts and individual quotations, which is exactly what this book is! Complete with illustrations!

I decided I would read the book, because I prefer reading Thoreau as individual quotations, and I also liked the idea of the illustrations. The illustrations were lovely. The illustrations were produced by two different artists, with all of Jay Luke's illustrations on the even-numbered pages, and all the odd-numbered pages illustrated by Ren Adams. Each picture is simple but striking. More often than not, the illustrations have very little, if anything, to do with the actual quotation on the page, but instead depict a natural setting. Some are nothing more than the branch of a tree, or an individual flower. Others are more complex landscapes showing trees near bodies of water or rather detailed trees. Although, I am going to admit that when I read several quotations in a row, the illustrations did begin to blend together. Taken individually, the illustrations are each wonderful. When you begin to group them all together, they also start to run together.

However, the main complaint I had with this book was the font. (Feel free to use the 'search inside' feature on amazon.com to see what I mean. Click HERE.) The quotations are printed using different sized font for the various words, as well as different shades of gray or black. I imagine the bolded words are those that Luck believed to be of more importance, and requiring emphasis. However, I like to think that I can figure out the important words on my own. I'm rather of the mind that the type of people who would be interested in piking up and reading this book already know how to determine which words are more important in a quotation. It was especially annoying on those occasions where I found myself disagreeing with the words he chose to tell me were more important. **Edit: I was just informed by the publisher (see the comments section) that the bolded words were not actually chosen by the author, and were instead included for purely aesthetic purposes. It makes me smile more fondly on the author, for not supposing he knows better than anyone else which words are more important (sorry about that Kenny...) but I still don't like the shifting font types. I think it detracts from the reading and changes the way you internalize the quotations. ** End of Edit.

I do very much appreciate the idea behind this book. I believe that it makes Thoreau more accessible to people. He isn't an easy man to read for everyone. I know some people who adored Walden and Thoreau and others who can't abide him. I think that this book would be a great addition to anyone's bookshelf. It makes Thoreau easier to approach and the illustrations were lovely. This book would be perfect as a 'coffee table book.' You know, the books that sit on the table waiting for people to glance through, and making the host/hostess look very well-versed. I can see myself picking up a bound copy of this book in the future, and having it displayed somewhere in my home. Very few people decide to sit down and read an entire book of quotations, but this is the perfect type book to take slowly, reading only a few at a time, and to flip through when you don't have the time to sit down and read from your book, but would still like to be reading.

If you like Thoreau, want to like Thoreau, or are interested in getting a glimpse of Thoreau's ideals before you invest in his complete writings, this is a great book to look into. Luck did an amazing amount of research before compiling these quotations and he has a wide variety of sources, including personal letters, and Thoreau's journals in addition to his published works.

If you would like more information about the book, or about Kenny Luck (who did participate in the 69th Annual Thoreau Society Gathering at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts in July, 2010) you can visit the website for the book, Thumbing Through Thoreau Here you can find photos from the above mentioned Thoreau Society Gathering, additional information about the author and illustrators as well as samples of the illustrations. Head on over, check it out, and let me know what you think!
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