Marianne Meyers's Reviews > Henry David Thoreau: A Life

Henry David Thoreau by Laura Dassow Walls
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it was amazing

I've read many a biography, but this is one of the best I've ever read. Often in a definitive biography, the author will recite all the things that happened in the subject's life, it is dry or has the strong markings of the author's opinions. Laura Dassow Walls takes us on Thoreau's life journey in a way that makes things new and offers perspectives that make Thoreau a complete person rather than the a one-dimensional loner/naturalist/On Walden Pond man of Concord, MA. I found Thoreau's life compelling and came to understand him, his family life, his university life, his finding himself years, his engineering skills, his surveying skills, his forays into writing, his penchant for publishing in doomed literary magazines and not getting paid, his pioneering nature studies, his family's continual work as a stop on the underground railroad and his passion for abolition, his public speaking life, his friends who remained devoted to him, his profound awareness and notations of the natural world around him. In fact, in the 21st century, we can see the effects of global warming by comparing his lifetime measurements of the depths of Walden Pond and notations of what dates the ice formed and melted that he took each year vs. what is happening today in Concord. I have always loved his writings and observations but now I understand the man in his time and place much more clearly. In particular, I was moved by his close relationship with his brother John who died very suddenly in his early 20s and how that loss stayed with Henry throughout his life. I also learned about his years studying at Harvard, making it there on a poverty scholarship and how that affected him. His favorite part of Harvard, incidentally, was their incredible library. He was never like anyone else from his beginnings but found solace and certitude in the natural world around him, always staying grounded to be true to himself, even though many people wanted him to be what they felt he should be. Rumpled and untidy, he can be found walking through the trees, stopping to observe plantings, animals, and birds, taking the town on berry picking parties, rowing a boat up the Concord River, living and learning in the world, and he remains present for me this way.
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Reading Progress

December 10, 2017 – Started Reading
December 10, 2017 – Shelved
December 26, 2017 – Finished Reading

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