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Thoreau's Journals > Books Related to Thoreau

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message 1: by Sher (last edited Mar 30, 2019 06:58AM) (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Hello Everyone- I am interested in any suggestions you have for books related to Thoreau or American Transcendentalism. This past year and ongoing I'm into a deep study of American Transcendentalism-- I pretty much know the primary sources - books the key figures wrote. But I a very interested in secondary sources -- books that interpret this movement and the key writers' works.

I have a list of such books related to Thoreau's writings, but there must be hundreds - his impact has been tremendous on nature literature and on social justice thought.

So, if you have any article or book sources please post them, and thank you-- Sher


message 2: by Louise (new)

Louise Garnier | 2 comments I don’t know if this book fits your description of what you’re looking for, but “Brook Farm - The Dark Side of Utopia” by Sterling F. Delano brings an interesting view on a small community that lived in the spirit of Transcendentalism. I read it when I was studying the Transcendental age and found it really eye-opening to how it would be to live by Emerson and Thoreau’s ideals.


message 3: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Hello Louise- thanks for this suggestion- I will take a look.

I also realized I forgot to mention that I'll probably posting some of these books a side read- to see if any others would like to read and discuss these books with me.

Brook Farm: The Dark Side of Utopia Oh I see this is about Brook Farm. Good. I have read a lot about Fruitlands but not had an inner view of Brook Farm.


message 4: by Becky (new)

Becky Norman | 684 comments Mod
Hi Sher,

This isn't quite what you're looking for, but it's recently released and looks fascinating. Having had the pleasure of touring Emerson's home last summer and imagining those amazing minds of his and his guests' at work in those rooms, this one is definitely on my TBR list! Solid Seasons: The Friendship of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson

~Becky


message 5: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Becky wrote: "Hi Sher,

This isn't quite what you're looking for, but it's recently released and looks fascinating. Having had the pleasure of touring Emerson's home last summer and imagining those amazing minds..."


Actually Becky - _Solid Seasons_ is top on my list and I will begin I think mid-June. I am reading the The Annotated Emerson right now, and I think ANNOTATIOn is a good way to tackle Emerson. His writings, for me , are more dense and opaque than Thoreau's despite being fairly familiar with Transcendental ideas.


message 6: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sher, I would like to recommend two biographies of Thoreau that would be helpful to your request.

Kevin Dann's biography of Thoreau entitled Expect Great Things delves quite deeply into Transcendentalism.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...

Laura Dassow Walls' excellent biography A Life delves less deeply into the Transcendentalism aspect, but I found it a little more readable than Dann's book.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

Lastly, the Norton Critical Edition of Walden has the best set of essays there is, in my opinion, about all things related to Walden and Thoreau. I have had it since college.


message 7: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John:
Thank you so much! I read the Walls' biography and loved it! But, I have not heard of the Dann book, and I would be interested in the Transcendentalism angle. I just finished The American Transcendentalists: Essential Writings. and loved it!


message 8: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John:
Do you know anything about the author Kevin Dunn? I can't get any information on him...


message 9: by John (last edited Sep 29, 2019 12:06PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sher wrote: "John:
Do you know anything about the author Kevin Dunn? I can't get any information on him..."


Sher, the information in my copy of Expect Great Things indicates that Dann is a naturalist and writer with a Phd from Rutgers. He has also taught at Rutgers and several other schools. It also indicates he has written a total of ten books. I remember Expect Great Things came out with much fanfare in 2017 because it coincided with the 200th anniversary of Thoreau's birth. I thought it was a good book, but it went more heavily into the Transcendentalism aspect than I was prepared for. I preferred Dassow Walls' biography because it seemed to humanize Thoreau more than Dann's book did, and it also seemed to offer a personal connection to Thoreau -- the author being drawn to Thoreau at a young age.


message 10: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Hi John:
Thank you for that additional information; I appreciate it. So, he does have a scholarly background; I am glad. We had a fantastic discussion about the the Walls' biography in a group I run called Nonfiction Side Reads. I wish you had been there. You really hit the nail on the head then you mentioned what a great job Dassow did with humanizing Thoreau. One of our readers had a lot of problems with Thoreau after reading _ Walden_, and her view of Thoreau was totally transformed by reading Dassow's biography with us.

I found I'd like to read Richardson's Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, because he wrote a very interesting biography about Emerson--though I found some conflicting views in other biographies I read about Emerson. But, perhaps I'll get to Richardson's next year.


message 11: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 112 comments Sher why did the reader have trouble with Thoreau after reading Walden? Now I’m quite curious!


message 12: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sher wrote: "Hi John:
Thank you for that additional information; I appreciate it. So, he does have a scholarly background; I am glad. We had a fantastic discussion about the the Walls' biography in a group I ru..."


Sher,

I have seen Richardson's biography and I thought about giving it a try. One thing I have found about my reading of biographies in general and Dassow Walls in particular: I seem to learn more when I give the book a second read. I don't know if, for any of us, rereadings are the answer, but I have found it helpful with Thoreau. Right now, I am reading Thoreau's A Plea for John Brown. I want to see what he had to say about John Brown because Thoreau is writing as a contemporary of Brown.


message 13: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sarah wrote: "Sher why did the reader have trouble with Thoreau after reading Walden? Now I’m quite curious!"

I am also curious, Sarah. The writer, Kathryn Schulz, wrote a very negative piece about Thoreau in the New Yorker about two years ago. I can post a link to it, as I think people can read the article without a subscription. The article is entitled "Pond Scum." Imagine that? But I think that is just the editor's title. Schulz is a perceptive and great writer, in my opinion, but I don't agree with her decidedly negative view of Thoreau. I do wonder, sometimes, if Walden is a book that qualifies as the classic everybody knows of but never read.


message 14: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 112 comments John, I too read that article but with my lupus memory I don’t remember it. My first attempt at Thoreau I found him a bit prickly with somethings, but the more I read him, his poetry of the natural world won me over. I imagine he could be a bit hard to get along with having a wee bit of a holier than thou attitude (that was my impression at the time), but having seen things through his eyes I totally didn’t care if he had moments of priggishness. He was a poetic genius when he described nature and our being in. Like all geniuses he might be a big awkward to deal with face to face, but oh what a writer of the natural world!


message 15: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sarah, I started reading Thoreau’s A Plea for John Brown. Although it is not one of his naturalist works, I was struck by this sentence: It costs us nothing to be just.

In terms of how we should treat our earth, this strikes me as naturalist thinking to the core. I like it.


message 16: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 112 comments That is an interesting concept since it seems it costs politicians a lot to be just that these days.
I have barely scratched the surface of Thoreau and will enjoy delving deeper into his life. I remember being so excited reading Walden after I got going in it. After I finished it I immediately started in on it again. But sadly other things got in the way.


message 17: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "John, I too read that article but with my lupus memory I don’t remember it. My first attempt at Thoreau I found him a bit prickly with somethings, but the more I read him, his poetry of the natural..."

Sarah- you pretty well explained what my friend's experience was reading _Walden_ for the first time. She found him arrogant, and she especially had issues with his judgements of the Irish and others around the pond. Arrogant is an idea many people associate with Thoreau, but I believe he warrants a lot of reading and re-reading and considering from a variety of angles. Oh, and she was won over completely by his nature prose. :)


message 18: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Sher why did the reader have trouble with Thoreau after reading Walden? Now I’m quite curious!"

I am also curious, Sarah. The writer, Kathryn Schulz, wrote a very negative piece abou..."


I'd love to read this article. Seems most of my family and some of my friends subscribe to _The New Worker_, but I don't. I'll see if I can find it - thanks John.


message 19: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John:
If you have a link for "Pond Scum" please post it. Each time I search for it at NY Mag, I get an error message.


message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 112 comments Yeah, I guess it was mostly the incident with the Irish that had turned me off a bit. Telling people that they lives their lives all wrong, or whatever the specifics were, was a bit much but I also figured a guy who talks with squirrels, rocks and trees and has 40 times the education of anyone he is talking to is going to be slightly weak in the diplomatic department. I quickly dismissed his arrogance as I read on, but I could see that stopping some folks dead in their tracks through Walden keeping them from forging ahead for the good stuff. All puns intended. I seem to have had quite the parallel experience as your friend, Sher. His prose were dreamy.


message 21: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Here is the link to Kathryn Schulz's piece about Thoreau.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

I have enjoyed Schulz's other pieces. She is a solid writer who takes a look at things that have, to some extent, been overlooked. As for this piece, which looks at Walden as much as it does Thoreau himself, I view it as a contrarian look in order to have a discussion. I don't agree with a lot of what she says, but I'm glad she decided to make the effort.


message 22: by John (new)

John R Nelson | 13 comments I read the Kathryn Schulz piece in The New Yorker when it came out, and I remember feeling that while its criticisms were generally valid, it lacked a sense of proportion. Thoreau was a flawed person--at times, as Schulz points out, sanctimonious, hypocritical, and anti-social--and I've never seen him as a moral paragon, but in his work as a whole, not just "Walden," he made two major contributions to American literature: (1) he exemplified what we can learn from close observation of the natural world: plants, animals, places (2) he made people aware of the wildlife and wildness that had already been lost on our continent by the mid 19th century. Whatever the flaws and inconsistencies in his personal philosophy, he laid the groundwork for a long list of American nature writers, from Rachel Carson to Annie Dillard.


message 23: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments John, that is an excellent summary of why Thoreau matters. I had hoped that when the article came out, more people would read Thoreau and draw their own conclusion.


message 24: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John wrote: "Here is the link to Kathryn Schulz's piece about Thoreau.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

I have enjoyed Schulz's other pieces. She is a solid writer who takes a look at t..."


Thanks for posting this link, John. I'll go and take a look now.


message 25: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments With the recent passing of Harold Bloom, I have been going through my Bloom books. I enjoy his works.

For many years, he edited the Chelsea Editions on great writers. I noticed for Kindle a price drop on the Critical Interpretations for Thoreau, which is edited by Bloom. They can be pricey at $45, but the price drop was to $7. I purchased today and am going to read. These are likely mid century (1900s) essays, which struck me as a timeframe of much Thoreau revival and focus. Well, I'll find out.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...


message 26: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments I must admit, the Bloom book above, which I gave a middling review....well, I’ve been going back to it and find myself enjoying it more. Some of the essays are by people who had dinner with Thoreau or shared a hike. The more I reread, the more I enjoyed. A sense of timelessness. Which is Thoreau to the core.


message 27: by John (last edited Nov 09, 2019 04:00PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments I started watching on the new AppleTV streaming service a series about Emily Dickinson entitled Dickinson. It is a modern take on her and sure is quirky and different. I watched one episode and I kind of liked it. Well, sort of. I am an old English major, but hopefully not a relic.

Anyway, our friend Henry David Thoreau appears to be a character in this series. He will make his first appearance in Episode Four.

I daresay I cannot recall Thoreau on the screen anywhere, so I thought I would mention this.


message 28: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Thanks John; I will see if I can stream this. I am not sure what AppleTv is, but I will go search and see. I usually stream through Amazon.

What do you like about Apple TV? I'm pretty much into nonfiction stuff.


message 29: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John wrote: "With the recent passing of Harold Bloom, I have been going through my Bloom books. I enjoy his works.

For many years, he edited the Chelsea Editions on great writers. I noticed for Kindle a price ..."


Thanks John; I just ordered a copy of this too.


message 30: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
I would like to bring your attention to this book.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...

Lessons from Walden: Thoreau and the Crisis of American Democracy Published about one week ago.

John...side read?


message 31: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sher wrote: "I would like to bring your attention to this book.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...

[book:Lessons from Walden: Thoreau and the Crisis of American Democracy|4799844..."


Sher, this looks like a very timely book. I have marked it to read and think it might make for an excellent side read.

I have Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Amazon on my iPad, which is how I watch the various offerings on these services. I would say that Netflix is probably the best for non-fiction documentaries, but Amazon Prime Video also offers a lot, too.

AppleTV is an app that came with my iPad when I got it last year. I knew very little about it and did not bother with it. When I saw a review in the NY Times of the Dickinson series offered on it, I decided to go to the app and see about watching the series. AppleTV has a monthly charge of $5. I have not looked around yet to see about the non fiction offerings. I would say just from a cursory look, it seems more oriented to fiction.

I decided to skip to Episode Four of Dickinson to see Thoreau. I'll go back and watch the episodes two and three. I must say, I was thoroughly disappointed with how the screenwriters portrayed Thoreau. It is as if they read the Kathryn Schulz piece in The New Yorker and decided to base his character on that. Any younger people watching the show and not familiar with Thoreau will not find his character worthy of further exploration.


message 32: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Thanks John for all the fill in. I'm putting together schedules for next year, so I will put this Thoreau book on the list; I have already ordered it. I'll be in touch about some possible dates. I imagine we'll have some others too, because we've done a decent study of Thoreau already in the past 1.5 years and there is the interest.


message 33: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments I went back this week to Walden and decided to read and then reread the chapter entitled Solitude.

I had forgotten how good a chapter that one is and how musically beautiful it is. It is a stand alone piece, most definitely.


message 34: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Good for you John. That is great idea. :)


message 35: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments I was listening to Spotify today — a podcast discussing Walden. One of the two commentators said Walden was an “angry” book.

I had to call it a day and ended this podcast. Walden is many things, but it is not angry. Once I heard that, it made no sense for me to continue to listen to someone so misinformed and incorrect.


message 36: by Becky (new)

Becky Norman | 684 comments Mod
How curious, John! Obviously their personal emotions and "baggage" got dragged into that discussion!


message 37: by Julie (new)

Julie M | 179 comments Hi all, this question is a bit off-topic. but I’m looking for something in Thoreau’s travel writing. Apparently he hiked Barn’s Bluff in Red Wing, Minnesota while traveling. This is a unique and beautiful bluff on the Mississippi River. I would live to know which of his writings record this so I can find it and reference it. Thanks!


message 38: by John (last edited Mar 02, 2021 03:39PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Julie wrote: "Hi all, this question is a bit off-topic. but I’m looking for something in Thoreau’s travel writing. Apparently he hiked Barn’s Bluff in Red Wing, Minnesota while traveling. This is a unique and be..."

Julie, I know a little about this. Thoreau did hike Barn’s Bluff, but it was only one year before he passed away. He was able to take notes, but these notes did not make it into any of his journals because of his passing. I don’t believe there is much in the way of published work related specifically to these notes. My understanding is that hikes are done in an effort to retrace his steps, but it seems like we just don’t have the benefit of his notes being transformed into his beautiful prose.


message 39: by Julie (new)

Julie M | 179 comments Thank you John. This explains why I haven’t found written reference to it. I’ll continue to think of Thoreau when I hike Barn’s Bluff. And continue to wonder what he saw and thought from his time period during his hike.

My family met their for a hike during this quarantine. Three generations exploring the bluff. It has open prairie and hardwoods. On top on the prairie side we had bald eagles swooping so close to our heads. The trail on the north side, or river side, is closed in the winter because of ice. These days it is an area enjoyed by many hikers.


message 40: by John (last edited Mar 03, 2021 04:23AM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Julie wrote: "Thank you John. This explains why I haven’t found written reference to it. I’ll continue to think of Thoreau when I hike Barn’s Bluff. And continue to wonder what he saw and thought from his time p..."

That’s great, Julie. It sounds like a terrific mix of nature that I am sure Thoreau was enchanted by it.

As a new resident to North Carolina’s coastal area, I hope to learn more about the area as time goes on. I spent last winter on a beautiful barrier island called Oak Island. It sits below Wilmington and is unusual for an Atlantic coastline area, as it runs west to east rather than north to south.

I would look in the morning for the sun rising over the sea and it was not there. Rather, I would have to turn to my left and see the sun rising over the lighthouse to the east.


message 41: by John (last edited Dec 26, 2021 03:56AM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Ken Burns is working on a documentary about the life and work of Thoreau. I am very excited about it, but the expected release date is not until 2025 or 2026. Patience.

https://kenburns.com/films/henry-davi...


message 42: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Thank you for posting this John-- I cannot wait to view this-- It is remarkable how Thoreau - his life and work lives on and on-- so much moreso than Emerson and the other Transcendentalists.


message 43: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Garrison | 13 comments I'm new to this thread. Has anyone read David Gessner's Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis"? I haven't read it, but have read a number of his other works and highly recommend these two: "Return of the Osprey" and "All the Wild that Remains." Gessner teaches at University of North Carolina at Wilmington.


message 44: by John (last edited Dec 27, 2021 12:21PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Jeff wrote: "I'm new to this thread. Has anyone read David Gessner's Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis"? I haven't read it, but have read a number of his other work..."

I read it and gave it three stars, but did not write a review. I live not far from Wilmington and it pleases me to see a professor at UNCW taking on this subject. I found the book to be mostly a personal journal in the terrible Age of Covid, but did not see Thoreau come through clearly enough, which was what I was expecting.


message 45: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
Jeff and John --

Thanks for posting information about Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis I am always impressed by how relevant Thoreau still is. I have other Thoreau based books I need to read this year and will be sure to report. This has been a helpful thread.


message 46: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sher wrote: "Jeff and John --

Thanks for posting information about Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis I am always impressed by how relevant Thoreau..."


Sher, I would recommend this one first. I thought it was more diverse and just better.

Now Comes Good Sailing: Writers Reflect on Henry David Thoreau


message 47: by Becky (new)

Becky Norman | 684 comments Mod
John wrote: "Sher wrote: "Jeff and John --

Thanks for posting information about Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis I am always impressed by how rel..."


This looks very intriguing, John - thank you for sharing!


message 48: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John,
I am just starting _ Now Comes Good Sailing_. Did you read this book recently enough to discuss it a bit here as I read it? I should clarify- I am listening. I like that the editor asked the writer's to tackle different aspects of Thoreau's life and writings.


message 49: by John (last edited Dec 29, 2021 04:02PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 40 comments Sher wrote: "John,
I am just starting _ Now Comes Good Sailing_. Did you read this book recently enough to discuss it a bit here as I read it? I should clarify- I am listening. I like that the editor asked the ..."


Sher, I read most of the pieces. In fact, I am still going back to it. Of the pieces in the books, I liked Lauren Groff’s, which opened the book. Kristen Case’s essay was good, too.


message 50: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 987 comments Mod
John wrote: "Sher wrote: "John,
I am just starting _ Now Comes Good Sailing_. Did you read this book recently enough to discuss it a bit here as I read it? I should clarify- I am listening. I like that the edit..."


Thanks John-- I asked members here if anyone wanted to do a Side Read, and if not I may throw it over to NonF Only the best as Mod's choice read for Jan... I see you could pipe in either place....


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