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Walden and Civil Disobedience [Paperback]

Henry David Thoreau , Michael Meyer
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1983 Penguin American Library

'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 stay there, conveys at once a naturalist's wonder at the commonplace and a Transcendentalist's yearning for spiritual truth and self-reliance. But even as Thoreau disentangled himself from worldly matters, his solitary musings were often disturbed by his social conscience. 'Civil Disobedience', expressing his antislavery and antiwar sentiments, has influenced nonviolent resistance movements worldwide. Michael Meyer's introduction points out that Walden is not so much an autobiographical study as a 'shining example' of Transcendental individualism. So, too, 'Civil Disobedience' is less a call to political activism than a statement of Thoreau's insistence on living a life of principle.

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Review

Economy. Where I Lived, And What I lived For. Reading. Sounds. Solitude. Visitors. The Bean-Field. The Village. The Ponds. Baker Farm. Higher Laws. Brute Neighbors. House-Warming. Former Inhabitants; And Winter Visitors. Winter Animals. The Pond in Winter. Spring. Conclusion. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817. He graduated from Harvard in 1837, the same year he began his lifelong Journal. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau became a key member of the Transcendentalist movement that included Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott. The Transcendentalists' faith in nature was tested by Thoreau between 1845 and 1847 when he lived for twenty-six months in a homemade hut at Walden Pond. While living at Walden, Thoreau worked on the two books published during his lifetime: Walden (1854) and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849). Several of his other works, including The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, and Excursions, were published posthumously. Thoreau died in Concord, at the age of forty-four, in 1862.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Thoreau's collected works in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (Boston, 1906) will eventually be superseded by The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau (Princeton, 1971- ), a more complete edition that incorporates modern textual principles in its editing. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Thoreau's life by Walden Pond is a fascinating read. Yet the humanism he espoused seems naive and quaint to the modern ear. His optimism that the human spirit and discipline could accomplish everything has been repeatedly tarnished. Yet it is seemingly all we have. The other lesson is that we should hide away from it all for awhile, which we seem to be as unable to do as people of his time were. So maybe its not so dated.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Above All, A Great Work Of Literature April 7 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
You will hear many people describe Thoreau as a transcendentalist philosopher whose two-year-and-two-month experimental habitation in the woods was a defiant yawp of solitude in an age of great societal refinement. You will hear even more people describe Thoreau as a fraud - a man who was too lazy to get a job, and whose "solitude" consisted of raiding his auntie's cookie jar every Sunday afternoon. What too many overlook is the great accomplishment not of his life, but of his literature. Walden is one of the most meticulously crafted works in the American canon, and it reads like a prose-poem ode to the sublime beauty of nature and the resilience of the self-reliant individual. Despite what some may say, his philosophy resounds even more triumphantly and urgently today, when solitude is disappearing (except, of course, within oneself) and society is cheap. Thoreau's ruminations continue to have a great impact on his professed audience - "poor students" - but his economic lessons should be required reading for anyone and everyone entering the professional world. No one has written more eloquently on the experience of man in nature, and the fleeting achievement of wholeness that we sometimes feel in perfect moments of stillness and solitude.

A note on the edition: This copy of Walden has survived with me from the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the jagged peaks of the High Sierras, from Parisian parks to Montreal blizzards, and, most remarkably, through a mess of a thesis. Needless to say, it is compact and durable, set in pleasurable type and very reasonably priced. The inclusion of 'Civil Disobedience' is a necessary one, and the poems are harmless, if nothing more. Books don't come much more perfect than this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Isolate, Nonconformist Oct. 13 2003
Format:Paperback
Thoreau lived for two years and two months at Walden Pond. He said the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation. Henry Thoreau asked hard questions.
He related that when the Masschusetts Bay Colony was founded, earthen houses were built. They were convenient and suitable and they had the advantage of putting everyone in a position of equality and not making the poorer inhabitants feel discouraged. It distressed Thoreau that a good deal of the money spent for shelter and dress was for show, uneconomical.
He farmed organically because he was only a squatter. He found that by working for about six weeks he could meet all of the annual expenses of living. He claimed that memorable events transpired in the morning.
Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately. The sounds of the railroad penetrated the woods. Visitors were frequent during three seasons. In the wintertime basically he had only himself for company and some of the animals.
In any season, the woods were surprisingly dark at night. Because he had no helpers or animals to assist him in cultivating the fields he felt that he ws more intimate with the beans in his beanfield. Songs have suggested that husbandry is a sacred art.
The scenery of Walden was on a humble scale. The first ice was especially interesting. He reported seeing fox, jays, chickadees, and red squirrels in the the winter.
In CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE he asserts that in a government that imprisons unjustly, the place of a just man is in prison. Thoreau underwent an overnight jail stay when he failed to pay a poll tax.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ho hum July 20 2003
By Arthem
Format:Paperback
Isn't it a little bit incongruous to desire to detach yourself from society, seeking self-reliance, and then write a book about it? Just an observation...
While Thoreau is a curious individual - sort of a poor-man's G.K. Chesterton - he always seems to come up short. The Virtue of Civil Disobedience reads more like self-satire than a serious attempt at political philosophy. And while Walden is rich and fulfilling, it is ultimately just a vehicle for Thoreau to make baseless claims predicated upon his treasury of tidbits and odd knowledge.
Had Thoreau been blessed with living in the modern world, he could have just written "Living by a Pond on Your Own For Dummies" and saved himself (and us) a lot of trouble.
Instead of "Civil Disobedience," I recommend anything by Lysander Spooner (particularly "No Treason")
Instead of "Walden" I recommend "Two Years Before the Mast." It's both more relevant than Walden, and a heck of a lot Closer To Nature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The book that started it all? Nov. 17 2001
By Christo
Format:Paperback
Compared to books such as "Voluntary Simplicity" by Duane Elgin and similar books, one realises that many of these ideas are nothing new when one reads Walden by Thoreau. In fact, what strikes me is that we as a Western society have not overcome many of the issues pointed out by Thoreau 150 years ago. Thoreau left Concord MA "disdainful of America's growing commercialism and industrialism", the slavish materialism of that society then. One wonders what he'll say if he would see the extend today - in the post Coca-Cola society. But then Thoreau was a man who clearly stepped to his own drum. Becuase of slavery, he refused to support the state on moral grounds. How would his views have been tolerated today?
I am not luddite, but my favourite quote from the book is this: "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing to communicate". Does this say something about the Internet, newsmedia and our contemporary information overload, or what?
I liked the introduction and footnotes of Meyer. Just enough to provide context and explanation, but never intrusive. This book is as relevant today as it was during Thoreau's lifetime. Highly recommended.
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