Walden / Edition 1 available in Paperback
About the Author
Jeffrey S. Cramer is curator of collections, The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. He is editor of Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition. He is preparing for publication What I Lived For: The Annotated Selected Journals of Henry D. Thoreau.
Date of Birth:July 12, 1817
Date of Death:May 6, 1862
Place of Birth:Concord, Massachusetts
Place of Death:Concord, Massachusetts
Education:Concord Academy, 1828-33); Harvard University, 1837
Read an Excerpt
By Henry David Thoreau
Running Press Book PublishersCopyright © 1987 Henry David Thoreau
All right reserved.
When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.
I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.
I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways. What I have heard of Bramins sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders "until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach"; or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars--even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.
But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.
Excerpted from Walden by Henry David Thoreau Copyright © 1987 by Henry David Thoreau. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of ContentsTable of Contents
Where I Lived, and What I Lived For 28
The Bean-Field 51
The Village 55
The Ponds 57
Baker Farm 65
Higher Laws 68
Brute Neighbors 72
Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors 82
Winter Animals 87
The Pond in Winter 91
What People are Saying About This
"The pacing and delivery of the message are both clear and easy to absorb, making this classic beautifully suited to the audiobook format, especially with Foster's consistent voice taking control." -AudioFile
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
no need to add my accolades for the content, but there are so many different editions I wanted to say the Yale edition has been my favorite, and this was a replacement copy for one that got wet on a camping trip.
With all the rave reviews I had read at the time, I thought this would be a good inspirational book to purchase.....wrong! As far as I'm concerned it was a huge waste of time and money.
On my short list of all time favorite books, this one is up there at the top. It doesn't attain the #1 spot, but it's up there, definitely top five. I think it is very interesting to read the reviews and notice that the vast majority of the bad reviews are coming from the young, mainly teenagers who were made to read this in school. The vast majority of the good reviews are coming from the older and the more wizened. I think the youth of today are just so totally enamored with technology and what's cool and popular. I know I was when I was 17. But then you grow older and hopefully more wise, you live life a little and you no longer care about what's cool or what's popular, you are no longer so enamored with technology and you begin to see how technology is actually killing us. You have some perspective to temper the youthful idealism. I just loved everything about this book, but I never read it until my 30's. If I had read it in my teens, I probably would have thought it pretty stupid. I think Thoreau was a genius, both with words and how he lived his life. He did not live on Walden Pond his entire life, by the way. Walden pond was an experiment, not so much a way of life. His time there was meant to show people how superfluous most of our lives are, that it can be simplified, to our soul's benefit, not to mention the benefit of our fellow human beings and the world at large. He was not a stupid man, he was educated at Harvard. He knew that his way was not the way everyone could or would live. He was not advocating a new social order. He was merely trying to prove a point, that people's lives are way too complicated. It has been said that Thoreau was the anti-Benjamin Franklin. Realize that even in his day, Thoreau was ridiculed. It is no surprise that he would be ridiculed today, mainly by those who just simply could not live without their iPods.I read Walden as an ideal and it made me sad. I would love to live my life in the way he did on Walden Pond, but I'm just not so sure how possible it is to live that way in today's world or even how desirable. There has to be a happy medium. You don't have to run out and live as a hermit in order to be able to appreciate Thoreau. There is beauty in the middle way, one can learn to make small changes in their lives, to try and live more simply, as many today are trying to do, to lighten our footprint on this earth, for the betterment of all. I do believe that people's lives are too complicated, that they can't see the forest for the trees,that their lives are only about making more money so they can buy more things. They have lost their way in the world, they have forgotten, if they even even knew, what life is about. But running out to live by yourself is not the solution either. I am reminded of the story of Christopher McCandless, whose story was made into the movie Into the Wild. He learned too late that true happiness is not real unless shared. That without love, life is meaningless. And THAT is the reason that living on Walden Pond by yourself is not the answer. We are here on this earth for each other, to love. Without love, life is meaningless. To live on Walden Pond by yourself for a period of time, to find yourself, or to prove a point, is all well and good, but as a permanent way of life, it's not utopia. And Thoreau knew this, after his time in the woods, he went back to civilization, but he never lost his soul and he knew how the soul was refreshed... with love, with learning, and with nature.
Thoreau built a cabin in the woods on the shore of Walden Lake and there attempted an experiment - how simple could he make his life. He found he could be happy with very few things. This is the book that recounts his experience. He writes about his philosophy, about living with less. I found myself agreeing with him in so many ways, until he got to the part about not needing to eat much, just a potato and some water. I had to draw the line somewhere! He describes the sounds, the color of the lake, the passing of the seasons, and the animals. The ant battle was particularly interesting. He also described the actual building of his house and other endeavors, sort of like a manual.I don't agree with all of his philosophy, and some of his notions are clearly dated, but I agree with his overall concept - we have too much extraneous stuff in our lives, and these things only serve to complicate it. We should live "deliberately," to quote Thoreau. We need to live our life the way we want to, not let things happen to us, not to collect belongings without thinking about how they will affect our life.
Walden is an essential book for all readers. It is a guide book, a manual and a working document. It teaches us to examine the way we live, the way we perceive our own means of living. It raises questions of nature, beauty, society, God and the universe.These are the essential facts surrounding Walden;-One day Henry David Thoreau borrowed his neighbours axe and walked out into the woods. -Once there we made himself a home and planted himself some crops. -He spent his days working and his night times reading or walking. -He largely lived in solitude. He paid no taxes.-During and after his time their he composed 'Walden'This book is a powerful narrative on life which should be read by one and all. It is the most revolutionary book of its time and opens up the philosophies of Emerson and his contemporaries. Thoreau dares to do what others only think or dream of.
This is absolutely a classic but I still found it somewhat boring to read. But I'm glad I did because it is a good book overall, even if I did find it a little dry from time to time.