Henry David Thoreau: A Life

Who was Henry David Thoreau?

He has been labeled a naturalist, farmer, author, lecturer, recluse, tax protestor, philosopher. Moody, introverted. Passionately antislavery. Longtime friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In Henry David Thoreau: A Life, Laura Dassow Walls goes beyond the labels and reveals a sometimes insecure man who struggled to find out who he was. Walls takes readers on a journey through Thoreau’s journals and other writings. His walks, inner debates, friendships, and two years at Walden Pond come to life in a way that will enthrall and surprise even the most learned Thoreau scholar.

The 500 pages passed quickly and left me yearning to reread Thoreau’s most famous book, Walden. My new copy of the classic just arrived and as I began reading, I felt a fresh appreciation for one of the world’s great thinkers. I will let you know how it goes, but I am in no rush. I want to savor the moments that his words bring.

It is a Fact: We are Wrong About the World

Which of these statements best represents your view of the world today?

A. For most people, the quality of life is declining.

B. The quality of life is not changing much for most people.

C. The quality of life has vastly improved in modern times.

Swedish author Hans Rosling begins Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think with a story from a circus, then tests readers’ views of the world with 13 multiple-choice questions. After you find out your (probably failing) score, he explains that chimpanzees probably would do better on his test than most humans by randomly choosing answers.

Every doomsayer should read this book. Every optimist should read this book. Maybe everyone should read this book; it will change your view of the world–past, present and future.

Rosling uses compelling statistical evidence in his battle against simple views of the world that are based on generalizations that we cling to because they fit our world vision. The facts are presented in vivid charts and graphs that are illustrated by compelling human stories from around the world.

He explains how our instincts affect our impressions about poverty, child mortality rates, life expectancy, deaths from natural disasters, climate change, child vaccination, and more.

If you are a TED talk fan, chances are that you are familiar with the international health professor. Sadly, pancreatic cancer claimed his life in 2017, the year before Factfulness was published. His son, Ola Rosling, and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund, who both worked with the author for years, completed the project.

Blimey! Look What Arrived in the Post

I haven’t been so excited about a delivery since the births of my three sons. My heart raced as the DHL driver climbed the steps to my home and rang the doorbell.

I peeled open the envelope and pulled out the wallet-sized booklet with a firm cover and back.

“I am a Brit!” I refrained–barely–from yelling my excitement to the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, I discovered that I was (and always have been) a British citizen due to my father’s birth in Birmingham, England. But I wanted to be able to prove it.

So, I sent my dad’s birth certificate, my parents’ marriage certificate, my birth certificate and my American passport to Her Majesty’s passport office. Oh, and I also sent a passport photograph of a stern-looking old man (me, that is).

If only my parents had lived to see me join them as British citizens.

Brexit may devalue my British passport as a vehicle for travel and living in the European Union, but nothing can diminish my new passport’s place in my heart.