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.
As I read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: Life in the Woods, I had a thought that could seem corny.
“You can’t see the forest for the trees.”
The 19th century philosopher/author told readers that the mundane details of everyday life can prevent us from seeing the big picture and, unless we take a step back, we can miss what is most important.
Thoreau stepped back by living alone in a tiny cabin on a pond in Massachusetts for two years. His thoughts about his experience fill the classic book.
His writing style may confuse you at times, but his nuggets of wisdom will make the effort worthwhile. You can read it cover to cover, or randomly open to a page, where you are likely to find thoughts about life and society worth pondering.
It may leave you searching for your own way to step back. (Click on the cover if you want to check it out on Amazon…the Kindle version is just 60 cents.)
Freedom. Henry David Thoreau wrote about it in Walden. Cheryl Strayed experienced it as she walked the Pacific Crest Trail. Jon Krakauer wrote how a young man encountered it in Into the Wild.
When Ken Ilgunas graduated the University of Buffalo with $32,000 in debt, he feared a life without the freedom he valued more than anything. Defying his mother and conventional wisdom, he endured hardships and life-threatening adventures in Alaska as he worked jobs few would consider. He knew that difficult times, mixed with astounding experiences, would build memories he would treasure forever. Through it all, he penny-pinched himself debt-free.
Now what? he thought. His answer may seem out of character for readers of Walden on Wheels. I will reserve it for your discovery when you read Ilgunas’ superb book, which often made me recall the words of Thoreau, Strayed, and Krakauer.
Ken Ilgunas is as extraordinary a writer as he is an impressive person. His book is an adventure, but so much more. It will tug at your heart, tickle your funny bone, and spark thoughts like “I wish I could do that!”