Sunday, April 19, 2009


By Henry David Thoreau
Copyright 2007
Literary Classics Publishing
Classic Literature

I’ve often made attempts to read “the classics”. I failed miserably at my encounter with Paradise Lost. I made it through Dante’s Inferno, only to be halted in my tracks by his Purgatorio. I do have a love for the Iliad by Homer (mostly due to high school AP English—thanks Mrs. Brown!), but I struggled mightily when trying to get through its sequel, the Odyssey.

So I decided to move forward in time several hundred years and see if I could find something a little more my speed. What I found was Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And I’m so glad I did! What a treat it was to read this book.

Walden is a memoir, of sorts, of a time in Thoreau’s life when he decides that people are too caught up with the “things” of life and believes that they have forgotten what it really means to live. He moves himself to a small plot of land on the banks of Walden Pond with basically nothing but the shirt on his back. He scrounges wood enough to build a small shack, which he improves periodically as opportunities allow. He eats of the berries around him, the fish in the pond, and whatever else makes itself available to him.

But this book isn’t really about how to live on nothing in the wild. Instead, it is a book about opening your eyes to really see the world around you and to find your place within. Thoreau writes, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” That line really struck a chord for me. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I frequently get sucked into the stress of work and home and family and responsibility, and that I forget that the world is good and that I am grateful to be alive. But I am grateful to be alive! And this book was a reminder of that.

Walden is almost a series of essays about a series of philosophical standpoints on a myriad of topics. But it is also lighthearted at times, and soothing to the soul.

One of my favorite parts of the book was when Thoreau was describing a battle between a legion of black ants and troops of red ants on his woodpile. He describes the battle as though it was being fought by human soldiers in the field. And while it is a little gory at moments, it really brings to the forefront the idea that even the little things in life are meaningful to those concerned.

Thoreau lived at the pond for four years and records the observations of his social experiment in an effortless and thought-provoking manner.

I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a stimulating read. I definitely plan to add it to my collection!

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