Walden; Or, Life in the Woods

Walden; Or, Life in the Woods

by Henry David Thoreau

Paperback(Republication of First Edition)

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Nature was a form of religion for naturalist, essayist, and early environmentalist Henry David Thoreau (1817–62). In communing with the natural world, he wished to "live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and … learn what it had to teach." Toward that end Thoreau built a cabin in the spring of 1845 on the shores of Walden Pond — on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson — outside Concord, Massachusetts. There he observed nature, farmed, built fences, surveyed, and wrote in his journal.
One product of his two-year sojourn was this book — a great classic of American letters. Interwoven with accounts of Thoreau's daily life (he received visitors and almost daily walked into Concord) are mediations on human existence, society, government, and other topics, expressed with wisdom and beauty of style.
Walden offers abundant evidence of Thoreau's ability to begin with observations on a mundane incident or the minutiae of nature and then develop these observations into profound ruminations on the most fundamental human concerns. Credited with influencing Tolstoy, Gandhi, and other thinkers, the volume remains a masterpiece of philosophical reflection.
A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486284958
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 04/12/1995
Series: Dover Thrift Editions
Edition description: Republication of First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 56,679
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Lexile: 1300L (what's this?)

About the Author

Essayist, poet, and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) ranks among America's foremost nature writers. The Concord, Massachusetts native spent most of his life observing the natural world of New England, and his thoughts on leading a simple, independent life are captured in his best-known work, Walden.

Date of Birth:

July 12, 1817

Date of Death:

May 6, 1862

Place of Birth:

Concord, Massachusetts

Place of Death:

Concord, Massachusetts


Concord Academy, 1828-33); Harvard University, 1837

Read an Excerpt


By Henry David Thoreau

Running Press Book Publishers

Copyright © 1987 Henry David Thoreau
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0894714961



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.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Joyce Carol Oates ix
Economy 3
Where I Lived, and What I lived For 81
Reading 99
Sounds 111
Solitude 129
Visitors 140
The Bean-Field 155
The Village 167
The Ponds 173
Baker farm 201
Higher Laws 210
Brute Neighbors 223
House-Warming 238
Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors 256
Winter Animals 271
The Pond in Winter 282
Spring 299
Conclusion 320
Index by Paul O. Williams 335

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Walden; Or, Life in the Woods 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First off, understand two things: a) Thoreau wrote this over 150 years ago, and so neither the prose nor the pacing conforms to late-20th-century expectations. b) the man hits on many concepts that STILL provoke heated debate 150 years later! This book identifies important currents in American life... our love/hate relationship with the environment; our willingness to stick our nose into other peoples' problems, telling them how to solve them - yet blithely ignoring our own problems; and the all-consuming need for money. If you want to read a book that encourages Americans to sit back and think seriously about how we live our lives, then this is a great place to start - as long as you note the caveat up top!
manirul01 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy it
Joyfulsparrow More than 1 year ago
I have a hardcopy, paperback and now a digital copy. I think everyone would benefit from reading this book. I get lost in this book for hours at a time. I always want Thoreau with me! This book is full of wisdom. Living a life as close to Thoreau's as possible makes his words hit close to home for me. Simplify, Simplify!
ryoung on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best. Along with this, one might try Cramer's Annotated Walden as well.
Britt84 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a bit ambivalent on this one. Though I really liked pieces and I think Thoreau has a great writing style, I did also find it rather lengthy at times. The descriptions of the environment of Walden pond are beautiful, but they can become a bit much, for instance when he writes several times, multiple pages about how clear the water in the pond is... Though the novel has been an important inspiration for some philosophers, and I appreciate it's importance and the novelty of Thoreau's ideas at the time the book was written, I have to say I don't find his ideas very convincing. I think Thoreau doesn't realise that he might live a 'primitive' life quite easily when he has a civilized world surrounding him, but that this would not be possible if everybody would follow the lifestyle he promotes. For instance, he hires oxen and a plough to plough his fields, he borrows tools, he gets his clothing from the village... If everybody would live like he does though, these things wouldn't be possible. Also, he feels that poor people should be happy to live a simple life, but he doesn't seem to understand that poverty means hardship and despair, and that a simple life isn't much fun when you're starving. Likewise, he doesn't take into account that some people have wives and children they need to provide for.Besides, Thoreau comes across as an incredibly arrogant and patronizing man, who seems to think he is the only person whose intellect is advanced enough to see the truth and to really understand the world. He just looks down upon everybody, and I found this really annoying and insulting.The copy I have also contained the essay 'Civil Disobedience', which leaves me with the same feeling. It's rather easy to boast of not paying your taxes, if you don't actually need to spend time in jail for it because your family pays up for you. And it's also rather easy to say you don't need the state and are therefore not going to pay, if you can benefit from the state by living in it, even without paying. I am presuming that Thoreau does appreciate having roads and railroads, a police force and firemen, and all other commodities the State provides; if everybody would act the way he does, then all these things would disappear, and I wonder if that really is what he wants...
bkinetic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thoreau chose to live deliberately and to observe life from a fresh perspective, as though no one had ever done so before. The result was a high quality of intimate thought, written for both the reader's challenge and enjoyment. In order to get the most from Walden, it is necessary to slow down and read deliberately. Thoreau carefully studied varied aspects of the natural world, reminding us how interesting everything is and how each moment of our lives can be full of discovery and wonder.
heidilove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To read this when one is a teenager is ideal. After that, it's pretty easy to start looking at the transcendentalists and saying "but if we all did that, what would get done?"
ErixWorx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Makes me wanna go live in the woods like On the Road makes my feet get itchy to get movin'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book arrived very quickly and in great shape. An awesome buy.
Bill7 More than 1 year ago
This is the ultimate classic of political philosophy. Thank you for making a low cost Nook edition.
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jcady More than 1 year ago
Walden is a classic... but someone screwed up on the description of this book. The webpage says that this is a work about the Russian revolution????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Extremely boring novel that might put you to sleep.