The 100 Books Project: Walden.

“A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.”


“Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

Walden has always been high on my list of Books to Read, especially after I had a chance to visit Walden Pond a few years ago and was struck by the amusing irony that it’s basically a public swimming hole now. I’ve read snippets of it in college, but never the bulk of the entire thing, and I know it’s one of Those Books that anyone claiming to have an English degree should be familiar with. So I came across a charmingly designed Fall Rivers Press version of the book on sale one day, picked it up, and devoured it, impressively, within the course of a few days. I expected it to take me much longer to get through it, but I found myself easily absorbed in Thoreau’s words, even though my eyes occasionally glazed over at some of his lengthy descriptions or diatribes (especially regarding the depth of the pond, that was probably the hardest).

It’s a pleasant book, it’s a nice book, it’s a book that makes me want to go out and appreciate the nature around me. My favorite chapters were those used to describe all the animal life around his little cabin in the woods, appreciating them for going about their lives in a world completely unfettered by the concerns of humanity. As far as Thoreau’s philosophy, I find I can only get on board to a certain point. I believe life can be much simpler if we lives life providing for ourselves with what nature has given us, but I feel that advances in technology and society have given us so many rich outlets to explore, as well. I grew up on a farm; I grew up knowing about the land and the seasons and having a deep appreciation for the trees and the river and the cattle that gave us delicious hamburger and meatloaf. My brothers and I helped raise sweet corn up from the ground, so that we could sell it in a road side stand and save up the money we earned to buy a Nintendo 64. I grew up with many of the ideals that Thoreau preaches in Walden, so they’re not as impressive or revolutionary to me.

I know my upbringing is rare, though; increasingly rare, as a matter of fact, and that’s a little unfortunate. However, there are still many people taking part in a movement that brings urban farming into the light, so that we are doing the best we can to still get in touch with nature. It is astonishing that many of the things Thoreau wrote about in the 1840s are still applicable today, yet there’s still this quaint nineteenth century transcendentalism antiquity to it, too. I enjoyed the book, I love his appreciation for nature, I’m not sure I quite buy the idea that someone could be happy with just a handful of books, though. Books should be read as reservedly as they are written, but I write rather ravenously, and I shall consume my books in much the same way. I often feel the same way about the company of other humans as I do the company of books, so such a solitude would not be fitting for me for too long.

It would be nice, though, to just get away for a season or two, and enjoy the much missed company of Nature herself. This is probably going to be one of those books I revisit ever year, probably at the start of autumn, when the change in the air is palpable and powerful.

Also, I still maintain that Jake Gyllenhaal looks like Henry David Thoreau. If they ever do a biopic and cast anyone else, I will be very disappointed.

Think about it.

Books read: 45 out of 100.

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