by Henry David Thoreau
1852 / 160 pages
IN 1845 Henry David Thoreau, a bachelor from Concord Massachusetts, went to live as independently as he could in a self-built shelter by a pond with some acreage for a garden. He later wrote this book about the experience so it’s more of a memoir than a journal, although I believe he used journals to create it. He went to learn about the essentials of life – to make sure he really lived it. And then the plan was to write the book.
From Chapter 2: “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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
I mostly really enjoyed the book but there were places where Thoreau sounded a tad arrogant, criticizing everyone but himself. The best parts were about the neighbors who had left, the details about animals and the ice harvesting. The worst were when he discussed how economically he was living.
His thoughts on the railroads and slavery were quite pertinent, informative, interesting. He was influenced in his thinking by Hindu thinking.
I want to read this book again at least once – there’s a LOT in it. I don’t know how I missed it prior to this but I do know it was rather shameful of me not to have read it – so it was on my very late “before the year ends” list of resolutions and I got it done – very glad I did.