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Self-Reliance Hardcover – May 25, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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A Q&A with Ralph Waldo Emerson

For nearly 200 years, Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance has been the preeminent book on independence, non-conformity, and trusting oneself. At The Domino Project, we believe that Emerson's words are just as relevant today as they were in 1841. Read on:

The Domino Project: There has been much talk of the failing education system in America, and even new groundbreaking movies such as Waiting for Superman and Race to Nowhere documenting these failings. Do you have any suggestions on how we fix this broken system?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Self-Reliance: The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind?

Question: Society's quick pace makes it hard to focus and concentrate. What can one to do achieve serenity today?

Emerson: Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Question: Many in society are afraid of of being themselves and speaking authentically. Why do you think that is?

Emerson: Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.

Question: What is the key to happiness with one's work and occupation?

Emerson: A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

Question: There are so many popular opinions in society today. How should we know whom to listen to?

Emerson: Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Question: What advice do you have for creators and artists who don't think they create original work?

Emerson: Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.


About the Author

There are few people as quoted and quotable as Ralph Waldo Emerson, founder of the transcendental movement and author of classic essays as Self-Reliance, Nature, and The American Scholar. Emerson began his career as a Unitarian minister and later put those oratory skills to move us toward a better society. More remains written on him than by him. This special collection has many contributors, revealing the range of people under his influence. On the day of this book’s publication, May 25, 2011, Emerson would have been 208.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 88 pages
  • Publisher: The Domino Project (May 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936719061
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936719068
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

There are few people as quoted and quotable as Ralph Waldo Emerson, founder of the transcendental movement and author of classic essays as Self-Reliance, Nature, and The American Scholar. Emerson began his career as a Unitarian minister and later put those oratory skills to move us toward a better society. More remains written on him than by him.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The first time I read "Self-Reliance," I didn't. It was assigned summer reading before my senior year AP English class and I was too busy golfing and playing pick-up basketball to waste my summer on a book written by a dead guy with weird sideburns. At age 23, I read it the second time, printing out a public domain edition using a temp job's laser printer then plowing through it on my lunch break. This week was my third time to read it and by far the most valuable thanks to the Domino Project's beautiful new special edition.

Stunning design by my friend Alex Miles Younger places all of Emerson's original text on the right side of the page in this slim 73 page volume, with notable pull-quotes from the book as well as complementary and supplementary quotes from famous people on the left side. OK, fine, it's a bit ironic that a book that preaches you needing to think for yourself highlights the lines that you SHOULD think are the most important. Except for the fact, those ARE the most important lines. They were to me at least.

I somewhat always dismissed and ignored Emerson because I thought he was like his friend Thoreau, who I kind of hate. But, whether it was because of my age or this special edition, "Self-Reliance"--finally!--resonated with me on this third read like few books have ever before. (It could be a fitting companion to my beloved Meditations (Modern Library) even.)

"Self-Reliance" is truly a book about artistic confidence and belief in one's own genius: "To believe your own thoughts, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.
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Format: Hardcover
Get ready for a different reading experience. I mean, actually thinking while you're reading, because you'll see different kinds of words and they'll be in a strange order than what you're used to. This book wasn't written yesterday. You're in a different time and place when you read this one.

And that's what makes it so much more meaningful. You're reading poetry (what else would you expect from Emerson?) which means that every word was carefully chosen, and each sentence has a deep meaning. You'll feel different after reading this book, as if you've been traveling through time and finding treasures of wisdom that have been preserved for us today.

I appreciate the layout of this book where each left page (as the book is open faced) contains large red print of a key quote that is also highlighted in red on the right page where it is placed among the rest of the text. This actually helped me read it and glean the main points.

The other reading help from the publisher (The Domino Project) was a quote on every other page from a variety of notable individuals that correlated somewhat with the message Emerson was conveying, except it was in language easier to digest. This helped clarify the message and made it sink in better for me.

I shouldn't start quoting the book because I could go on and on, but here's one to give you a taste:
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession."

By just typing that sentence, I understood it better. Every sentence is like that.

It's not a long book, 73 pages, and half of those contain the Emerson text.
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1 Comment 45 of 46 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Domino Project also seems to believe that Emerson's words are just as relevant today if they are constantly interrupted with moments of "self-reflection." I picked this edition up when it was being given away for free, and I'd hate to see someone spend money on it if they didn't know that the core text is incessantly halted by these snippets (it would also help if the authors of said snippets were identified and contextualized). I'd be more willing to give these self-reflective moments a fair shake if they were included in an appendix, but the current format makes the Emerson unreadable. If you can get through the interruptions, that's great, but for me this was an example of how not to "curate" the work of a favorite author. I'm not even anti "remix" or heavily-revised / annotated editions, but the few intrusions sounded like a mix between fortune cookie self-help and the left's answer to the rhetoric of Ayn Rand (I should also note that I despise Rand and have room in my heart for "self-help" / motivational narratives; the latter is what attracted me to Emerson in the first place).
2 Comments 84 of 97 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition
This particular kindle edition of Emerson's great essay is interrupted by the continuous intrusion of quotes from miscellaneous people that are intended to amplify highlights of the text. While in fairness some are apt and concise, most are not and interrupt the flow of the text. If you want your Emerson seasoned with gratuitous quotes from the likes of Saul Alinsky and Mark Zuckerberg this edition may be just your dish; if not seek out another version.
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