Customer Reviews: Self-Reliance
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on May 25, 2011
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." It's a book about not sitting around waiting for someone else, someone anointed, to say the things you want to say: "Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly sense what we have thought and felt all time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another." Devastating, and often so sadly true.

"Self-Reliance" preaches that one force himself to reject the conformity around him if he truly wants to live: "...for he who does not postpone his life, but lives already." It wonders why we're scared to bring our deepest, most private thoughts out into the real world: "These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world."

You're betraying yourself when you're not letting your voice be heard and I'm reminded of both poet Alexander Pope and pimp Iceberg Slim.

Alexander Pope who said: "Whatever is, is right."

Iceberg Slim who said: "Chumps prefer a beautiful lie to an ugly truth."

Don't be a chump. Quit lying to yourself. We all lie to ourselves and to the public far too often. We need to stop doing that. We need to believe in ourselves, worship at our own altar, be our own philosopher. No one can do a better job of teaching you to be you...than YOU.

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

This book could have been written yesterday.
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on May 25, 2011
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. The other half are the highlights and quotes from others I mentioned. But it will take you a lot longer to read this book than others because you will need to read slowly and repeat many sentences as you go in order to discover the meaning. Well, that was my experience anyway. And even though it may have been difficult, it was one of those good kinds of pain where you get more out of it because of the effort involved. You can do it. It's good for you.

Good luck! And enjoy learning "Self-Reliance".
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on May 29, 2011
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).
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on May 20, 2013
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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on October 18, 2013
please split reviews into content and format. horrible. fluff at front. plus can get self reliance in 1141 page compilation with good toc. for same price. wonder how amazon selects specials....

Wow. Even worse when it's not a daily special. $5.99 for 80-something padded pages? No.
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on May 25, 2011
Self-Reliance is the kind of book I avoid when I'm passive and timid. It's also transforms that passivity and timidity into something useful... something true. Even if you fundamentally disagree with Emerson, I dare you to not be galvanized to action in response. This one's worth your time.
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on January 21, 2016
I read this book again after a great many years, fan that I am of Emerson's appreciation of nature. Reading his thoughts about self reliance in my 70th year, compared to reading them when I was 35, was a very different and enlightening experience. Some books, and this is one of them, are meant to be savored as only an older, more thoughtful, less rushed person can do. Self reliance has been a life long pursuit of mine, as it was Emerson's, and it is intriguing to compare notes with him, much like I would do if he were sitting here with me in front of a warm fire on a cold Winter evening. Lovely...
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on May 25, 2011
This is such a beautiful release for a long-loved book!

My favorite parts of this book -- the cover, which is stunning and makes the book itself a covetable collectable, and the way the text is laid out inside. Emerson's essay is interspersed with experiential quotes from many familiar names (Steven Pressfield, Henry Ford, Chris Guillebeau, Pace and Kyeli Smith, Pam Slim, Mark Frauenfelder, dozens more names you'll know by heart). What a remarkable way to present this piece!

This is a book you'll want to keep by your bed -- or gift to someone important to you.
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on October 8, 2014
I read this as a hard cover many, many years ago. I still have that small hard cover book. But I picked this edition up for my Kindle. I was impressed as a young person in high school and as a retired person rereading Self Reliance never gets old. Yes Emerson was not perfect. But then who is? I think anyone and everyone who reads Self Reliance can get something from it.
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on November 13, 2015
A must read that should be on everyone's list, along with Thomas Paine's Common Sense. These are the men that shaped our Country and their words are just a pertinent today as the day they written. There is no leftest or right-wing in these books it is about what we all should be doing! Read on and learn from the past as they say, you are doomed to repeat History is you do not learn from it, and look at where we are at in today's society. I want it all, but I don't want to work for it....cries the students on campuses, I want a safe place, cry more students...Glad they did not come over to found this Fabulous Country they would have died off in the first Winter wondering what happened....Or where's my Mommy & Daddy's money???
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