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Walden and Civil Disobedience (Barnes & Noble Classics)

4.1 out of 5 stars 557 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1593082086
ISBN-10: 1593082088
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Editorial Reviews

Review

In 1845 Henry David Thoreau left the town and headed to the countryside. There, beside the lake of Walden, he built himself a simple log cabin and returned to nature. In this perceptive and sometimes moving narration, we hear Thoreau's deeply personal reaction against the commercialism and materialism of mid-nineteenth century America. A warning from the past which is more than valid today. "If a man does not keep pace with his Companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Let's hope so, and that there are more Thoreau's out there today. If not, then this audiobook may go some way to inspiring them. --Bukowski on Bukowski zine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) (properly pronounced Thaw-roe) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism. His literary style interweaves close natural observation, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore; while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and "Yankee" love of practical detail. He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life's true essential needs. He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending abolitionist John Brown. Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoreau is sometimes cited as an individualist anarchist. Though Civil Disobedience seems to call for improving rather than abolishing government – "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government" – the direction of this improvement points toward anarchism: "'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." Richard Drinnon partly blames Thoreau for the ambiguity, noting that Thoreau's "sly satire, his liking for wide margins for his writing, and his fondness for paradox provided ammunition for widely divergent interpretations of 'Civil Disobedience.'" He further points out that although Thoreau writes that he only wants "at once" a better government, that does not rule out the possibility that a little later he might favor no government. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593082088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593082086
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (557 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Walden, what is it? Is it a book on nature, a book on ecology, a book on human nature, a prescient description of the struggle between modern civilization and the land that nurtured it, a critique of mankind, a string of quotable gems, an account of a mind, or, like Star Wars, a way of slipping a deep and human spirituality into someone else's mind without their recognizing it? It depends on who is doing the reading and when. Read it for any of these purposes, and it will not disappoint. If you've never read it, read it. If you read it for class years ago and hated it, read it again. This may be the most subtle, multi-layered and carefully worked piece of literature you'll ever find. By keeping the down-to-earth tone (no doubt in reaction to the high-flying prose of his friend, R.W. Emerson) Thoreau pulls a Columbo, and fools us into thinking he's writing simply about observing nature, living in a cabin, or sounding a pond. Somehow by the end of Walden, however, you may find it is your self he has sounded. People have accused Thoreau of despising mankind, but read deeper and you will discover he loved people well enough to chide us, show us our faults (admitting he's as bad as the worst of us), and give to all of us this wonderful gift, a book you could base your life on. There is more day to dawn, he reminds us at the end: the sun is but a morning star.
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Format: Paperback
As a professor of philosophy, I at one time regularly took classes of first year college students to Concord for a week-long intensive seminar on Emerson and Thoreau. I eventually abandoned the seminar, because I discovered that each class was progressively more hostile to what these two wonderful persons stood for. The ..... reviews written by young people of this edition of _Walden_ are, then, disconcertingly familiar to me. I obviously disagree with their evaluations of the book and of Thoreau's character. But what's interesting is why they have such a negative reaction to a book written, as Thoreau says, for young people who haven't yet been corrupted by society. What is it about the culture in which we live that encourages such hostility to his eloquent plea for simplicity? It's too facile to suggest that the backlash is motivated only by resentful pique at what's seen as Thoreau's condemnation of contemporary lifestyles, although I suspect this is part of the explanation. I'd be interested in reading the thoughts here of other readers who are likewise puzzled and disturbed by "Generation Y's" negative response to Thoreau.
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Format: Hardcover
WALDEN has rarely been out-of-print since its first publication in 1854. Copies come in all sizes, shapes and price ranges. Today's Thoreauvians have three ANNOTATED versions of WALDEN to choose from. Each one provides same-page explanatory notes that help the reader interpret the sometimes esoteric references in Henry David Thoreau's original text. The three books are "The Annotated Walden" (edited by Philip Van Doren Stern, 1970), "Walden: An Annotated Edition" (edited by Walter Harding, 1995), and "Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition" (edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer, 2004). Each one has at least one map of Concord and/or Walden Pond. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Each one has appeal for a devoted audience.

"Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition" by Jeffrey S. Cramer was released in August 2004, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the original publication date. Cramer is the curator of collections for The Thoreau Institute and therefore has access to some of the best primary and secondary source material available -- including Walter Harding's notes. In addition to the text of WALDEN, this volume includes a few "extras": an introduction to Thoreau's life but only as it applies to his cabin stay and WALDEN writing; a bibliography; notes on the text; and a detailed index. The explanatory notes -- the essence of an annotated edition -- are quite extensive. They are set off from the WALDEN text with page-within-a-page graphic detailing and are easy to read. Cramer did not merely merge Van Doren Stern's and Harding's previous notes with those from David Gorman Rohman's dissertation. His analysis at times echoes that of Harding, but when it does, Cramer often goes one step further with a definition or citation.
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Format: Paperback
I had not read this growing up but wish I had. This is such a wonderful book. There are not many pictures in here - just a hand drawn map in one part of the book. Its excerpts from Thoreau's journal over the two year period when he lived on Walden's pond. He did not live like a recluse (he went in to Concord almost every day) so its not a book about living alone per se. Its more about reflecting on life, considering why one "is" and recognizing the beauty and mystery of nature around us every day, everywhere. Thoreau talks of regular daily things too like what it costs him to farm, or having cider, or building a chimney. The writing style is conversational, open, honest. He doesn't try to get tricky with words, he just tells it like he sees it. It's so beautiful. For anyone (like me) who indeed sees nature as their "religion" or sees the Great Spirit in every leaf, tree and bug, this book will be adored. So many wonderful messages, thoughts, woven throughout this book. Its an incredible work.
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