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Walden and Civil Disobedience (Barnes & Noble Classics) Paperback – January 1, 2005

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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Christo on November 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Compared to books such as "Voluntary Simplicity" by Duane Elgin and similar books, one realises that many of these ideas are nothing new when one reads Walden by Thoreau. In fact, what strikes me is that we as a Western society have not overcome many of the issues pointed out by Thoreau 150 years ago. Thoreau left Concord MA "disdainful of America's growing commercialism and industrialism", the slavish materialism of that society then. One wonders what he'll say if he would see the extend today - in the post Coca-Cola society. But then Thoreau was a man who clearly stepped to his own drum. Becuase of slavery, he refused to support the state on moral grounds. How would his views have been tolerated today?
I am not luddite, but my favourite quote from the book is this: "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing to communicate". Does this say something about the Internet, newsmedia and our contemporary information overload, or what?
I liked the introduction and footnotes of Meyer. Just enough to provide context and explanation, but never intrusive. This book is as relevant today as it was during Thoreau's lifetime. Highly recommended.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Sravaniya D. Pecoraro on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Anyone who prefers Emerson above Thoreau surely does so with a view to increasing his own popularity. Thoreau is too outspoken to be liked by everyone--indeed, to identify more with him is a kind of social suicide. But then, Thoreau was ever convinced that he was not here to please anybody, but rather to be authentically what he was.
To find a modern western man who so thoroughly embodies the wisdom of antiquity is as rare as "the tooth of a dragon, or the hair of a phoenix." Henry David Thoreau is such a man. More than a mere combination of past, present and future, he joins together the most mundane, prosaic and ordinary considerations of daily life with the loftiest and noble thoughts of mankind. Furthermore, he perceives the spiritual aspirations and practices of east and west as one coherent whole. He was well acquainted with the classics of both hemispheres--The Tao de Ching, The Bhagavad-gita, Vedic writings, The Iliad and more--and here, distilled for us common folk, is that wisdom as seen from the his viewpoint. Bertrand Russell has given what would seem the crown laurel to Thoreau calling him "a pure romantic"-in contrast to the weak romanticism of Victor Hugo, or the rather soft variety found in Emerson.
During his lifetime, 700 or so of the 1,000 copies he had printed of "Walden" wound up in his parents' attic, ostensibly making him a failure as a writer. Since then he has become a literary god, and without doubt one of the most influential writers of the past 200 years.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Hickey on January 20, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
As a matter of fact, I've ended up using Walden as an example to emulate in my own life. Well, I'm sure Thoreau would be turning over in his grave if he saw the "simple life" I've come up with. Though my cabin is only 300 square feet, I have a Bose sound system connected to my powerful computer. I can watch my cable TV while working on the computer. I enjoy using an electric refrigerator, electric stove, hot water, a color printer, slide scanner, a "free phone" (Ooma), and two cats (Tweets a black Bombay, and Macoco an actual Egyptian Mau), and so on. Thoreau would probably faint on the spot if he entered my door. But when he got the hang of it, he'd order a dozen priceless books from Amazon.com at a very reasonable price!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Justin Ebert on March 9, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Thank's to this book, I officially have no idea as to what i want to do with my life, as my previous aspirations now seem greedy, childish and materialistic. Good job, Henry David. Good job.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tim Hundsdorfer on June 1, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
H.D. Thoreau is the first and most important figure in U.S. Radicalism. This collection provides the essential background for the latent radicalism inherent in American politics, especially as it was vocalized in the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements of the 1960's.
Disobedience is the shorter of the texts, but probably more important. It is an attempt to justify moral anarchism and a call to act on individual judgements about justice.
Walden can be interpreted as an important treatise against consumerism and the dangers of specialization, as well as an appreciation of the natural environment. Those interested in anti-globalization/anti-free trade movements would do well to read Walden to gain an understanding of where anti-consumerism came from and an examination of its ethical implications. However, it also pays to remember that Walden is a failed experiment and, in the end, Thoreau returns to Cambridge.
Thoreau, as political philosophy, has certain problems. Moral anarchy and denial of the social contract is difficult to replace in civil society--Thoreau makes no more than the most vague references as to what could replace it, seeming to rely on the fact that his personal sense of justice is universal.
Nevertheless, Thoreau's conscience has resonance and is as relevant today as ever. His rejection of consumerism as the basis for society and its stratification also teaches important lessons.
Thoreau represents that first step in understanding the other part of American political thought--extremely different from that of the Constitution and Federalist Papers--but with profound connections to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King.
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Walden and Civil Disobedience (Barnes & Noble Classics)
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