Photo by Glen Noble
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is turning into the book of the year, in that it may take me all year to read it.
The premise sounds clear enough: a man seeks a simpler life and greater connection with nature by means of building himself a cabin in the woods, where he stays for a year, endeavoring to become as self-sufficient as possible. This social experiment-come-spiritual experience spans just over three-hundred pages, not an incredibly large tome, but the rambling tone and philosophically dense nature of this book make it a slow read. Like coffee, I’ve found it best digested in small sips, each flavorful phrase melting away before the next draught.
It should also be noted that the piece, published in 1854, shows its age by way of objectionable references and assumptions concerning racism and gender roles. Enough so that these references have at times derailed my train of thought, necessitating the construction of a brand new engine, complete with revised route. It is only by digging past and discarding this linguistic detritus, thereby extracting the meat of the message, that I am able to continue.
That being said, Walden can still satisfy the deep thinker, the satirical sense of humor, and that longing for old-timey, flowing language. This would be a good companion for autumn nights curled up near a fireplace, leaf-strewn winds pushing our thoughts inward. (I’m sure I’ll still be chugging through it by then.). Old but surprisingly relevent at its core, this book is worth the brainpower.