This started out really well with some very erudite remarks about the way the material world, if you, Atlas-like, manage to find a position to observe it correctly from, turns out to be absolutely bonkers.
But then the guy went on and on about ice, and leaves, and birds, and trees. Nothing wrong with them in themselves but I think his time in isolation in the forest did funny things to his brain. The guy starts comparing earlobes and the ends of leaves and coming up with a divine design motif for all creation. Hmmm….
Thoreau decided one day to pack up and abandon so called civilisation and live in a house he rebuilt in the woods. Great idea and one that even the most enlightened humanist among us must secretly have compensated at some point. While he was there, he wrote this book.
It starts out with a thesis on what’s wrong with the world (for world read the USA as with most USAnian literature) which we will all relate too. It’s interesting too because of his place in history, writing in the 1850s. He talks about how it’s better to walk somewhere than get the train because, by the time you’ve earned your fare and caught your train, he can walk there. May have been true then but it’s plain nuts now. I can earn my flight to the UK in a few weeks of work if I do overtime and get a cheap flight. You’d be hard pushed to make a dent in China in that time, let alone get back to Europe from Korea.
So, some of it is dated but it’s all the more interesting for that.
Personally, I’d read the first chapter Economy and all its parts and skip the rest unless it’s the last book in the shop on an Indian train station platform.
When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.
do not let your left hand know what your right hand does, for it is not worth knowing
a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.
It would be easier for [some people] to hobble to town with a broken leg than with a broken pantaloon.
the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it
Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.
A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb