You Win This Round, Walden

Walden by Henry David Thoreau
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m probably a horrible person who will never be able to fully embrace simple living because I can’t get through Walden. I know Thoreau has some gems in there, but they’re just hidden in the middle of so many words. I found it mind-numbingly boring.

I first started reading it to get a sense for New England when I discovered that we were moving here. I did the same thing with Wallace Stegner’s The Gathering of Zion when we moved to Utah and Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona when we lived in California, both times with great results. With Walden, however, I didn’t have such a great experience.

After a few months trying to trudge through, I decided to keep reading it because everyone says that you have to read Walden if you’re going to embrace the principles of voluntary simplicity. I disagree. I think something like Duane Elgin’s Voluntary Simplicity might be a better choice for someone hoping to get inspired towards simple living in the 21st century.

In the end, I decided to simplify my life by removing this book from my currently-reading list so it could no longer taunt me there. If you’re reading this review and have recommendations for books that will give an overall sense of the culture and history of New England (the stuff in the nearly 400 years since the Mayflower), please leave a comment.

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7 Replies to “You Win This Round, Walden

  1. I am glad I am not the only one who runs into problems with classics! It makes me feel better to know someone else feels this way, especially someone so much more thoughtful and considered than I am. πŸ™‚ As to books about New England…I don’t know any that convey a sense of culture and/or history, but both _Midwives_ and _Before You Know Kindness_ by Chris Bohjalian are set in NE and both are *excellent*. YAY reading! πŸ˜€


  2. I think, like a lot of things (and there are many who disagree with me, but oh, well), simplicity is one of those subjects where you can get a handle on things by reading modern (or modern) sources. You can go back and read the “classics,” to see where the movement might have come from, to trace it back to its roots. But really, unless you are planning on doing an academic paper on it or something, I think it is unnecessary. There are people who say “You should start with the primary sources, the classics, etc., and move to modern stuff,” but this is your learning, and your life. Do what works for you. Maybe some day you’ll want to do a more “academic” study of simplicity, but if you want to LIVE simply, then the best thing to do, in my mind, is to just do it. Study what you need to to get the job done, to have the necessary paradigm shifts. Then later, maybe you’ll feel this strange urge to read Walden… (though, to tell you the truth, I doubt it!!).

    Now, as far as New England literature… I would go for the transcendentalists (Thoreau also belongs to this camp, but we kicked HIM to the curb ;)), like Emerson, Alcott, Hawthorne, Whitman… it’s a long (and often boring) list. That’s what pops to mind first. I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.


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