In 1845 Thoreau, a Harvard-educated 28-year-old, went to live by himself in the woods in Massachusetts. He stayed for over two years, living self-sufficiently in a small cabin built with his own hands. Walden is his personal account of the experience, in which he documents the beauty and fulfilment to be found in the wilderness, and his philosophical and political motivations for rejecting the materialism which continues to define our modern world.
This is the authoritative text of Walden and the ideal presentation of Thoreau's great document of social criticism and dissent.
This summation of his life’s work, published posthumously in 1862, became a seminal influence in the modern environmental movement and is no less relevant today than 150 years ago. “Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present,” he wrote. He extolled walking as a delightful and necessary idleness, an antidote to the burdens of civilization, a means of immersing ourselves in nature and awakening to the moment.
“Walking” is recognized by most scholars as Thoreau’s “other” masterpiece, Walden in a more concise form. In the introduction of this edition, Adam Tuchinsky accessibly and engagingly unpacks the essay’s nineteenth-century associations, highlights the startling modernity of its sentiments, and reveals why Thoreau remains the towering figure in the history of American nature writing. Exquisite contemporary nature photographs curated by Denise Froehlich grace this handsome book.
B&W nature photos from Kurito Koichiro and other fine art photographers captioned with memorable lines from Thoreau’s writings.
I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.
It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk....