Top positive review
A classic ode to simplicity
Reviewed in India on 20 August 2020
For 2 years (1845-1847), Thoreau conducted a self-experiment. He built himself a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond, a simple shanty with the bare necessities. He arranged for his own food by growing crops. He cut down on 'civilization' and let it come to him instead. He sat and pondered about life, he wandered and observed nature. He read books, thought deeper, and aimed to discover the 'truth'. 7 years later, in 1854, he published his contemplation via Walden.
Walden is a reflection on multiple themes - the need to simplify one's life, to reconnect with nature, to reconsider the ever-increasing materialism and shallow nature of our interactions, and to find a purpose and identity in a world that forces you to conform. It suggests that if you must belong somewhere, it should be with nature first and civilization second. The book is serialized into 18 chapters that cover a year of his life.
It's not an easy read. Since it's a collection of diary entries, some topics struck my fancy and some not as much. There were some descriptions of the pond, the animals, and the trees that made me want to go to Walden pond myself but there were also long-winded write-ups that I ended up glazing over. What impressed me though was how well read Thoreau was, with his text quoting, in ample amounts, Hindu scriptures, Chinese philosophy, Greek mythology, Christianity and more; references I wouldn't have caught on to had it not been for the annotations in the edition I was reading. I agreed with Thoreau's emphasis on individuality and pacing one's life to one's rhythm. There were some nice philosophical nuggets to think over and social critiques to consider. I enjoyed this book.