I have been wanting to read this book for years, and I have owned my copy for at least 10 years. On one hand, I was excited to finally get around the reading it. On the other hand, I really, really didn’t like it. And I am aware that my opinion will be very unpopular…
Page Count: 360
Synopsis: This tells the real story of Thoreau’s life living out in the wilderness of Massachusetts for two years. Wishing to build his own house and leave society behind, Thoreau set out to see if it was possible to live alone for so long. This is a natural philosophy classic and one who has inspired readers for nearly two centuries.
I know this is considered one of the greatest natural philosophy novels of all time, but boy could I not get over how full of himself Thoreau was. On the surface, this book tells of a man who decides to leave society for two years and live in the wilderness, even building his own home. There are beautiful descriptions of nature, especially as he sits by Walden Pond and watches animals. There are also some good surface level philosophies contained in this book, such as the importance of not being too distant from nature and how living in a completely commercial society may not be a great thing.
Saying that, the way Thoreau observes everything is in the most condescending way. He is in a very privileged position, where he can just leave home and live in the wilderness for two years. He has friends who give him tools to build the house and he gets advice from people. And then he says everyone should do something similar that those who are poorer with jobs would not be able to do. Worse yet, he only lived there two years. If it was so great as he claimed, why did he move back to civilization and live there the rest of his life? You can’t claim everyone should live one way and then live another.
It doesn’t help that he’s always cutting down people he meets. He calls one man foolish for spending money on coffee, saying he would be better off saving money and living a simpler life. By what right does Thoreau have to judge this man’s choices? Similarly, he refers to another man as being as simple as the animals, which sounds awfully like an insult to me.
I have tried to read this book several times over the last few years, but I could not get into it. And now I think I know why. Thoreau spouts off all these beautiful, idyllic ideas about nature without actually reckoning for the harsh reality of life.
In the end, I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads. I enjoyed the lush descriptions of nature and some basic philosophy, but I really did not enjoy Thoreau’s perspective on most everything.
I’ve never heard anyone not enjoy this book, so I’m curious if you guys have read it and what your thoughts are. Did you enjoy it? Does it look like a book you would enjoy? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,