Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Book Notes: Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Rating: (8/10)


Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden as an experiment in Transcendentalism, a 19th century movement in American Philosophy. Transcendentalists argue that the good of a person can be found in his or her individualism alongside Nature. Note that Nature is capitalized, as it is the means by which we come to better understand ourselves. Transcendentalists harbor skepticism towards organized religion, societal norms, and institutions since they burden you with belief systems of their own, rather than encourage critical thinking.

Thoreau wanted to do more than write about these ideals, he wanted to live them. So, on July 4th, 1845, he built a cabin in the woods next to Walden pond so that he might put his beliefs to practice. Thoreau’s ultimate goal was to remove himself from unnecessary expectations and to live deliberately.

Walden will give the reader a view into both the philosophical ideals of Transcendentalism as well as a second-hand experience of living them. Note that in many parts of the book, Thoreau spends him time documenting nature. There are extensive passages on the flight patters of geese or the thickness of the ice covering Walden Pond in January. As a reader, you may be tempted to skip these pages, but I would encourage you to do the opposite – to slow down and experience them. By doing so, you’ll understand why Thoreau spent so much time walking about in the woods – you’ll better understand yourself.

Direct Quotes:


P.73 – True wealth

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

P.291 – Money is not required

“Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.”


P. 7 – Quiet desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

P.153 – Lose yourself

“Not till we are lost – in other words, not till we have lost the world – do we begin to find ourselves, and realise where we are, and the infinite extent of our relations.”

P.290 – Love your life

“The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.”

Quality of Life

P.80 – Live deliberately

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

P.80 – Wake up and do intellectual work

“The millions are awake enough for physical labour; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive.”

P.80 – Elevate your life

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.”

P.80 – Affect the quality of your day

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”

P.286 – Advance confidently towards your dreams

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”


P.82 – Why are we in such a hurry?

“Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.”

P.87 – Time is but a stream I go fishing in

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.”


P.123 – Morning air!

“Morning air! If men will not drink of this at the fountain-head of the day, why, then, we must even bottle up some and sell it in the shops, for the benefit of those who have lost their subscription ticket to morning time in this world.”

P.123 – I am made of the earth

“Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?”


P.38 – Enjoy your work

“I made no haste in my work, but rather made the most of it.”

P.61 – By the labor of my own hands

“For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labour of my hands, and I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.”

P.100 – Follow your genius

“Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour.”

P.224 – The value of the wood pile

“Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I loved to have mine before my window, and the more chips the better to remind me of my pleasing work.”

P.284 – Search your thoughts

“Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

Analysis of Key Passages:


P.90 – How to read well

“To read well – that is, to read true books in a true spirit – is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”

Analysis – The act of writing well is hard work. Here, Thoreau asks us to approach reading with the same care that went into writing the piece. If you consider the amount of time, editing, thought and rewrites that a book requires, then you start to understand Thoreau’s suggestion – a casual glance towards a great book is insufficient. This reminds me of Seneca’s suggestion in Letters From a Stoic to read fewer authors, and to read them well.

P.91 – Books are a treasured wealth

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.”

Analysis – A book may cost me $9.99, but that’s not its true value. Consider Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience which I can buy for very little, but has influenced Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi in their calls for reformation. We don’t fully understand the true value of the books on our shelves, but if we took the time to weigh their worth, we would understand just how rich we are by owning them.

P.92 – Close reading

“Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to.”

Analysis – We learned to read as a form of basic communication while in school. The art of close reading is something different. It requires effort, long hours, and inconvenience. To read a book well is to wrestle with it throughout your life.

P.94 – Read the best books

“The best books are not read even by those who are called good readers. What does our Concord culture amount to? There is in this town, with a very few exceptions, no taste for the best or for very good books even in English literature, whose words all can read and spell. Even the college-bred and so-called liberally educated men here and elsewhere have really little or no acquaintance with the English classics.”

Analysis – Thoreau was dispirited by that fact that few people read, and even fewer read the best books. This problem is even worse today. How many people spend their free time working through the classics in order to challenge their way of thinking?

P.288 – Brain-rot

“While England endeavours to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavour to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally?”

Analysis – I loved this passage because of how visceral it is. Thoreau points out that we’re happy to spend time, money, and other resources on common problems, so why is it that we ignore our education? America’s educational system performs poorly compared to many other nations and it’s because we don’t value intelligence – we value what looks intelligent.


P.6 – Digging financial holes

“Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour. It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins as alienum, another’s brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favour, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offences: lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility, or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbour to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourself sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.”

Analysis – Our constant need to have more, be more impressive, and feel “comfortable” only leads to a life of trying to keep up. In this state of mind, you’ll never have enough or be enough. We work ourselves to death with nothing but a list of debtors to show for it.

P.198 – It’s better to not keep a house

“Why will men worry themselves so? He that does not eat need not work. I wonder how much they have reaped. Who would live there where a body can never think for the barking of Bose? And Oh, the housekeeping! to keep bright the devil’s door-knobs, and scour his tubs this bright day! Better not keep a house. Say, some hollow tree; and then for morning-calls and dinner-parties!”

Analysis – A home anchors us to a lifestyle of maintenance, cleaning, expenditures, and worry. They saddle us with 30-year mortgages (I’ve even heard of some people doing 50-year loans) which force us to take on jobs we don’t like. For Thoreau, a purchase like this meant trading in your freedom. He couldn’t see the need to work so hard for a home, just so that when you finally get some time off from your job, you have to spend it fixing things around the house. What’s the point?


P.171 – The value of idleness

“I have spent many an hour, when I was younger, floating over its surface as the zephyr willed, having paddled my boat to the middle, and lying on my back across the seats, in a summer fore-noon, dreaming awake, until I was aroused by the boat touching the sand, and I arose to see what shore my fates had impelled me to – days when idleness was the most attractive and productive industry.”

Analysis – Thoreau, more than any other philosopher I’ve read, understood the value of doing nothing. While many people in Concord wondered about his activities and belittled him for how he spent his time, it’s curious that Thoreau is one of the few that made the history books. His idle nature gave him space to think which is a crucial difference from laziness. Thoreau would use his walks and his time on the pond as tools for advancing ideas. I loved this passage so much that it inspired one of my daily posts, title The Value of Doing Nothing.

P.182 – Live without need

“I tried to help him with my experience, telling him that he was one of my nearest neighbours, and that I, too, who came a-fishing here, and looked like a loafer, was getting my living like himself; that I lived in a tight, light, and clean house, which hardly cost more than the annual rent of such a ruin as his commonly amounts to; and how, if he chose, he might in a month or two build himself a palace of his own; that I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them; again, as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle for my food; but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he had to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system.”

Analysis – There was a small shelter on the banks of a neighboring pond, and during one of Thoreau’s outings, a storm drove him to the empty building for shelter, only this time, it wasn’t empty. A Irishman named John Field had taken up residence there with his wife and kids. In this passage, Thoreau feels bad because John has taken on the work of hoeing and spading acres of bog land for very little pay. He tries to teach John to let go of some of the unnecessary wants so the he can spend his life living rather then hoeing bogland, but John and his wife feel trapped. It’s a story that many of us can relate to as workers. You might say, “I have to keep my job or I’ll lose everything!” Thoreau would ask you how important all of your “things” really are. Do they warrant you sitting at a desk you hate every day for the rest of your life?

P.187 – Thoreau’s division of the soul

?I found in myself, and still find an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both. I love the wild not less than the good. The wildness and adventure that are in fishing still recommend it to me. I like sometimes to take rank hold on life and spend my day more as the animals do.?

Analysis – This passage feels like the division of the soul Plato outlined in The Republic. There, Plato taught that your soul has three divisions: reason, spirit, and appetite. He used the analogy of a charioteer driving a chariot with two horses. The charioteer represents your reason, it’s the thing trying hard to direct which way the chariot goes. The first horse represents your spirit which is the good and honorable side of you. This horse requires no whipping and does everything you say. The other horse, however, represents your appetites. It’s ugly, broken-limbed, unruly, and fights to follow any orders to shout at it, even as you whip and goad the thing. Thoreau seems to be thinking about the division of his own soul, and how despite his higher self, he is willing to admit that he has savage needs.

P.195 – Appetites of the soul

“We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies. Possibly we may withdraw from it, but never change its nature. I fear that it may enjoy a certain health of its own; that we may be well, yet not pure.”

Analysis – Again, Thoreau turns to the animal instincts in him.

P.196 – Our life is our disgrace (I DISAGREE)

“He is blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established. Perhaps there is none but has cause for shame on account of the inferior and brutish nature to which he is allied. I fear that we are such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divine allied to beasts, the creatures of appetite, and that, to some extent, our very life is our disgrace.”

Analysis – I disagree with Thoreau on this point. This speaks towards religious guilt which is unhealthy. He suggests that we have an animal inside of us, and that if we can suffocate that animal, we’ll become pure and happy – that shame will go away. But it never does. I think it’s better to live your life, to try new things, and to experience the taste and pleasure available so that you can think for yourself and make critical decisions about what is right and what is wrong. When you remove shame from the equation, (as long as you’re not harming others or breaking the law), you find your way to a more meaningful and enriched life. There’s no need to obsess over suffocating the animal within. Instead, consider living a balanced life. When you remove the taboo nature of things, their magical hold over us evaporates.

Quality of Life

P.5 – It’s a misfortune to inherit a farm

“I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labour in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man’s life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portion- less, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labour enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.”

Analysis – Thoreau was concerned about a person’s freedom. He felt that everyone should have the right to choose their course in life, and if your parents give you the family farm, they have chosen your path for you. He worried about all the people in Concord who were stuck with property they had to maintain at the expense of living.

P.7 – You’re the slave-driver of yourself

“I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north and south. It is hard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself.”

Analysis – Thoreau was an abolitionist and did what he could to help slaves by boarding them in his small cabin and writing for their freedom. He despised slavery as well as the government that could allow it to happen. In this passage, he reminds us of how terrible it is, and how we also do the same to ourselves. As humans, we lock ourselves away in jobs to pay for things that mean nothing. We are slaves to our property and debt.

P.62 – Maintain yourself

“In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely; as the pursuits of the simpler nations are still the sports of the more artificial. It is not necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do.”

Analysis – This passage sums up Thoreau’s philosophy nicely. Want little, work to earn your keep, and then spend the rest of your life living. If you keep it simple, you live free.

P.79 – Waking up early

“I got up early and bathed in the pond: that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of king Tching-thang to this effect: ‘Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again. I can understand that. Morning brings back the heroic ages.”

Analysis – Thoreau loved the morning time. To him, it was the start of life. You wake up early, you breath in the morning air, and you make a day of it!

P.81 – Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity

“Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half-a-dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

Analysis – “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” is one of Thoreau’s most durable quotes. It’s easy to remember and it sums up his philosophy. Abhor the complicated life – it only leads to stress and debts.

P.99 – Don’t miss the bloom of life

“I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.”

Analysis – While Thoreau was a Harvard graduate, a philosopher, and an extensive reader, he knew when it was time to put the books down and take in life. He was not the kind of man to sit indoors while Nature was blooming rips with Spring.

P.120 – The benefit of being alone

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.”

Analysis – There are many times in Walden when Thoreau is visited by travelers or friends from Concord. He seemed to always be happy hosting them in his little cabin, but he usually struggled to find someone who would have meaningful conversations. Thoreau yearned for friends that read the classics, but they were hard to come by – and so he preferred being alone.

P.121 – Society is usually shallow

“Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a-day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications.”

Analysis – Most people are focused on themselves and getting through the day. Interactions with each other are usually shallow because we don’t have the time or desire to really get in deep with personal problems, and if we try, we only stumble over ourselves and cause more issues. For Thoreau, society was usually something to be avoided in favor of being alone to think and write.


P.79 – The value of morning time

“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night. Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly-acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air – to a higher life than we fell asleep from.”

Analysis – I included this passage because it makes me feel like I’m on the morning walk with Thoreau. I love it as a reminder to get myself outdoors, especially at first light, to fill my lungs and start my day.

P.136 – Improve your time

“I could not but notice some of the peculiarities of my visitors. Girls and boys and young women generally seemed glad to be in the woods. They looked in the pond and at the flowers, and improved their time.”

Analysis – This is a small passage that caught my eye because of the phrase, “improved their time.” I love this idea. You have time today, much of which will be wasted on superfluous activities, meetings, and other drivel. What could you do to “improve your time?”


P.236 – Walk every day despite the weather

“But no weather interfered fatally with my walks, or rather my going abroad, for I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow-birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”

Analysis – I love walking, but if the weather is bad, I usually stay indoors. I’ve always wondered if Thoreau would still go out, even in horrible weather. The answer is yes. For him, and other philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, walking was a non-negotiable. I need to get better at this.

P.281 – The tonic of Nature

“We need the tonic of wildness – to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe, to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of Nature.”

Analysis – As a Transcendentalist, Thoreau saw nature as Nature – something that improved the soul of man. He uses the word tonic to describe the wilderness as a healing balm man’s ailing soul. He points out that something deep within us yearns to be in nature and explore the unknown.


P.6 – We are becoming machines

“Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labours of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the labouring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labour would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine.”

Analysis – Thoreau felt that most jobs were reducing us to little more that machines that could be tossed aside. According to him, a person should be self-sufficient which means knowing how to do many things for yourself. If you spend your entire day in a factory doing one thing, you not only become useless, you become thoughtless.

P.41 – Problems with the division of labor

“Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? What does architecture amount to in the experience of the mass of men? I never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house. We belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man: it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labour to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.”

Analysis – The division of labor does more harm than good according to Thoreau. He worried that by putting everyone into specific buckets, we would become incapable of being self-sufficient. We would rely on everyone for all of our needs. It’s much better that you know know to fix things, acquire your own food, and build your own house. He also felt that it was far more rewarding to support yourself by your own working hands.

P.47 – Working for nothing

“This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once.”

Analysis – Questionable liberty is the key phrase here. If you spend all day working just so that you can afford your toys, do you really have the time to enjoy them? Your job always beckons, the boss always needs something, and you can’t go on vacation without surreptitiously checking your email every hour. Are you really free?

P.286 – Why Thoreau left the woods

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.”

Analysis – Thoreau gets a fair amount of criticism for not doing everything himself at the cabin. He hired helpers to complete specific jobs. He also went into town at times to eat with friends or receive help. Does this make him a fake? I don’t think so. He lived in the woods for just over two years as an experiment to live deliberately. During that time, he fleshed out his philosophy and was able to write Walden – a book that still inspires many today. I do appreciate that he makes no apology for ending his experiment. He moved on to learn and try new things. There’s nothing wrong with that.

P.286 – Building castles in the air

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Analysis – After reading Walden, the typical reader may question their career and financial choices. Here, Thoreau is reminding us that if we’ve spent our lives building castles in the air, all we need to do is put foundations under them. In other words, don’t have an existential crisis if you hate your job. Take a breath, and the right path with become clear over time.

P.292 – Follow your curiosity

“I love to weigh, to settle, to gravitate toward that which most strongly and rightfully attracts me; – not hang by the beam of the scale and try to weigh less, – not suppose a case, but take the case that is; to travel the only path I can, and that on which no power can resist me. It affords me no satisfaction to commence to spring an arch before I have got a solid foundation.”

Analysis – I think Thoreau put this passage towards the end of Walden for a reason. He wanted to live Transcendental Philosophy, so he followed that curiosity into the woods. He’s asking us to listen to our curiosity and follow it with courage – a very philosophical thing to do.


Walden is a foundational text in American philosophy for a reason – Thoreau walked the walk (literally). Few have the courage to do that which makes this story so fascinating.

The book is full of insight about how we work, and more importantly, why we work. Thoreau lived every day of his life on purpose. He had no interest in earthly possessions or keeping up with the neighbors. He wanted to know what it felt like to live deliberately, and he captured his experience beautifully.

If there’s any criticism for this book, it’s that I occasionally felt the need to skip his observations on nature. He spent many pages describing the thickness of ice and the flight patterns of geese. But that’s the trick to reading Walden. Thoreau wanted you to slow down. I don’t think his notes about an owl made him a better person – it was taking a moment to notice that “improved his time.”