“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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” – Thoreau
‘Walden’ is basically Thoreau’s journal, but instead of recording his thoughts and experiences for himself, he wrote to edify his audience— and it worked. The highest praise I can give an author is that his or her book changed something. ‘Walden’ didn’t change the state of the world, but it did change the way I thought about a few things. As I read the book, I became more and more envious of Thoreau’s minimalism. Tired of “needing” things that aren’t necessary at all, I gave up coffee and cigarettes.
Not every chapter is riveting, but it’s certainly not a dull book. It was written purposefully, and there is a richness to the details of Thoreau’s storytelling that saves it from being pedantic, whether he’s writing about ants fighting or the depth of the ice. (Though I admit the chapters about winter are about as wearing as the season itself.)
I thought I’d be bored by ‘Walden.’ I doubted Thoreau could have much to say about living alone in a one-room cabin. Instead, I was pretty deeply inspired by the lifestyle he presented in this memoir. Henry David Thoreau really lived, really noticed things instead of taking them for granted. He wasn’t compelled to live at a breakneck pace, didn’t try to impress anyone, and wasn’t inclined to materialism. That’s a lifestyle that I want to emulate.