Millions of Americans own a copy of Walden, either in paperback or as a free (or nearly free) digital book on some hand-held reader. If you don’t have a copy, it’s free online from Project Gutenberg. It’s safe to say that most Americans could identify book and author if they encounter these opening lines:
When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.
What most readers don’t recall is that Walden is a tough book to pick up for a short interval of inspirational reading with the reliable promise of a passage that will lift our spirits and spark our own reflections. There are long pages of digressions and rather wooden prose between the poetic passages we love to quote. What’s more? Many of Thoreau’s best passages aren’t in the book called Walden.
And that’s the best thing I can point out about The Green Thoreau: America’s First Environmentalist on Technology, Possessions, Livelihood, and More. That’s why you should, indeed, spend the money for an ink-and-paper copy of this handsome, handy book with its comfortable matte-finish cover and its easy-to-tote-anywhere, slim design. In the real world of autumn hiking, you’re likely to encounter moisture along the way and, although this book isn’t waterproof, it’s far more sturdy when wet than any electronic device.
This book is 100 pages of Thoreau’s greatest hits—sometimes just a line and sometimes a good fat paragraph—about the topics: Nature, Technology, Livelihood, Living, Possessions, Time, Diet and Food and finally Aspiration. The book is guaranteed for quick inspiration drawing across the chasm of 150-or-so years from Thoreau’s mind and pen—to our lives today.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.