Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, Henry David Thoreau

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This book is so short. 93 pages long. And yet I started it over a week ago and just finished today. The week won. Thoreau says our lives are frittered away by detail, and I tend to agree.

Let’s get this out in the open: Thoreau was kind of a dick. He spends a pretty long time telling us that he’s never really learned anything useful from the advice of our elders, but he relied heavily on the advice (and money!) of his BFF/mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. And then he spends the rest of the book giving us advice. Plus he’s also super privileged and loves to romanticise poverty (AGAIN while being financed by Emerson). And he’s kind of racist. So yeah.

BUT he lived a pretty cool life, one I often envy when the week gets the better of me and my time flies out the window. He lived simply and quietly and spent a lot of time chopping wood and walking and watching animals (included in this volume is a delightful essay called “Winter Animals,” or at least it’s delightful until he starts talking about fox hunting). He took the time to observe and reflect, and by all accounts had a rich inner life for it. That’s something I aspire to.

So, the verdict. Thoreau is kind of like that annoying guy at a cocktail party who really wants to tell you about his new, better way of living. Thoreau would totally have worn barefoot shoes. That said, I envy the chopping, walking, watching, and thinking.

Books read: 5


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