Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls

recommendedbooks_henrythoreau_pic1.pngIn her excellent biography Henry David Thoreau: A Life published by the University of Chicago Press in 2017, Laura Dassow Walls, professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, tells us that there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle gathered around his Concord neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he lived as a philosopher, naturalist, manual laborer, surveyor, inventor, and radical political activist. Drawing on his famous book Walden and other copious writings, both published and unpublished, as well as his frequent lyceum speeches and regular journal entries, Walls presents a vigorously alive Thoreau, a man ever observant of nature in all its manifestations, an inveterate long-distance walker, a devoted son, brother, and friend, as well as a trenchant critic of his neighbors’ self-defeating attitudes about material wealth and hidebound social tradition. More than just a chronicle of an individual life lived with passionate curiosity, this book is a sympathetic exploration of the depths and heights of the human soul.