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Walden  (1854) 
by Henry David Thoreau
also known as Life in the Woods, is one of the best-known non-fiction books written by an American. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's life for two years and two months in second-growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond, not far from his friends and family in Concord, Massachusetts. Walden was written so that the stay appears to be a year, with expressed seasonal divisions. Thoreau called it an experiment in simple living.

Walden is neither a novel nor a true autobiography, but a social critique of the Western World, with each chapter heralding some aspect of humanity that needed to be either renounced or praised.

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up


Introductory Note[edit]

Thoreau lived in his Walden camp but two years, 1845-1847, and, as his narrative clearly shows, by no means exiled himself from home and companions. His hermitage was within easy walking distance of Concord; and, though his seclusion meant privacy at times, he was by no means debarred from society. The life in the woods was a characteristic expression of his stout independence of condition since the act was in a way unique, it transferred something of its unique property to the book which recorded it, and the book is more closely identified with Thoreau's fame, has done more to give him distinction, than any other of his writings.

The book Walden was what William Ellery Channing calls "the log-book of his woodland cruise at Walden." Thoreau himself tells us that the bulk of the book was written in his hermitage. One bit of verse,

"Light-winged smoke, Icarian bird,"

he had printed in The Dial; but nothing else appears to have been garnered from previous publications, and the book has thus a unity of design which helps to preserve its individual force. Walden was not published, however, until 1854, when it was brought out by Ticknor & Fields.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.