Henry David Thoreau turns 200!

Henry David Thoreau, one of our most important and treasured local authors, would have been 200 years old on Wednesday July 12. Numerous events and celebrations are taking place in and around Concord to commemorate his life and legacy. His works are always relevant to our understanding of the environment and nature and our role as citizens of the world, but perhaps his guidance has never been as crucial as in recent times (Read Douglas Brinkley’s essay in Sunday’s NYT Book Review for more on that.) I’ve highlighted some of the important works below. Pick one up and head down to Walden for a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.

Walden, or life in the woods: Thoreau’s most well-known work accompanied by beautiful full color photographs and annotations, published to commemorate the work’s 150th anniversary (2004).

Cape Cod: A perfect book for a New England summer, Cape Cod chronicles Thoreau’s travels along the “bare and bended arm,” complete with full color photographs of many of the features Thoreau observed.


A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Thoreau’s first work describes a trip Thoreau took with his brother in 1839 from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire by boat. In addition to poignant descriptions of the nature observed along the way, Thoreau weaves in discussions of culture, religion, personal relationships and his philosophy.

On Civil Disobedience: Thoreau’s famous treatise on the rights of citizens to resist peacefully in the face of injustice by government institutions. The text of this essay if free to read online courtesy of the American Studies department at the University of Virginia.

Other works of fiction and nonfiction displaying Thoreau’s influence:

A Fugitive in Walden Woods, by Norman Lock (Adult Fiction): Samuel Long escapes slavery in Virginia by traveling the Underground Railroad to Walden Woods, where he encounters Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Lloyd Garrison, and other transcendentalists and abolitionists. While Long will experience his coming-of-age at Walden Pond, his hosts will receive a lesson on human dignity, culminating in a climactic act of civil disobedience
Walden Warming: Climate Change comes to Thoreau’s woods, by Richard B Primark (Adult nonfiction): Scientist Richard Primark uses Thoreau’s texts to show the dramatic changes taking place in the environment since Thoreau’s investigations.

Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead (Young Adult Fiction): “Seventeen-year-old ‘Hank,’ who can’t remember his identity, finds himself in Penn Station with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden as his only possession and must figure out where he’s from and why he ran away.”


Thoreau at Walden, by John Porcellino (Children’s graphic novel): Perfect for budding Thoreauvians! This graphic novel, narrated in Thoreau’s own words, weaves together elements from “Walden,” “Civil disobedience,” “Walking,” and Thoreau’s journals to tell the story of his two years in the woods and of the night he spent in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax.