Book Review :: Thumbing Through Thoreau

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” are some of the most recognizable opening words in the cannon. Save Shakespeare, there is no other text from my college days that is more underlined, highlighted or starred as my copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. He was just a wise thinker with an uncanny ability to craft a phrase. 

How fitting that Kenny Luck has compiled Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations by Henry David Thoreau. The book features a quote and a pen and ink drawing (illustrations by Jay Luke and Ren Adams) per page. Each quote is annotated by work and page number for easy reference to the original. And, an index is included for quick connection to a particular theme.

Divided into three sections, the collection draws from Thoreau’s famous works – Walden and Civil Disobedience – as well as lesser known journals and letters. I loved the exposure to these minor works that are as full of wisdom as any of his other writings. The final section – “Love” – is indicative of collection which provides humor (“One may be drunk with love without being any nearer to finding his mate”), realism (“All romance is grounded on friendship”) and truth (“Let love be purified, and the rest will follow”). 

The illustrations are harder for me to critique, as the copy I was provided was a photocopy and not full size, but they are a variety of nature scenes portrayed in black and white.

One criticism I have is in the way the quotes are presented. The words vary in size and shade so as to provide emphasis on topics and themes. First, this visual representation of the quote detracts from the illustration that accompanies it. Second, I think Thoreau might take exception to the editor’s choice of prominence.  Using a single font would have been less busy and more reflective of Thoreau’s ideals.

Other than that and not having seen a physical hardbound copy, I believe this is the type of book that would be an excellent gift to anyone who loves literature or nature. I can see leaving this on my coffee table or a side table for company to thumb through. And, it would be the perfect “thank you” leave-behind for someone who has allowed use of their cabin.

A miniature photocopied version of the book was provided by Nicole Langan of Tribute Books for review.

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8 Replies to “Book Review :: Thumbing Through Thoreau

  1. Dear Elisabeth,

    I love that your copy of Walden from your college days is heavily underlined and highlighted.

    And what a great image – suggesting Thumbing Through Thoreau as the perfect "thank you" leave-behind for someone who has allowed the use of their cabin.

    Thank you for sharing the book with your blog readers.

    Best wishes,
    Nicole
    Tribute Books

  2. I'm with you on the highlighting & underlining habit. I did that constantly as an English major. I've never read Walden but I think this would be a great supplement.

  3. Teacher/ Learner & Diane – Yes, this is a great "taste" of Thoreau for someone looking for a cliff notes type experience.

    Bill – Thanks for stopping by.

    Suzanne – Yes, a great gift. I look forward to finding it in a book store and hope that the real thing is as great as I hope it to be.

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