how many have you read?

rollover books for details

  • Dante | Inferno
  • Thoreau | Walden
  • Sophocles | Oedipus Rex
  • Kafka | Metamorphosis
  • Melville | Moby-Dick
  • Shakespeare | Hamlet
  • Homer | The Odyssey
  • Austen | Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte | Jane Eyre
  • Steinbeck | Of Mice and Men


In this clip, Mark Gottlieb—a Production Assistant at Berkley Books—talks about Thoreau's classic. Click here to watch the complete twenty-minute video program, The Ten Essential Penguin Classics, highlighting each of the essential books.


ISBN 9780140390445 | $12.00 |

'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.'
Disdainful of America's growing commercialism and industrialism, Henry David Thoreau left Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845 to live in solitude in the woods by Walden Pond. Walden, the classic account of his stay there, conveys at once a naturalist's wonder at the commonplace and a Transcendentalist's yearning for spiritual truth and self-reliance. But even as Thoreau disentangled himself from worldly matters, his solitary musings were often disturbed by his social conscience. 'Civil Disobedience', expressing his antislavery and antiwar sentiments, has influenced nonviolent resistance movements worldwide. Michael Meyer's introduction points out that Walden is not so much an autobiographical study as a 'shining example' of Transcendental individualism. So, too, 'Civil Disobedience' is less a call to political activism than a statement of Thoreau's insistence on living a life of principle.

Mark also sent us these thoughts about why Thoreau's book is essential...

Why It's a Classic:
Thoreau's Walden is a classic because it comes out of one of the great bastions of American literature known as transcendentalism, and it celebrates freedom and individualism in the face of an oppressive government. Thoreau did not agree with the condoning of slavery and resolved to take to the woods to avoid paying taxes to an uncivil government. From Walden we learn how to march to the beat of a different drum.

What It Influenced:
Thoreau has influenced countless social rights activists and thinkers, namely Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi.

Another Great Book By This Author:
Civil Disobedience

Contemporary Example of the Theme/Story:
In an episode of The Simpsons the rebellious Bart Simpson decides to run away from his family by hiding away at a pond called Walden Pond. In yet another episode, Homer Simpson reveals that one of his dreams is to "live in the woods, keeping a journal of thoughts." However, once there all he does is miss his television.

Related Forgotten Classic:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Visit the Penguin Classics Website | Sign up to the Penguin Classics Newsletter