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Excursions by Henry David Thoreau

Book Review

Edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer. Anthem Travel Classics, 2007. Paperbound.

Many readers of WaldenWalden are not aware of Thoreau's thoughtful essays on nature, most of which grew out of his daily walks around Concord. They are rarely published, and were never gathered by Thoreau before his early death. This collection lets more readers judge them for their own remarkable qualities, related to Walden yet unique and the inspiration for much of the nature writing done today.

As Jeffrey Cramer explains in his forward, these essays allow one to walk beside Thoreau, to see his developing vision of the truths to be found in natural facts. It is a book to be read outdoors and deliberately, and it will enrich the reader's "sauntering." The essay on "Walking" is the centerpiece of the volume, but the scientific and contemplative range of his nature writing is reflected in essays like the early "Natural History of Massachusetts" and the late "Autumnal Tints" and "Night and Moonlight."

Also included in the volume is Emerson's eulogy essay on Thoreau, presented as a biographical context. Granted, Emerson did know Thoreau well, but his judgment of him was often clouded by his own preconceptions and goals. So the reader is advised to pay more attention to the man revealed by his own writing. The Thoreau projected by these essays is a far more interesting companion than Emerson realized.

Ann M. Woodlief, reviewer