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Monday, August 02, 2010

Thumbing Through Thoreau: An Avowed Hater (Me) Gives Poetry A Chance

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

You may have noticed that, for a literary blog, there's an alarming lack of poetry reviewed here at Bloggin' 'bout Books. Yeah, about that ... I'm just not big on the stuff. Most of it sails right over my head, too cryptic to make any sense without a thorough dissection. In general, I read for entertainment; the more a work makes me think, the less I tend to enjoy it. Poetry simply demands too much brain power. I prefer to avoid it at all costs. Which explains why I, the proud possessor of a degree in English, am appallingly ignorant of all things poetry. In an effort to combat that, I agreed to review a new book of quotations by Henry David Thoreau (a poet, if you recall). To my great surprise, I even liked it.

Thumbing Through Thoreau is a collection of quotations taken from Thoreau's many journals, writings, and personal letters. The thoughts, collected and compiled by journalist Kenny Luck, address a variety of subjects, including nature, love, politics, individuality, and God. Enhanced with serene drawings by artists Jay Luke and Ren Adams, the selections urge us all to live simpler, but fuller lives. As Thoreau discusses the dangers of wealth, the importance of nature, and the cowardice of following the crowd, it's apparent that Richard Smith of the The Thoreau Society is absolutely correct:

"Thoreau's quotations, all of which were written 150 years ago, are indeed very timely for today's modern, over-worked, over-stressed and over-materialistic world. Thoreau's ideas about the search for a simpler way of life ring truer now than they did in the nineteenth century" (from Thumbing Through Thoreau's title page).

Many writers, leaders, philosophers and readers have been heavily influenced by the poet's wisdom. Until today, I was not one of them. However, as I sat in my recliner, reading through an unbound galley of Thumbing Through Thoreau, I found myself exclaiming over and over to my husband, "Wow, listen to this!" Never would I have imagined that the man (a deep-thinking poet, of all things) could be so quotable. Sure, I've heard "Simplify, simplify" and other popular Thoreau-isms, but I never really appreciated them until I discovered this book. Considering the clean, eye-pleasing format of this volume, I can even see myself reading through it again. And again. I can see that you're shocked. Well, so am I. And pleasantly so.

Whether you're a Thoreau expert or a newbie like me, Thumbing Through Thoreau is an excellent way to explore the poet's work. Familiar quotations intermingle with the not-so-well-known in this lovely, gift-worthy volume. If an avowed poetry hater like me can enjoy it, anyone can. After all, as the Man Himself said, "It is never too late to give up prejudices."

(Readalikes: I don't read poetry, remember?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: G - Although there's nothing offensive in the book, it would be most appropriate for readers above the age of 12 or so.

To the FTC, with love: I received an unbound galley of Thumbing Through Thoreau from the generous folks at Tribute Books. Thank you!


  1. Susan - thank you for kicking off the book's August blog tour with a bang.

    You hit on the essential element of what everyone involved in creating the book wanted to get across - the inherent wisdom of Thoreau's words has the power to transcend time.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the book, and for heartily recommending it to your blog readers.

    Best wishes,
    Tribute Books

  2. I'm not familar with too much Thoreau. We did read an excerpt from Walden and his esasay on civil disobedience last year in high school. I'm not much of a poetry reader either, I can't even think of many poets that I've read. Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and I'm sure there are a few others that I can't remember.

    I'm so glad I discovered your blog. I love the feature Baby Steps to Understanding Black Culture. Sahm is absolutely beautiful!

    Let me know if you ever need any recommendations :)

    Also, I agree with you about Sellout. It's an important story, but it could have been executed better.

  3. Nicole - You're welcome. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

    Ari - Thanks! I love your blog, too. I am always looking for recommendations, so please, recommend away.

    BTW: SAHM actually stands for stay at home mom. My daughter's name is Julianna and she is beautiful! Energetic, crazy, and undeniably the cutest baby ever :)

  4. poetry is not my thing either... give me Silverstein or Prelutsky, but Plath or Thoreau take too much effort :)

  5. Juliana is so utterly adorable :) I'll have to think of some good recommendations for younger readers (I'm guessing no YA since she has a really long before she's a teen!)


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