Books That Inspire 2006

Henry David Thoreau

I first read Walden as a desperately uncertain nineteen-year-old trying to figure out what role, if any, I might play in this world. From the first pages, I felt as though Thoreau were speaking directly to me. Walden distills transcendentalism to its core: our lives are entirely open-ended. All things are possible. The book’s central lesson is that as we simplify, as we unburden our minds of unessential constructs, the expanse of this unlimited possibility comes ever clearer into focus. Thoreau proposed that the secrets to achieving this personal discovery were to be found in nature – the pond, the seasons, the ants in his wood pile – and it is here, in the clean simplicity of nature, that we can sneak a glimpse of ourselves. At nineteen this message seemed like the closest thing to the truth that I had ever come across, and twenty-two years later Walden, like an old friend, remains a source of comfort and inspiration.
Gary Wellborn
Assistant Professor
Zoology and Biological Station