The acclaimed author of Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau traverses on foot from Manhattan to Walden Pond, retracing Thoreau's steps and unlocking the practical principles of the mystic's life in the woods.
In writings like Walden, Thoreau condemned the parasitic wealth and luxury that he said sap our lives and coined the famous maxim 'simplify, simplify.' Two centuries after his birth, Thoreau’s challenge still grabs our attention: His spartan experiment of cabin living anticipated the growing tiny-house movement and has even spawned a videogame based on his life in the woods. It seems that America’s eccentric bachelor uncle and original minimalist is alive and well ... It is perhaps unfair to complain that a book about walking becomes, well, rambling. But Mr. Dann’s free association and esoteric cosmology send readers down a dizzying maze of rabbit holes. Across the loosely connected chapters, the author holds forth on everything from the errors of mythographer Joseph Campbell to cellphone addiction, from geological history to the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 film ... The Road to Walden ends without ever reaching Walden Pond. It closes instead with the author lost somewhere around Nagog Pond in the neighboring town of Acton. Thoreau famously endorsed getting lost in the woods, and we can see Mr. Dann suggesting, perhaps, that we are never done with our journey toward enlightenment. But the author’s ending is apt in another way—for we, as much as he, have become somewhat lost on our way to Walden, left only with a sense that Thoreau ought to inspire us to something and that Kevin Dann himself would make a fascinating traveling companion.
Any writer with strong legs can walk the 235 miles from Manhattan to Concord, Massachusetts; only Kevin Dann can do so in imaginative communion with Henry David Thoreau ... reaching Thoreau’s Concord cabin, so concluding his literary pilgrimage, Dann glimpses afresh the mythic vision that opened to America’s most resolute individualist upon contemplating there a pinxter flower...draws from his contemplation urgent imperatives for life-shaping action, distilling each of his sojourn-segment chapters into such an imperative. Exhorting readers to join him in emulating Thoreau, Dann promises them a richer and fuller life if they will internalize a dozen principles that transformed even the picking of huckleberries into an adventure of discovery for the Concord sage. A bracing revival of Concord transcendentalism.
Naturalist and historian Dann uses Thoreau as a pretext for these rambling reflections on his 2017 walking pilgrimage from his home in Brooklyn to Walden Pond. Along the way, he tosses off New Age–flavored insights that he attempts to tie to Thoreau’s writings ... Focusing on Thoreau’s acute interest in and observation of the natural world, Dann encourages readers to 'sharpen [the senses] perennially and perpetually' until 'a sixth sense arises from your five.' ... Dann reveals much about his own view of the world, but little about Thoreau’s.