“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Thoreau famously observed. He made that comment in Walden (1854), which describes his two years secluded in a log cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Here that work is paired with Civil Disobedience (1849, original title: Resistence to Civil Government), which sets forth a theory of citizen resistance to evil governance, and which influenced, among others, Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both works contain not only bold ideas but beautiful writing. Narrator Rupert Degas takes particular care to communicate the beauty as well as the ideas. He gives us a gentle, quiet, and contemplative Thoreau, perhaps more laconic and humorless than the original but one still richly rewarding our wholehearted attention.
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