GREAT BOOKS : Henry David Thoreau's Walden, with Benjamin Reiss
America’s “environmental prophet,” Henry David Thoreau set out for a simpler, more mindful, and more deeply lived life on Walden Pond on July 4th, 18… The date’s important, for the book is another Declaration of Independence: an effort to unshackle America from the consumerism, competitiveness, and dishonesty that created a new nation without reaching true freedom and equality. Thoreau’s book is as much about how to live a better, simpler life, as it is about the right way of settling a continent stolen from Native peoples and aided by the moral sin of slavery. It is a deeply philosophical book about making sense of one’s circumstances, taking control of one’s life, and reckoning with the temptation of living up to the expectations of others. I spoke with Benjamin Reiss, Professor of English at Emory University and author of Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created our Restless World, about Walden’s continued significance, how to read philosophically, and – yes, I did ask – how to get a good night’s sleep.