Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind

University of California Press, 1986. Paperback edition, Spring 1988.

henry-thoreau-a-life-of-the-mindAn intellectual biography in narrative form of the life of Thoreau. Designed and illustrated by Barry Moser. Winner of the Melcher Prize, the Forest History Society Prize and the Colorado Seminars Prize, this book, along with the same author’sEmerson: the Mind on Fire and his William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism, has been called by John Banville “one of the glories of contemporary American literature.

The two years Thoreau spent at Walden Pond and the night he spent in the Concord jail are among the most familiar features of the American intellectual landscape. In this new biography, based on a reexamination of Thoreau’s manuscripts and on retracing his rips, Robert Richardson offers a view of Thoreau’s life and achievements in their full nineteenth-century context.


Melcher Prize, Forest History Society Prize, Colorado Seminars Prize.


“Absorbing and sparklingly fresh biography”
– Publishers Weekly

“A prose style graceful and lucid enough to survive side by side comparison with Thoreau’s own epigrammatic brilliance.”
– Booklist

“The arc of Thoreau’s progress is more absorbing than any thriller… This is a splendidly written book, handsomely designed and illustrated by Barry Moser and worthy of a place on the bookshelf near Walden.”
– Robert Taylor, The Boston Globe

“Richardson’s book is the best introduction and guide to Thoreau’s thought that we are likely to obtain. It leads us to re-read Thoreau [and] to recognize that we are hearing a unique, and perhaps essential, American voice.”
– Frank McConnell, Wilson Quarterly

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