Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book Of Quotations by Henry David Thoreau

Thumbing Through Thoreau

When I was first asked if I was interested in reviewing this book, I wanted to jump at it immediately. I have always been a fan of Thoreau’s and thought that this might be a really cool biography of him. Well, it isn’t quite like that. This book is a collection of Thoreau’s quotes all through his career. The book was compiled by Kenny Luck, with images from Jay Luke and Ren Adams. The book is divided into three sections; Society & government, spirituality & nature, and love.

It may seem trivial, to create three classes and then to cram Thoreau into them, but that isn’t it at all. In fact, Thoreau himself created these ‘sections’ if you will. What Kenny Luck has done, is to take a huge amount of written word from Thoreau and put individual quotes into a meaningful and at times beautiful collection.

The first section on government is revealing in so many ways, about his views on government and how little it should have to do with governing and with the everyday person. It is easy to tell that somewhere, somehow he has experienced such a bad government, that he is absolutely distrustful of any government. However, we have the clarity of many years of hindsight, and we can see how he saw his current time period with such clarity that it almost seems as if he were scripted to think and feel as he did. We are able to see and hear about virtually everything and anything that happens in the world today. Did Thoreau have his own internet, or satellite TV? For he truly seems to have such knowledge and foresight of his own time, that he is and was seen as a prophet.

How then, can a man who is able to see his times and his government so clearly, can then speak so eloquently and with such beauty about the world around him? How can he put such beautifully chosen words together to describe what nature can’t? Nature can only be…. Thoreau can see and interpret and describe in words. Truly a gifted man who can see and talk about the depth of mankind and the lengths one can go simply through believing he can. He is full of such passion for nature itself, and you could even argue that he was one of the first “green warriors”, and protector of Mother Nature herself. Truly, he saw more than any of his contemporaries were either capable of or just weren’t able to convey. It can bring a tear to your eye in the way he is able to grasp what he sees, feels, and believes. Certainly, I was close at times.

Image from Thumbing Through Thoreau

I simply could not prepare a review of this fine work without mentioning the simple beauty of the artwork throughout this book. Created by Jay Luke and Ren Adams, the images at once appear to be overly simple, yet as you continue though the book, you start to see the simple intricacies  that are placed in them. Anyone preparing a book such as this could very easily and most likely would go for photography or for elaborate coloured landscape portraits, but this was not the case. These images truly do the quotations justice, and that is saying a lot.

One could be amazed at what we have seen from one man. All of the seemingly obvious juxtaposition would complete such a complicated man, yet yearning for such simplicity. No, there’s more indeed. He goes on in a third section of this book to talk about love. Hardly a simple or consistent area of contemplation.

Quote from Thoreau

All I can say is that this book took me  on a journey of Thoreau, the man, as much as, or probably more than,  discovering the writer and artists. I can only think of this as a compliment, for they neither overpowered or got in the way of who he really was and what his enduring message was. I think that if anyone is going to attempt a book like this, then they should strive for results such as this.

For a person who generally doesn’t read books such as this, I found myself absolutely captivated. I couldn’t stop flipping the pages and admiring each and every image and quote. There is a real art to how the quotes are ordered and grouped. On top of that, there is a real art to the pairing of the quotes to the images. Truly this book is much more than a tribute to the man, although it does that in an amazing fashion. This is a book that brings Thoreau to the front again. Something that should happen time and again. Right now is one of those times.

~ Todd Hurley

The Hurley Edition (

*With thanks to Tribute Books for providing an advance copy of this book for review.