by Robert M. Thorson
Harvard University Press, 2017
eISBN: 978-0-674-97767-9 | Cloth: 978-0-674-54509-0 | Paper: 978-0-674-23741-4
Library of Congress Classification PS3057.N3T486 2017
Dewey Decimal Classification 818.309


As a backyard naturalist and river enthusiast, Henry David Thoreau was keenly aware of the many ways in which humans had altered the waterways and meadows of his beloved Concord River Valley. A land surveyor by trade, he recognized that he was as complicit in these transformations as the bankers, builders, and elected officials who were his clients. The Boatman reveals the depth of his knowledge about the river as it elegantly chronicles his move from anger to lament to acceptance of how humans had changed a place he cherished even more than Walden Pond.

“A scrupulous account of the environment Thoreau loved most… Thorson argues convincingly—sometimes beautifully—that Thoreau’s thinking and writing were integrally connected to paddling and sailing.”
Wall Street Journal

“An in-depth account of Thoreau’s lifelong love of boats, his skill as a navigator, his intimate knowledge of the waterways around Concord, and his extensive survey of the Concord River.”
—Robert Pogue Harrison, New York Review of Books

“An impressive feat of empirical research…an important contribution to the scholarship on Thoreau as natural scientist.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

The Boatman presents a whole new Thoreau—the river rat. This is not just groundbreaking, but fun.”
—David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains