Thursday, June 10, 2010

Virtual Book Tour: Thumbing Through Thoreau by Kenny Luck

Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations by Henry David ThoreauBook Details:
compiled by Kenny Luck, illustrated by Jay Luke and Ren Adams
Genre: Reference/ Quotations
Published 2010, Tribute Books
Hardback,  pages
ISBN: 9780982256541

"On July 4, 1845, when Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on the shores of Walden Pond, he was probably unaware that his abode in the woods, and the impact and influence of that endeavor, would forever echo through time. Thoreau was an uncompromising idealist; an ardent maverick who criticized his fellow man. He urged that men and women ought to live more simply, and more deliberately. "The mass of men," he famously wrote, "lead lives of quite desperation." Yet the scope of Thoreau's message is much wider than social criticism. He speaks of spiritual transcendence in Nature and the unbounded potential of the individual. Thoreau is a dreamer and he speaks to dreamers. In a word, shun dogmatism and demagoguery; see beyond the immediate conventional religious explanations to reap a higher understanding. In our commodified contemporary American society, with the rise of religious intolerance and fundamentalism, materialism and mass consumerism, Thoreau's message is needed now more than ever. Author Kenny Luck has thumbed through Thoreau's voluminous journals, correspondences and other publications to make this the most comprehensive collection of Thoreau aphorisms available. "

The cover of the book is taken from a beautiful painting of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts where Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote. Unfortunately, the artwork on nearly every page in the text is not nearly as attractive or colorful, and seems rather repetitious after 50 pages or so. According to the cover, Jay Luke's artwork is on the even-numbered pages and Ren Adam's artwork is on the odd-numbered pages, though truthfully I could not distinguish between the two artists' styles.
The book is divided into three sections that each of the quotes could be filed under: "Society & Government", "Spirituality & Nature", and "Love." The quotes that Kenny Luck compiled were indeed thought-provoking. When examining the collection as a whole, I could imagine the kind of man that wrote these words day in and day out. As Luck states: "This book... is my attempt to bring together the best pieces of Thoreau's writings in one collection." Before reading this book, I was not overly familiar with Thoreau's work, and afterwards I realized that the man Thoreau has much in common with my own husband. But I digress.
Some quotes were familiar, such as this one:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

 Many more quotes were unfamiliar, but quite profound:

"I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown."

"What is it [to] be born free and equal, and not to live? What is the value of any political freedom, but as a means to moral freedom?"

"A written word is the choicest of relics."

"The day is an epitome of the year. The night is the winter, the morning and evening are the spring and fall, and the noon is the summer."

"I suspect that the child plucks its first flower awith an insight into its beauty and significance which the subsequent botanist never retains."

"To be married at least should be the one poetical act of a man's life."

"Love is a severe critic."

"The only way to speak the truth is to speak lovingly; only the lover's words are heard."

What I found especially distracting was how the words within each quote varied in font size and color, almost as if Luck did not trust the reader enough to know how to read the work and felt he had to dictate to the reader where the emphasis lay in each quote. While I can not say for sure if this was the aim, I felt like my intelligence was being belittled and undervalued as I flipped through the pages. Plus, these words are Thoreau's, not Kenny Luck's, and only Thoreau would be able to truly say where the emphasis within each sentence should be. Luck is only presuming to make intelligent guesses. While I respect Luck's obsession, which he describes in his introduction, I think he should allow for the words of Thoreau to stand alone, so that each reader can appreciate Thoreau through his or her own interpretation.

"The fact is I am a mystic, a transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher to boot."

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*


Tribute Books said...

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your review.

I just want to clarify a few points. Kenny did not choose the emphasis for the words of the text. This was strictly done on the design side of production. It was meant to bring life and vitality to the text as well as provide an interesting look to the page. It was never meant to dictate to the reader how to interpret a quote made by Thoreau.

I'm glad that you felt that the artwork of Jay and Ren blended seamlessly - that was the main intent. We did not want glaring differences between their styles. We wanted the book to form a cohesive whole.

The style of Nick Santoleri's one painting is what it should be for a cover - the style of Jay and Ren is what it should be for nearly 300 illustrations of a black and white interior. They complement the quotes, but are not designed to upstage them.

Yes, full color illustrations throughout would have been glorious. However, being a small press, having over 300 fully illustrated, color pages would be something way beyond our means in terms of cost. We also wanted to make the book affordable for readers.

Thanks again for taking the time to review the book and I'm glad you enjoyed the quotes.

Best wishes,
Tribute Books

Anonymous said...

lovely review ,what seems a lovely book walden is one of my all time favourite books ,was going through the feeds for bloggeista and saw this and had a good read ,all the best stu

Tribute Books said...

Dear Winstonsdad,

I'm glad the book piqued your interest. If you'd like to find out more about it, please visit or email the author at

Tribute Books

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