Henry Thoreau was the first and most elegant of all dropouts, famous as the man who rejected the growing materialism of 1850s America. But he was no drone: with the most basic of tools, he built a log cabin by Walden Lake, near Concord, in New England, and for five years maintained himself "solely by the labour of my hands". He raised crops, sold coppiced wood and cut ice: "I found that, by working about six weeks of the year, I could meet all the expenses of living". That left him 46 weeks to relish the joys of existence and record them with exquisite detail in Walden, the book that told his story. It became, deservedly, an extraordinary success and its many aphorisms have remarkable force. "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation"; "Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify". Most memorably, to my mind: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step out to the music he hears." William Hope reads with all of Thoreau's warm enthusiasm.
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The Black Ice, by Michael Connelly, read by Dick Hill, Isis, unabridged, 11hrs 30 mins (£20.49 inc p&p, mail order: 08007 315637). This is the latest and greatest of the adventures of Harry "Hieronymus" Bosch, the subtlest cop on the Los Angeles block.
Cousin Phyllis, by Elizabeth Gaskell, read by Kenneth Branagh,
(BBC Cover to Cover, unabridged, c 3 hrs, £12.99). Exquisitely written, masterfully read, this 1864 novella illuminates the feelings of rural people faced with the social upheavals caused by the industrial revolution.Reuse content