By: Ralph Waldo Emerson
The very first paragraph of another book I read this summer, The Wilderness World of John Muir, opened with the description of the book Muir carried with him, read and reread, in all his wanderings of the High Sierra. The book was Volume I of The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. His copy was published in 1870. When I went to buy the book for myself, a collection of Emerson's essays with such a title couldn't be found. And so, I picked up the most popular, highest reviewed modern day collection of Emerson's work.
Written in the 1800's, with such concentration of profound thought, Self-Reliance and Other Essays requires focus and takes longer to read than larger books. It's worth it. A mere 117 pages, I penned 48 quotes from it on individual index cards for my Commonplace Book (more than I have from any other book in my life thus far).
The book is a collection of six essays individually titled History, Self-Reliance, Friendship, The Over-soul, The Poet, Experience and the text of Emerson's famous graduation speech, the Divinity School Address. Though topics vary, each essay reads more like a chapter, like a variation, in Emerson's overarching message that life is to be lived from the inside, out.
One might call Self-Reliance and Other Essays the bible of the nonconformist. It's the credo of those who march to the beat of a different drummer, not to spite the world, but because they're in tune with a rhythm all their own.