Ralph Waldo Emerson
Best of the Web
Emerson fans argue that he taught America how to think and write. Most of Emerson's key philosophies and ideas derive from his essays. Here you find the works that we most closely associated with Emerson: Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Nature.
Emerson's essays appeal to the intellect; his poems appeal to the heart. He wrote poems about political issues like slavery and America, but also personal ones, like the loss of his first son. He also was an active translator, offering translations of Persian mystic poets like Hafiz.
Many biographers have taken a crack at Emerson since his death in 1882, but Richardson's book stands as one of the best. Richardson looks at the differences between the personal Emerson and his public philosophies, and helps to humanize the cold-seeming "sage of Concord."
Emerson's pal Henry David Thoreau might have starved to death out there in his cabin on Walden Pond if he hadn't taken frequent walks over to Emerson's house for dinner. The original edition of Thoreau's self-reliant classic contains a foreword by Emerson.
Harvard prof and New Yorker contributor Louis Menand wrote this incredible book that essentially outlines the history of American thought. Surprise, surprise, Emerson and his self-reliance play starring roles. It's a tiny bit on the heavy side, but hey - you're smart people. We know you can handle it.
Emerson is the Godfather of the transcendentalist movement. Cheever's book looks at the philosophical movement that sprung out of Concord and involved Emerson and many of his friends, such as Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott and Thomas Carlyle.