Sims’ Thoreau still comes off as a monologue-spouting eccentric who has trouble connecting, especially with women. But, Sims is more persuasive when it comes to his second aim: Emphasizing Thoreau’s crucial shift from a Romantic to a scientific view of nature. Rather than simply waxing poetic about the beauties of Walden Pond when he moved out there in 1845, Thoreau measured it — literally — by walking out on the winter ice and plumbing its depths hundreds of times with a line and sinker. He also recorded the pond’s temperatures and the bloom times of surrounding flowers and plants.
Sims’ Thoreau is most appealing in these stretches when he’s completely absorbed in these apparently random studies — studies that have now become essential to ecologists today who are charting climate change and using them as measures of comparison.
The Adventures of Henry Thoreau is a rich, entertaining testament to the triumph of a young man who never comfortably fit in, but who made a place for himself, nonetheless.