Walking is not as well known as Thoreau's other works Walden, The Maine Woods, and Civil Disobedience. But it is a good place to start exploring his writing because it was his last book, in 1862, published by the Atlantic Monthly shortly after his death. It is less well known because it is general, as opposed to singular, in focus. It is his summing up of his thoughts on life: One should saunter through life and take notice; one need not go far (as Thoreau rarely left the 25 square miles of Concord and its population of 1,784, according to the 1840 census.)
This is not a political or ecological book as many advocates have stated; it does support nature, but in a small subtle way. He was a man of his age who possessed a variety of talents and abilities, similar to Jefferson and Franklin. He sought to encourage people to notice and saunter, but did not rail against anyone who chose not to. This was a favorite work of Justice William Douglas, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. As the liberal jurist Douglas said, This book displays how Thoreau could have been transplanted to any American century and prospered. Jefferson, Franklin, Douglas, King, and Gandhi would be five men who could join him in his appreciation for sauntering and noticing.