Walden (first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self reliance. It details Thoreau's experiences of two years in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. Walden emphasizes the importance of solitude, contemplation, and closeness to nature in transcending the "desperate" existence that, he argues, is the lot of most people. The book is not a traditional autobiography, but combines autobiography with a social critique of contemporary Western culture's consumerist and materialist attitudes and its distance from and destruction of nature. The book is not simply a criticism of society, but also an attempt to engage creatively with the better aspects of contemporary culture.