Walden (1854) by Henry David Thoreau is one of the best-known non-fiction books written by an American author.
My first boss in the U.S., twenty years ago, who was also one of the best copywriters I've ever known, loved to quote this line: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."
At the time I was young, and didn't have the wisdom to appreciate those words . . .
Of course, Thoreau also wrote in his first chapter of Walden, "Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost."