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Teresa of Ávila: The Book of My Life

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,221 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
She was the last person anyone would have expected to become a nun, yet she became one of the most celebrated nuns of all time. She was a brilliant administrator when such vocations were virtually closed to women. And above all, she combined an astonishing proclivity for ecstatic union with God with down-to-earth practicality and good humor. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) is ...more
Hardcover, First edition, 346 pages
Published February 13th 2007 by New Seeds (first published 1565)
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This is a review of the translation by E Allison Peers.

Peers writes a very interesting introduction about the sources and challenges of translating Saint Teresa of Avila. I kept them in mind during my reading, and indeed found the text to be vibrant and always racing forwards. The manuscripts are available so Peers was able to rely on Teresa’s own hand.

The Life will read very differently to believers and those arrayed along the spectrum of doubt to disbelief. I read it as a psychological study o
Great book. Teresa of Avila was a woman of very modern sensibilities. Her love affair with God is an integral part of this extraordinary autobiography/confession. There are the usual markers of the narrow-mindedness of the contemporary culture in which she lived: the pervasive religious fascism and fanaticism--a fanaticism fostered and promoted by the Church's power through the mandate of the Inquisition, the fear of the Devil's power to overthrow one's soul and the Devil's association with Negr ...more
For me this was a rather disconcerting read.

As an atheist you can't entertain the idea that the continual visions and spiritual experiences Teresa reads are visitations from God, there doesn't seem to be a 'conventional' explanation for what's going on. Teresa is lucid enough to write a clear and intelligent account of her experiences, her theology is complete and consistent (and conveniently in-line with the dogma that was current at the time). So she is not raving mad, I entertained the idea t
Mar 21, 2009 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Teresa is a very special woman. The story of her life as she wrote it is one of the great reads. To read this book is to make a friend for life. I like the one incident where she is tossed out of a coach into a muddy stream during a heavy rain and complained to God as she sat in the mud and water soaking wet. And God answered her and said this is how he treated his friends. Teresa was not one to be overwhelmed even by God and responded. "Well it is no wonder you have so few." A great book to rea ...more
May 09, 2007 ruzmarì rated it it was amazing
I am always rediscovering Sta Teresa. She is the first of so many things in so many ways - first woman Doctor of the Church, first reformer of the Carmelite order, first woman to found an order of men, first "modern" (i.e. post-Inquistion) western mystic ... -, and each time I reread her, it's like the first time all over again, at a new depth and with a new dimension.

I was wary about this translation because the introduction is, well, froofy and kinda new-age in a way that peeves me. In my idea
Thank you Jane! I have read, reread, listened to, savored and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I most highly recommend the audio version* which I've been listening to in my car off and on for the past six weeks. Teresa is of course herself, engaging, deeply and humbly insighful, charming and humorous in a way that trancends centuries of time, and cultural and linguistic differences. Mirabai Starr's translation is both fresh and in line with more conventional versions.

One observation, however, or wo
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
I recommend this book, preferably a different edition than this one by Penguin, to those who are looking from a Christian vantage point. The mystic nun of 16th century Spain, you can think anything you want of her, but she ain't ordinary. The spiritual experiences that "befell her is the central theme of the book" (intro. p.13). Her relationship with our Lord is honest and humble, sincere as any testimony that you'll ever hear. The way to approach this story is with respect, and also with humble ...more
Santa Teresa, a 16th century Catholic nun, tells of her spiritual progress as she comes to union with God. This Catholic classic has become increasingly popular throughout the past 500 years. Writing at the command of her Confessors (male priests who want to review and judge her spiritual experiences), she expresses herself humbly, self-effacingly, and even apologetically. She writes in simple, down-to-earth language, with some humor that was at the time risqué. Like most Spanish women of that e ...more
Bless Praise
Feb 01, 2016 Bless Praise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great mystical journey of a great saint towards Christ. It inspired me to focus my life on prayer and meditation like St. Therese did. Also the various mystical experiences she addresses are similar to those who have delved in prayer life and there are people even today who see Jesus and hears his voice whom i personally know. At times he speaks to me through the bible and what ever he has told me has happened in my life. She describes and warns about the mistakes that she made in her ...more
For a Spiritual Life & Leadership course paper at Brite: "Born in the Castilian town of Ávila in 1515, Teresa entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation when she was twenty-one. Tormented by illness, doubts and self-recrimination, she gradually came to recognize the power of prayer and contemplation - her spiritual enlightenment was intensified by many visions and mystical experiences, including the piercing of her heart by a spear of divine love. She went on to found seventeen Carmeli ...more
I read some decently difficult stuff, and this took work to get through. Not for lack of interest--I think it has more to do with Teresa's famously incoherent writing style.

It seems many people dislike Teresa's autobiography for her continual self-abasement. My policy when I read is generally to take the writer at her word, but it's difficult when it's couched as a letter to her superiors. And yet she seems to have a wider audience in mind, too. The further I read, the more I admired this sort o
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
When reading this in liberal arts school and participating in discussion based class sessions I drew great knee jerk, PC-er than thou, dogmatic insistence at tolerating all things with word 'religious' or 'spiritual' attached to them (besides red state Christian fundamentalism) type of reactions by calling Ms. Teresa a junky looking for her God fix. I stand by this assessment today. I found her writing to be an interesting read nonetheless but also felt sorry for her and her rejection of the pre ...more
Amy Jane
Jan 29, 2016 Amy Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Firstly I have to confess a couple of things. I am an atheist, but I have always been fascinated by Catholicism. The reason I chose to read this book is that my favourite sculpture is Saint Teresa in ecstasy' by Bernini - helpfully on the front cover of this edition. And it's nearly taken me a year to read, which isn't down to not enjoying it but rather that it was so intense that I dipped in and out of it between other books.

Although at times I found the narrator repetitive and self deprecating
I first read The Life of St. Teresa in college, and was fascinated by her life. The Book of My Life, a new translation by Mirabai Starr, is the first complete translation to be done by a woman. I found Starr’s interpretation and choices to be right on target with who I perceived Teresa to be. If I had had this translation in college, it would have been immensely helpful in understanding the earthy qualities that Teresa possessed and how they influenced her writing.

Even if you have read this befo
Jul 05, 2008 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholicism
It took me a while to get through this one. Saint Teresa is a bit of a rambler and it's not your typical memoir or even spiritual autobiography: one gets the sense she's going in circles and repeating the same things over and over. There is no clear sense of progression, but then again, she was a nun so how much does a nun's life change from year to year? On the other hand, though she repeats things often, they are the kinds of things that, even if you heard them a thousand times, it wouldn't hu ...more
Stefan Garcia
It is difficult to read this book as a modern person because it is such a different one, even if one remains a Catholic. I would psychologize so much of the writing here, the visions in particular, but to do that would not do justice to what Teresa was saying. I found the visions part to be redundant. It is much less important than she believed. What did provide more inspiration was the beginning, her struggling in the spiritual life. That part was useful as a twisty road map for anyone who woul ...more
James Violand
Jul 08, 2014 James Violand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: own
Don't be turned off because Teresa is a Catholic saint during the Counter-Reformation. Read her experiences and you'll find yourself admiring a truly holy woman. I suppose some of you would even consider her similar to ascetic practitioners of meditation in a number of Indian religions. There is evidence of her levitating as these swamis and yogis have done. Her meditations were so strong as to cause her to escape reality to a higher plain of existence. A true wonder. Read this book and see what ...more
Sep 02, 2009 Itai rated it liked it
Recommends it for: no one
English transaltion of Santa Teresa de Ávila: Libro de la Vida by Mirabai Starr. I can only assume that this got higher ratings than it deserved because people confused the poor translation with the subject. The language of the translation is, indeed, fine. However, a translation is inevitably an interpretation and this one is, as one reviewer rightly wrote, "froofy." Ms. Starr is a spiritual seeker with a considerable gift of language, but seems to have transformed the life of her subject, Tere ...more
Beatriz Rosales
Jul 03, 2015 Beatriz Rosales rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Lectura dificil de entender, por la grámatica y por la intención. Relato de como logra en su vida la voación por la religiosidad en un grado extremo, relatos de una mujer que se considera la peor ante los ojos de su "majestad", y de como se comunica con él por medio moriri para el mundo y de vivir solo pare él, y poder llegar al "arrobamiento" del cual no quiere despertar. Se define como una mujer a la que ni el trabajo cansa, ni el encerramiento la fatiga, ni la enfermedad la decae, ni la muert ...more
Jul 28, 2014 R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WOW. Yes. Some points I was asking what the heck she was talking about. Desperately needed context. Had to remind myself she is speaking to an audience in 1567. But her ability to let go of male idiocity, common materialism...all vanity for the Beauty of The Godhead. I would love that blessing but would greatly fear the suffering that goes with it. I see why she was made a doctor of the church. (Though I hear two reports on her being the first as she was made thus at the same time as Catherine o ...more
While the life of Saint Teresa is interesting, she could have used a good editor. The book is a rambling, unfocused mess. I could have even overlooked that, but the translation was a big problem for me. How can you translate a 16th century book by a nun and edit out almost all references to the devil? How can you translate "sin" as "missing the mark"? I don't care if the translator is a Jewish-Buddhist-New Age whatever. She ruined the book for me. While I was looking forward to reading other wor ...more
Dec 08, 2015 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were great gems of wisdom in this book, but I had to work hard to find them. I admit that this was a slog for me, and I had to force myself to continue reading. I think this is one of those books that you have to read at the right time & pace for you; unfortunately I read this at the time & pace determined by my book club. Perhaps someday I will reread it & love it; right now, I'm relieved to be done.
Aug 18, 2016 Caitlin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, religious
2.5 stars. This was a little difficult reading. Partially because of the translation, partially because there are only so many times you can say, "I am a sinful person. I prayed a lot. I changed. But then I realized I was a sinful person. I prayed a lot. I changed." without details before it gets old. I do think she is a very pious woman, and I liked a lot of her insights into prayer and life purpose. It was just a bit too long for me.
Jul 18, 2011 Jayme rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
I picked up this book to read during my morning meditation/prayer session and found that it rambled too much for me to derive great use out of it. Although it had captivating moments with salient points (I particularly liked how she compares the soul to a garden that needs consistent tending), it fell short for me in the end. I probably would have done better with reading her spiritual classic INTERIOR CASTLE as opposed to her autobiography.
Dawn Roberts
Jun 10, 2015 Dawn Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really glad I read this. It's amazing to be able to read the words of a sixteenth century woman. The first half of the book rambles quite a bit, but there are a few gems of spiritual insight. The second half of the book I found more interesting, as she discusses the opposition she met with in starting a new order of Carmelite nuns. Quite amazing.
Jun 15, 2008 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, women, classic
Teresa's Life is a brilliant example of the essential connection between mysticism and a life of active commitment to a holistic gospel (spiritual intimacy, evangelism and social justice). Her prayer life (knowing the heart of God) catapulted her out into the world in service to others. I am inspired by her firey passion and imagination.
Oct 26, 2013 Ouisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I completely disagree with the characterization of St. Teresa as a " hysterically unbalanced" woman... She was a great woman OOD her time and for all times, a true feminist in and of the Church. Her struggle. To find God is the Struggle of many people when they find themselves in the desert of spirituality. I have read and re-read this book for over twenty years and still find new layers.
Manuel Alfonseca
May 19, 2016 Manuel Alfonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third time I have read this book. Rather than an autobiography, it is a lesson about mental prayer (meditation). Every time I have read it has been beneficial, perhaps this time more than the previous ones.
Dec 02, 2008 TheRose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Catholics, anyone who struggles with prayer
Recommended to TheRose by: Fr. Ignatius
Shelves: biography, religion
I was surprised by how very readable this book was. Saint Teresa seems to be a bit scrupulous about things, but perhaps that's the reason she's a saint and I am not? Anyway, I found a lot of inspiration for my own prayer life.
Susan Matthews
Oct 09, 2015 Susan Matthews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

This book could receive 10stars for it was written by St. Teresa. It was very hard reading due to the time period. She kept speaking about her sins and how unworthy she was. It took a long time to finish it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
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  • Teresa of Avila: The Progress of a Soul
  • Teresa of Ávila: An Extraordinary Life
  • Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate
  • Fire Within: Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and the Gospel - On Prayer
  • G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense
  • A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope
  • Apologia Pro Vita Sua (A Defense of One's Life)
  • On Loving God
  • The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling
  • Time for God: A Guide to Mental Prayer
  • On Acquisition of the Holy Spirit
  • Revelations of Divine Love
  • Catherine of Siena
  • The Spiritual Exercises
  • Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with John of the Cross, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.

Born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, St. Teresa was the
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“I am quite sure I am more afraid of people who are themselves terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself.” 40 likes
“It is of great importance, when we begin to practise prayer, not to let ourselves be frightened by our own thoughts.” 31 likes
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