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Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  4,164 Ratings  ·  308 Reviews
Discover the Celtic Circle of Belonging.

John O'Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for "soul friend," the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:

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Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 21st 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published May 1st 1996)
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Shrikanya This book is for everyone. I am a non-Christian. Everytime I read this book, the perceived meaning changes. Everytime something starts making sense.…moreThis book is for everyone. I am a non-Christian. Everytime I read this book, the perceived meaning changes. Everytime something starts making sense. This is good for those who are going through the phase known as the 'dark night of the soul'.(less)

Community Reviews

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Jan Marquart
May 16, 2011 Jan Marquart rated it it was amazing
This small book by the Celtic priest John O'Donohue is a staple in my bookcase. I've lost three copies, one to mold, one to formaldehyde and one to water damage. I quickly bought another. This book will change your life. It is not a religious dictate. It is far beyond that. I'm going to give you the first few lines and you can decide for yourself:
It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world a
Anne Collini
Aug 01, 2016 Anne Collini rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Is fánach an áit a gheobfá gliomach. *


Have you ever been delighted by a butterfly, or a hummingbird, or a kindness, or the shade of a tree, or the lap of waves upon the shore, or a sunrise, or a sunset? Then this book is for you.

“It is strange to be here.”

That’s the first thing John O’Donohue tells us in Anam Cara.

Then, in this tremendously uplifting spiritual guide, drawn from Celtic wisdom and the Irish imagination, he tells us how to bring intimacy and sacredness into this strange, sometim
Luna Lindsey
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom is truly a work of art. Over the past three years, I have been working on discovering myself through self-help books, 12-step programs, religious study, and personal introspection. This book summed up everything I have learned (the hard way) during this time, and presented it in a beautiful package that was invigorating and thought-provoking to read. It was a pure joy. I began reading it in January, and have only just finished it last night, because each sentan ...more
Mar 20, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books and best written books I've ever read. Two months after I met the author, he died in his sleep at age 53 while on holiday with his fiance in Avignon. The whole world cried when John died. There was no one like him and there never will be again. John had a brilliant mind that was married to a wide open heart.
Aug 19, 2015 Gearóid rated it it was amazing
I found this a very moving and beautiful book to read.
This writer was some philosopher and a really great writer.
There was so much to this book and the Celtic element and
the descriptions of the great scenery and light of the
West of Ireland really made me appreciate my heritage.

There is so much wisdom and understanding of human nature
and how we are losing touch with what is really important
in this modern busy world that was very refreshing to
I can see myself reading this book over and over a
Feb 11, 2012 Gail rated it it was amazing
I remember thinking, years ago when I first read (for months) Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, thinking, "Oh, so that's what's meant by someone being a *Master*." Tolle writes from an Eastern perspective. So now I have had my first experience with John O'Donohue, and think again: "So here is another *Master*." However, O'Donohue writes from a Celtic spiritual perspective. This book is not a quick read because Mr. O'Donohue is a spiritual master and a philosopher. He considers deeply concepts of ...more
Jan 14, 2008 Todd rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jill, Karen, Summer,
Catholic Scholar John O'Donohue has a warm sense of humor and an incredibly lyrical prose style. He looks at the pre-Christian Celtic tradition and breathes a new life into spiritual awareness. This is a great book for people struggling to create a working spirituality for their lives and it offers amazing insights into our relationships with the sensual world, the world of soul and our interpersonal relationships.
May 23, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Anam Cara, the words translate to 'Soul Friend' in Gaelic. O'Donohue is absolutely brilliant in his delivery. The depth, variety, history and beauty of this book is like no other I've experienced. Philosophy, spirituality, poetry through landscape of imagination reinforces my belief that everyone is born an artist. For me, it blew open new pathways to examine my inner self. I've read it 3 times and have yet to capture every nuance, each reading brings forth additional richness to consider in bot ...more
Anne Hamilton
If I'd read this book two years ago, I'd have given it six stars. But, as it is, I've only given it half that.

It was while reading Jo-Anne Berthelsen's Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey that I came across the references to Anam Cara and thought: 'Just my type of book.' It sounded deep and profound, wise and thoughtful.

And although I've got more than a dozen bookmarks jutting out of pages to mark intriguing thoughts, overall I found the book rather shallow. O'Donohue mentions
Oct 02, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing
I'm reading this again. I never stopped reading it. When I got to the end I started all over again, fitting for the Celtic belief in life as a circle. What a fucking beautiful book. Seriously. I want to read it over and over again and glean every last morsel. The author's untimely death in 2008 was a serious loss to us all. But the Celts believe he's not really gone here's still here, just not writing any more books. So many parts of this book I say to myself, "Huh. Wow." I read and reread a pas ...more
Mar 21, 2009 Lynda rated it it was amazing
This is not a book one reads just to check off a list. It is a book of very deep reflections, invoking the reader to slow down, be mindful. It is a book about the human soul, love, spirit, wisdom, relationships and more. I refer to this book several times a week, just to re-read a few pages or a chapter. It's always on the table, next to the sofa, for quick reference and solace.

Ruth Bonetti
Dec 16, 2013 Ruth Bonetti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the rich symbolism and earthy reality of Celtic wisdom, how one can relish a line or poem, how it resonates long after reading. This book gives many such beautiful moments.
Oct 28, 2015 Tiffany rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: metaphysical
This Irish poet/former Jesuit is quite an amazing human being, may his soul rest in peace.

I bought this CD because I thought his voice would make this book more palatable. I read it about 15 years ago and found it syrupy, and in the intervening years I have changed a lot so I assumed my reading of it would be different and the richness would be more palatable, and yet there was still something slightly saccharine to me about it.

A brilliant man who quotes from Hegel, Meister Eckhardt, Wittgenst
May 05, 2016 Ellen rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautifully written spiritual books I have ever read (and I’ve read many). I saw “Gravity” while reading it and the movie echoed some of the book’s words in a visual way:

“In a vast universe … All of our life, everything we do, think and feel is surrounded by nothingness… This cosmic loneliness is the root of all inner loneliness…
There is the infinity of space that reaches out into the depths of the cosmos… the inifinity that haunts everyone and which no one can finally qu
Feb 04, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It is a bible and a guide for living a truly deep life and recognizing our belonging in the universe. It teaches love in the deepest sense: encountering the sacred in others and in ourselves. Every paragraph and every reading reveals another gem, which is why this just might be one of those books to carry everywhere: it is multifariously deep. There are times I am impatient and look for a practical guide to help me 'get there'. At times like that I may be too impatient for this ...more
Apr 03, 2010 Dayna rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
There were parts of this book that really spoke to me. A passage would leap out at me in an almost Biblical way, and I would think, "That was really good." It took me quite a while to get through the whole thing; I read it in fits and starts. It was kind of spooky that a phrase would be exactly what I needed for encouragement or clarity in the exact moment that I happened to pick the book up and read a few pages. Mostly it was just okay. I found myself rereading sentences, wondering if I had got ...more
Glenn Murphy
Oct 16, 2009 Glenn Murphy rated it it was ok
If you're not spiritual or religious, this book is probably not for you. The Anam Cara, or “soul friend” is a Celtic/Christian concept, and that fusion of Celtic mysticism and Christian theology is at the core of O'Donohue's writing.

I wanted to like this book more, but I just couldn't get into O'Donohue's writing style. He tried way too hard to be “poetic”, and it just didn't work for me. I also thought that he used too many quotes from other authors, didn't work those quotes into the text very
M. Allen
Apr 22, 2014 M. Allen rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, illuminating, poetic, death- and self- and other-embracing book. This will give me food for thought for the rest of my days.
May 09, 2009 Libby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of my all time favorite books! I can't believe I didn't add this sooner! I can't remember what year I read it, though.

This book is beautifully written and I carried around with me for almost that whole year.

I love all things Irish and stumbled across this while browsing Amazon years ago. I'm not sure how I ended up finding it, bu I'm thankful I did. I want to re-read it now so I can write a "proper" review.

This is one book I consider a favorite and one that means a great deal to me.
Aug 10, 2014 Amanda rated it did not like it
To be fair I am rating this book poorly because it was not the book I thought it would be. The back cover was vague, the chapter list looked interesting, even the first few pages were thought provoking. But it didn't go anywhere. The author just talked in circles, without ever really having his words mean anything. And often I felt like he was trying too hard to be profound and wise. Not to mention thst several Celtic stories seemed to be deliberately twisted to suit his purposes...not altered i ...more
Susan Keegan
May 15, 2014 Susan Keegan rated it liked it
This isn't a terrible book... I liked it very much - however, I found little Celtic spirituality in it that isn't common knowledge by anyone with even a cursory interest in Celtic heritage. Unlike some other reviewers, I enjoyed the poetic quality and style of the author, as well as the use of quotes by famous poets to further illustrate a specific idea that the author was illuminating. I would have appreciated a more in depth approach to Celtic Spirituality specifically and I kept thinking "her ...more
May 14, 2008 Trilety rated it it was amazing
Oh - what didn't I learn from this book. I underlined nearly 30% of it - definite must read - guides you into changing your perception - leading you away from the same window out of which you have stood looking for so many years - and interesting take on the nature and spirituality of erotica
Valentina Fyorh
Feb 24, 2013 Valentina Fyorh rated it it was amazing
This book went far beyond my initial expectations. I have fallen in love with it , and it gives a new perspective on the way one can think. It is absolutely beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in a spiritual book full of wisdom.
Dec 15, 2007 Jane marked it as triedtoread  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was mostly drivel.
However, there are some wonderfully marvelous blessings, like "Blessing for the Senses" and "Blessing of Solitude".
Actually, the whole chapter (section?) 3 - "Solitude is Luminous" captivated me.
May 02, 2016 Jeannine rated it really liked it
This is a difficult book for me to review. I've been exploring Christian mysticism for the past two years and have been reading extensively (especially St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, but also some more contemporary authors such as Evelyn Underhill). I picked this one up on recommendation of a Celtic Christianity FaceBook group, and did find several passages that really spoke to me.

While the book opened with the definition of the Anam Cara ("In everyone's life, there is great nee
Steve Nobel
Nov 09, 2012 Steve Nobel rated it it was amazing
I have met John a couple of times in London before his death. Such a poetic soul and wonderful writer. All his books are worth reading. They put you in touch with the poetic and spiritual Celtic traditions of Ireland.
Sarah B.
Oct 26, 2014 Sarah B. rated it it was amazing
A piece of literature which is a classic of our time! Thankfully, O'Donohue left us his wisdom about soulfulness in the Celtic tradition which he translates into a common language. This book is a great read for anyone and for those who want to learn more about a philosophy of being a soul in the world, the intimacy of connecting with oneself and another person, and the gifts of quietude, spirituality, and language as communication. It is a book to gift to yourself or to someone else. It will mak ...more
Mar 14, 2009 Mariah rated it really liked it
This book was written from a Celtic-Christianity point of view, but I still found the message and ideas very thought-provoking and inspiring. So says the pagan :)
Oct 01, 2013 Erin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Anam Cara is a book of Celtic wisdom for those wanderers looking for guidance and nourishment as they explore new paths in their life. Full of dream-like imagery and connections deeply imagined with others and the self, I would especially recommend this book for those who feel exhausted with the surface of everyday living and are looking for something to inspire their creativity.

John O'Donohue's friendly and welcoming voice comes through loud and clear in his writing, inviting the reader to div
Tracey Hackett
Oct 25, 2015 Tracey Hackett rated it it was amazing
This isn't the first time I've read this book, and it probably won't be the last. It is one of the wisest and most uplifting books I've ever encountered. The first time I read it, it felt like there was a life-or at least perspective-changing revelation on every few pages. They were lessons and outlooks I took away from the book and out into the world and my life. After reading it a second time, there were still passages that made a significant impact on my thinking.
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John O'Donohue, Ph.D., was born in County Clare in 1956. He spoke Irish as his native language and lived in a remote cottage in the west of Ireland until his untimely death in January 2008. A highly respected poet and philosopher, he lectured throughout Europe and America and wrote a number of popular books, including Anam Cara and To Bless the Space Between Us.
More about John O'Donohue...

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“One of the tasks of true friendship is to listen compassionately and creatively to the hidden silences. Often secrets are not revealed in words, they lie concealed in the silence between the words or in the depth of what is unsayable between two people.” 995 likes
“Every friendship travels at sometime through the black valley of despair. This tests every aspect of your affection. You lose the attraction and the magic. Your sense of each other darkens and your presence is sore. If you can come through this time, it can purify with your love, and falsity and need will fall away. It will bring you onto new ground where affection can grow again.” 561 likes
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