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Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  1,741 Ratings  ·  307 Reviews
The extraordinary "New York Times" bestselling masterpiece from "one of the most eloquent yet earthbound spiritual writers of our time ("San Francisco Chronicle").
Kathleen Norris had written several much loved books, yet she couldn't drag herself out of bed in the morning, couldn't summon the energy for her daily tasks. Even as she struggled, Norris recognized her famili
ebook, 352 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Riverhead Books
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Nov 18, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After digesting this book for a couple weeks, I realize the analogy is that like the Slow Food movement, this book is meant to be read slowly, in small doses, and savored inbetween. The title, for that matter, gives no real clue as to what it contains - especially the word, Acedia.

So what does it mean? Acedia - a tendency, a demonic attack, a spiritual manifestation, a temptation, a sin, that tends to cause apathy in the face of a call to action, bitterness in the face of conditions that call fo
Jan 26, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reread pp 1-80

"David enjoyed a passage I had found in Louise Bogan's memoirs, in which she writes of seeing out the window of a psychiatric ward, a woman hanging clothes and of 'wishing that I, too, could . . . hang out clothes in a happy, normal way.' When she walked with other patients at 'the hour when children begin to scent supper,' she observed an air of despondency came over the group. The women 'knew the hour in their bones. It was no hour to be out, taking an aimless walk'" (81).

"I am s
Sept 2014
After re-reading this book.

I would move this book up to a 4 1/2 star, so am rounding up. Very worthwhile.

July 2010
2010 Review --This is another of Kathleen Norris' books, published in 2008, so the most recent of the books she's written. I read "The Quotidian Mysteries" first, then this book, then her others in random order. The text of "The Quotidian Mysteries" is actually about a chapters worth of material in "Acedia and Me", so you see some of t
D.M. Dutcher
An erudite, if rambling book that tries to combine the writer's life with meditations on the concept of Acedia. Acedia unfortunately seems to be hard for her to define: it's a habit of mind that combines a sort of fatalistic resentment of things with laziness, and that affects people who are drawn to the monastic life. "I don't want to do anything, and I don't care!"

Mixed in with this are biographical snapshots of her life. Her husbands slow, hidden sink into depression, her life as a young woma
Feb 02, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh this latest from K Norris is her best yet, at least to my brain. A little-known-to-the-modern-world wave of thought/behavior called Acedia is its focus. Here Norris has spared no effort, during the book's incubation over the last 20 years, at yanking Acedia out from its sly hiding places in her own life and subjecting it to a lasery investigation. This investigation includes the testimonies of men and women who fled the cities in the early Christian era for the purpose of creating labs out o ...more
Willie Krischke
Norris says in the introduction to this book that she's been working on it for a long, long time, gathering materials, reading, and writing. I suspect that what she was waiting for - consciously or intuitively - was an organizing structure. She never found it.

"Acedia & Me" is full of lots of wisdom and reflection on the spiritual problem of depression/apathy/boredom/distraction, as well as a smattering of wonderful quotes and stories from church literature that has been largely forgotten by
Nov 11, 2008 Rosana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, spiritual
I was disappointed with this book. It was just too uneven of a book, with moments when it really picked up my interest and passages that spoke to my heart, only to fade in a few pages to the repetitious descriptions of acedia. At times I just wanted to scream at her: go back and rewrite it all as essays.

I really wanted to hear more about her experience as a teenager, about marriage, death and spiritual growth. But she insisted on linking it all under the theme of acedia, and too often it felt m
Karleen Koen
Mar 08, 2016 Karleen Koen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A philosophical book I didn't expect to like and be moved by. Acedia, an old sin of despair, is discussed.
May 09, 2011 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
FABULOUS. I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed Kathleen Norris before I found this book in a thrift store. Then, it turned out the local library had the audiobook version, with a cd that included a pdf of many of the quotes. This book helped me think through some topics. Here are some of my favorite quotes.

...making your bed is a form of showing hospitatlity to yourself...

physical work is the best way to fight acedia

You struggle with apathy because you have a great capacity for zeal

only worry abou
I am having an incredibly difficult time getting through this book. It seems befitting that a book about acedia is so incredibly dull and unengaging; perhaps there is a lesson in there. I'm determined to get through it, as starting a book but not finishing it always seems wrong. I'm hoping it will get better.
Sep 22, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though almost everyone is familiar with depression, acedia is a much less well known affliction. Mostly a term used in the monastic community, acedia can be described as a type of emotional slothfulness. Everyday tasks become harder and more pointless to perform, and emotions are dulled almost to the point of desensitization. Acedia takes the form of an unsettled boredom that permeates every area of life, be it physical, emotional or social. In her new book, Kathleen Norris examines acedia in al ...more
Feb 28, 2011 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book and its subtitle does a good job of describing its purpose and structure. It is supposed to be centrally about acedia, which Norris defines early on, but muddies throughout the text, adding definitions and details to expand her writing. But the initial definition is "the absence of care." "Acedia is the monk's temptation because, in the demanding life of prayer, it offers the ease of indifference." I especially like and am challenged by Aquinas' comment that acedia is not following the ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Christian author Kathleen Norris has long been fascinated by the ancient psychological condition known to monks as "acedia," and which was actually one of the original "Seven Deadly Sins" back when they were known at the beginning of Christianity as the "Eight Bad Thoughts." But what exactly is it? L
Skylar Burris
I lost this book when I was almost done with it, but I’m going to go ahead and review it anyway, under the assumption that the last thirty pages is not likely to change my evaluation. Acedia & Me is part textbook, part spiritual autobiography, part poetic reflection, part theology, and part socio-economic political musing. As a spiritual autobiography and poetic reflection, it offered much to think about and prodded my spirit to self-examination. I felt like I could relate to a good portion ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kathleen Norris is a bestselling author who blends memoir with Christian spirituality. Although books written from a theological perspective aren’t my first choice of reading matter, I have a profound respect for the ages-old wisdom of monks and other religious orders, and wanted to see how their teachings helped Norris, a writer like myself, persevere in her craft and weather life’s harsher moments.

Acedia is one of the seven deadly sins, according to Christian tradition. It manifests itself as
It was difficult to assign this book to one shelf, or even several shelves, but it was a truly unique and rewarding read. "Acedia" (variously defined as sloth, boredom, apathy, despair, burn-out, the inability to care, etc. etc. etc.) is a temptation frequently encountered by those in monastic life. Norris argues compellingly, however, that acedia is running rampant in our contemporary American culture, disguised as "restless boredom. . . frantic escapism . . . compassion fatigue . . . commitmen ...more
Michael Cogdill
Nov 18, 2009 Michael Cogdill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Naked honesty is becoming. It's a rare and beautiful fashion, suited perfectly to the mind of a writer. Cloaked in this fashion, Acedia and Me may be the finest runway Kathleen Norris ever walks.

Revealing her struggle, and that of her late husband, with the depressive lassitude that can define acedia took enormous courage. A caring kind of mettle that comes from the heart of a writer determined to weave a legacy out of her pain, allowing reader after reader to take its comfort, to warm ourselve
Nov 19, 2008 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kathleen Norris has made an auspicious place for herself in spiritual literature, through her explorations with poetry, with place (Dakota), and her extensive time spent in Benedictene monasteries. Her most recent book is a study on acedia, defined as the absence of care. Acedia was one of the "eight bad thoughts" as defined by the desert fathers, and became known as "sloth" when the Catholic church defined seven deadly sins.
Norris acknowledges that this sort of torpor or boredom with repetition
Jul 16, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Kathleen Norris book could well become a classic for researchers of depression and acedia. It is very thoroughly researched and is written in exacting prose, reminding me very much of works by Marilynne Robinson.

A few quotes:
"A friend, a professor of philosophy, observes that many depressives accurately perceive that they are living under conditions in which any reasonable person might be despondent. But, she asks with her customary acuity, can the same be said of acedia? Can it ever be con
May 17, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kathleen Norris' 'Dakota' captured my attention for a couple of weeks five years ago. It opened my eyes to dynamics that still inform how I see and experience the world today.

When I saw the title and subtitle of this book, I felt I should read it. Norris, in her typical fashion (well-researched, highly personal, filled with grace, and humorous...not a bad combo!), presents a fascinating study on what ancient virtue-ethicists (monks, in this case) called Acedia. She struggles to translate it - it
Nov 18, 2008 Beth666ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very thoughtful, interesting book about the monastic concept of acedia, which is akin to spiritual sloth or laziness and has obvious connections to what we call depression today. Thoughout the book, Norris discusses her struggles in marriage; in pursuing the often-solitary career of a writer (as a freelancer who also must set her own deadlines, I can relate to this); and with her relationship to religion. Throughout she works through the differences between acedia and depression and th ...more
Jan 01, 2009 Levka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The heart of "Acedia and Me" lies in a quote 3/4ths of the way through the book: "A refusal to suffer pain is a refusal to feel love". Part memoir, part history, part theology, Acedia and Me is Kathleen Norris' exploration of a powerful dark force in her life, one of the monastic 8 bad thoughts, the "noonday demon" that kills joy and disengages people from the world. It's also a moving testimony to the love of her life, her late husband David, and to the power of goodness, grace, and love to sav ...more
Emilia P
Well, Ms. Norris.

The not so great: as she admits early on in the book, this is a subject that she wanted to write about for a very long time, and it sort of shows. It's sort of a pulling together of disparate elements from her life interspersed and not that well blended with meditation on the roots and definitions of acedia. And you kind of have to have read some of her other work to get the spiritual mindset she's coming from, which is a little problematic. So -- she doesn't pull it together th
Mar 02, 2009 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the author read this one, and I'm sure my opinion is somewhat colored by the fact that she is not a particularly good performer, and she has a fairly grating voice. Nevertheless a very interesting book--taking acedia (roughly the Deadly Sin of sloth) very seriously and in fact taking all the deadly sins the same way. She traces its history from one of the eight bad thoughts of the 5th century desert fathers (and, she invariably adds, mothers, although there were precious few of tho ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have only read one other book by Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk. I loved that one and I appreciated this one because it filled in some of the gaps in her personal life that I had wondered about (what was her husband up to while she was spending so much time in that monastery? - and what did he think?). I liked her exploration of acedia and I have struggled with it at times, but not recently at all. In that sense it was hard to relate. It seems like a writer's life (or a monk's) would be hi ...more
Dec 26, 2008 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Acedia was identified by a fourth-century monk named Evagrius as one of the eight bad thoughts. It evolved into one of the seven deadly sins.
Acedia is to spiritual health what depression is to mental health. Where depression is fought with therapy and medication, fighting acedia is a matter of spiritual warfare.
This is an oversimplification. To properly describe acedia and the battle with it would require a book. Kathleen Norris has written such a book. She has done so in 300-plus pages; I think
Luke Dubbelman
Norris' "Acedia and Me" was a great book, a little bit slow at times (I suppose that's fitting for a book about acadia) but it is a book with great depth and most importantly it made me want to be a better person, husband and to live life full of love and wonder. The subtitle says it all - this book is about Acadia in the midst of marriage, monks and a writers life. Kathleen weaves a nice combination of quotes from ancient monastic writers, examples from english poems and lit and her own persona ...more
Dec 28, 2008 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read all of K Norris' prose (I believe)--she's one of my favorites. This book starts out a little slow talking about acedia--what it is and what it means in the grand scheme of things, but then it moves into the more personal. All of Kathleen Norris' books that I've read have been prose (she's also a poet) and there's always the mention of her poet husband with health problems...and in this book you get more of the story and the story of parts of their marriage. It was really interesting- ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Naomi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is my first 5 star since I started tracking here on goodreads what I'm reading. The writing itself is a little choppy (i.e. some of the sections feel like the separate essays, talks, etc. they surely began as). However, like any Kathleen Norris book, this made me wish I'd written it myself.

I love/hate books for escapism. This book (ironically, essentially on escapism) made me want to pray, shout, kiss my husband, write a novel, play cars with my son, and brush my teeth. It was good
Exquisite. I was captured by this book, which I picked up to read at just the right moment in my life. I dog-earred at least 100 pages, and underlined more passages than that!

Thank you: to Kathleen Norris for braving the writing process, and to the friend that gifted it to me for an auspicious birthday.
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Kathleen Norris was born on July 27, 1947 in Washington, D.C. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as on her maternal grandparents’ farm in Lemmon, South Dakota.

Her sheltered upbringing left her unprepared for the world she encountered when she began attending Bennington College in Vermont. At first shocked by the unconventionality surrounding her, Norris took refuge in poetry.

After she grad
More about Kathleen Norris...

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“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn't know we needed and take us places where we didn't know we didn't want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before. ” 19 likes
“The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. Though you may say the “I do” of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married.” 14 likes
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