Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Afterlives of the Saints” as Want to Read:
Afterlives of the Saints
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Afterlives of the Saints

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Afterlives of the Saints is a woven gathering of groundbreaking essays that move through Renaissance anatomy and the Sistine Chapel, Borges’ "Library of Babel," the history of spontaneous human combustion, the dangers of masturbation, the pleasures of castration, “and so forth” — each essay focusing on the story of a particular (and particularly strange) saint. ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Unbridled Books (first published May 21st 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Afterlives of the Saints, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Afterlives of the Saints

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  117 ratings  ·  22 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Afterlives of the Saints
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, religion, history
Engaging and thought provoking. Dickey here doesn't dwell in detail on the gruesome aspects of the lives of the saints he chronicles. He uses their lives of passionate extremism as an entry point to examine what their dedication, pursued in various ways, reveals about their humanity, and about ours. He draws together poetry, literature, history, art, myth, psychology to offer a generous, wide-ranging consideration of what the lives of the saints – individuals, as he says, “at the edge of humanit ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Oct 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a satisfying book about the secular meaning of the extreme Catholic saints! I learned something entirely new in each chapter: Flaubert’s obsession with St. Anthony, the poetry of Radegund (“a lament so pure that is has a physical presence, a body and a smell of its own”), Teresa of Avila’s proximity to Quixote (“the ecstasy of writing, the relationship of reader and writer”), the pseudo-porno depictions of Agatha’s torture, the relationship between St. George—an interfaith saint—and colonia ...more
Elle Maruska
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this collection of essays very much; through the lens of the saints and their lives, deaths, and impacts Dickey explores diverse socio-cultural concepts. From pornography to John Donne, from the taking of human trophies during the war in the Pacific to the social impact of books and writing, Dickey places the saints in a wider historical context and asks important questions about what we consider sacred and what we consider profane, what we accept as truth and what we require to be fic ...more
Eustacia Tan
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, netgalley
Have you heard of hagiography? It's a genre referring to the writing of the lives of the saints. Honestly, I didn't know about this genre until I read Afterlives of the Saints by Colin Dickey.

To Colin Dickey, "saints exist not as a medium for God but as a lens for humanity". Hence, the book Afterlives of the Saints looks at a few saints that have impacted Colin Dickey for a few reasons: through their writings (Part One), because of the art and literature they inspired (Parts Two and Three), or
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I was originally introduced to this book at a rep picks lunch at Winter Institute. The rep made it sound really interesting, so I picked up an ARC, but upon returning home, moved it to the end of my TBR shelf. It was every bit as fascinating as the rep made it out to be. You do not have to be Catholic, or even religious, to enjoy this book. It is not meant to convert you or appeal to your already vast religious knowledge. It's a series of stories about various saints (and some almost saints) fro ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is so awesome and weird. It's about the strange and violent and sad lives of some of the saints, but also about Flaubert masturbating, and ecorches, and memento mori, and the meaning of texts in general. Really, really liked. ...more
Boris Limpopo
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dickey , Colin (2012). Afterlives of the Saints. Cave Creek AZ: Unbridled Books. 2012. ISBN 9781609530723. Pagine 288. 5,04 €
Afterlives of the Saints

Lo posso anche immaginare che stiamo parlando di una piccola casa editrice, Unbridled Books (letteralmente: “libri senza redini”, come documenta anche il logo) con sede nel mezzo del nulla (Cave Creek è una cittadina di 5.000 abitanti a nord di Phoenix in Arizona).

Unbridled Books

Non penso però che questa circostanza possa esimere loro o Am
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not for everyone

And I'm not certain it was for me. A series of essays about a few saints and how their reputations have changed through time. Obviously, these are Dickey's opinions and I don't agree with most of his conclusions. Still, I give credit for the idea of the book. I have long been fascinated by the stories of the saints.

I don't think St. Agatha has anything to do with pornography merely by having her breasts removed during torture. Likewise St. Sebastian's metamorphosis into a gay ico
Tater Wormsbecker
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look at saints. As a Pagan person who only has an anecdotal knowledge of Catholicism, it was very interesting to read about people who died for their faith and had such passion for their beliefs. This book has also sparked an interest in learning more about the mystics of Christian history.
Sarah Sohm
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absolute gem

Hagiography - the writing of the lives of the saints - is a curious genre, now mostly forgotten.

Prior to reading this book, I had no idea hagiography was its own genre. I've always been fascinated with the saints and the stories behind their sainthood. The second I saw this book I knew I needed to read it.

Afterlives of the Saints turned out to be much different than I had expected! Over the course of my reading I bounced back and forced before ultimately d
Andrea Mullarkey
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: galley, kindle
After flying through Beekeeping for Beginners I needed another book for the rest of my trip. Good ol' Kindle had this little gem on it from - oh - 5 years ago. I guess my reading tastes are different when far afield because I've managed to not even glance at this title for 5 years but on the road it seemed like just the thing. I started it on an overnight bus ride and plowed through quite a bit before returning home. And when I did my reading pace slowed to a crawl. But I have to give this book ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was interesting to look at these saints from a different perspective than I'm used to. I've heard the stories of many of these saints throughout my life as a Catholic, but I never realized how truly bonkers they sounds. It's like Grimm's tales for absolutely religious (that's the best way I could say fanatic without the negative connotation).

Reading this I felt strong connections with much if Flannery O'Connor's work, particularly "A Temple of the Holy Ghost" and "Wise Blood." Both allude to
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
This book is fun. The author organizes a series of essays about how saints have figured into the culture and transformed it, regardless of whether or not the saints' reputed miracles occurred. It is the stories of the saints that matter here, putting a spotlight on human nature and its attraction to violence and dreams of redemption. I knew nothing much about saint culture; I only vaguely recognize the impact of saints on art, language, and pulling older myths into religious frameworks. It's sho ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very thoughtful miscellany of saints. The author does not exactly mock them, nor is he overly pious; he just wants to talk about some of the more interesting saints and their legends, and how their stories express -- and amplify, exaggerate, even distort -- different aspects of the human experience, including some rather dark aspects of the cult of saints.
He clearly has done a lot of research for this, but does sound pedantic or pompous about it. Well worth reading, whether or not you have any
Carlos Vallarino
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very intellectual, gives you information of past events making them part of today. A quote related to the British flag. "When the fiercely anti-Catholic Edmund Spenser wrote his epic in honor of Queen Elizabeth, The Faerie Queene, he began with George - though he could not, of course, call him that. Instead, George is stripped of his Catholicism and rechristened, "the Redcrosse Knight" (after George's famous red cross on a white background, which became England's flag) ...more
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, but it's VERY weird. I loved it myself, but have trouble thinking who I'd recommend it to. A few of the odd digressions are troublingly far off the mark -- Dickey's two-sentence summary of Catharine Mackinnon's scholarship is bizarrely inaccurate, for instance -- but for the most part the essays were well-written and hugely interesting, and I wound up wishing the book were twice as long. The piece on St. Radegund and Euripides' Hecuba was a particular favourite. ...more
Oct 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
Some of these essays are brilliant and if taken separately, the book would deserve a 5-star rating. Other essays wander far afield and show the author's obvious political bias which is kind of sad. Other essays, particularly the one on Magdalen, a subject truly deserving of copious thought and shrewd insight from an essayists as good as Dickey, are so off the mark that it is hard to believe an editor was involved in the book's production. ...more
Crystal Helcel
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Crystal by: Book Riot
Shelves: history
Really enjoyed this book and learned a lot. It is not merely about Saints, it takes particular Saints and draws some incredible connections to life/events after their deaths, hence the title. Topics such as spontaneous human combustion, pornography, castration, reading, madness, among many others are included. Recommended!
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok

This wasn't what I was expecting. I really enjoyed when the author actually spent time on the lives of the saints, but I didn't like how there was so much extra meta-physical jargon.

Couldn't even finish it.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked this very much, but now that the school year has begun, I thought that I'd had enough. Need to parcel out my time carefully. ...more
Mike Stuchbery
rated it really liked it
Apr 04, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Oct 22, 2019
rated it liked it
Nov 06, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jun 01, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Jun 19, 2012
rated it liked it
May 13, 2013
rated it really liked it
Apr 14, 2019
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
from @kamreadsandrecs on Instagram

Saints are a prominent feature in my daily life, living as I do in a Catholic country and educated as I was in Catholic schools. They were always fascinating to me, not necessarily because they were examples to be emulated or as a focus for religious devotion, but because of their stories, and their associations to various aspects of life. How does a saint become a patron of anything, anyway, and often of so many disparate things, too? Is a gruesome death a prerequisite to becoming a martyr? Is
rated it really liked it
Nov 09, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Murder at the 42nd Street Library (42nd Street Library, #1)
  • In the Dream House
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
  • How to Play Texas Holdem Poker: An Essential Guide to Texas Holdem Poker Rules, Hands, and Strategy
  • Defying Hitler
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
  • The Fountains of Silence
  • Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
  • The Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny
  • You Let Me in
  • The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings
  • The Sea Road
  • Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
  • Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: And Other Questions About Dead Bodies
  • The Topeka School
  • Peyton Place and Return to Peyton Place
  • Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession
See similar books…
Colin Dickey grew up in San Jose, California, a few miles from the Winchester Mystery House, the most haunted house in America. As a writer, speaker, and academic, he has made a career out of collecting unusual objects and hidden histories all over the country. He’s a regular contributor to the LA Review of Books and Lapham’s Quarterly, and is the co-editor (with Joanna Ebenstein) of The Morbid An ...more

News & Interviews

  Melissa Albert burst onto the YA scene (and catapulted into readers' hearts) with her 2018 debut The Hazel Wood. This darkly fantastical...
73 likes · 5 comments
“The warrior-saint, George, now a national symbol, became inherently bound up in national conquest, in colonization.” 0 likes
“Unlike those saints who are iconically associated with one distinct object— Sebastian with his arrows, Lawrence and his gridiron— Anthony is associated with plethora itself, with a multitude that can take any shape. Thus, it is his story that becomes paramount, and the beasts that surround him, with their increasing strangeness, give expression to a world in flux— our world.” 0 likes
More quotes…