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Augustine: A New Biography

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  122 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Saint Augustine -- the celebrated theologian who served as Bishop of Hippo from 396 C.E. until his death in 430 C.E. -- is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the Western world. His autobiography, Confessions, remains among the most important religious writings in the Christian tradition. In this eye-opening and eminently readable biography, renowned ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published July 1985)
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Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of early Christian/Antiquity history
I can’t recommend Augustine: A New Biography to anyone who doesn’t have a good background in early Christian theology, late Roman history and at least a passing familiarity with Augustine’s more popular works – particularly The Confessions and The City of God. If, however, you can meet those criteria then O’Donnell’s book should be required reading. The author deconstructs the image of Augustine that has come down to us without denigrating the real, glimpsed through the prisms of his books, lett ...more
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
I read this book for the first time in galleys--the publisher shared it with me. And what I thought then I still think: this is the most remarkable book on Augustine I have ever read. And that's saying something; I teach him in a university. O'Donnell takes a man who is less a human than a literary monument, and turns him back into the brilliant, vain, anxious priest he was. The Augustine this book depicts will not win any prizes for charm, but he is much more full-blooded and real than in any o ...more
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maps, biography
I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of O'Donnell's facts, but his presentation was so off-putting that it undermined any pleasure or value this book might have had. Augustine reads like a Hollywood expose: filled with rhetorical questions, winks and nods. A lot of the Great Expert telling us what really happened, even after he admits we have no idea what really happened. You know, the inside "dirt." Maybe O'Donnell felt he had to "jazz up" his subject matter. I don't know.

One shortcoming O'Do
Doug Raymond
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history and insight into the life of an amazing thinker and writer. This is definitely not a theological book. O'Donnell takes a very detached, academic, and historical approach, but makes Augustine come to life as if he is your (eccentric) next door neighbor. Read "Augustine: A New Biography" as background and perspective for reading Augustine's own writings or other more theologically-oriented accounts.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whoa! What an amazing work of scholarship and what a joy to read. Once I started reading excerpts to my partner while he was driving, I didn't know where to stop. Not a hagiography, but still leaves one with a profound respect for what Augustine accomplished. There's a hysterical comparison between Augustine and Quixote. That alone makes it worth the effot to read.
Michael Hitchcock
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We are, each one of us, multiple people. As we move through time and space, in different situations, and in different company we change. In each of us is a multitude of us's. And why should St. Augustine be any different?

We are, each one of us, an individual. There are changes over time and different aspects of us become more prominent in different situations, but what is essential about each of us never changes. An eternal I. And why should Aurelius Augistinus son of Patricius of Hippo Regius b
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writing a biography about Augustine, whose massive literary output essentially provides the backbone behind Christian (regardless of denomination) dogma, is a daunting task. Augustine has become mythologized himself, making the writing of a biography sure to be offensive to some people. That said, O'Donnell clearly is a scholar of Augustine the material and Augustine the man. The understanding of Augustine's influence is NOT the purpose of this biography. For that, readers would be much better s ...more
Paul Moyer
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Julie Dunagan, Cal Godot, Ben Jones, Shirley Banks
Got me on the edge of my seat, moreso than a Cowboys game! Really. Honest.

Revises and opens up much about the life of this beloved putz, one of my faves, who seems to become closer to me as the years pass. It incorporates the newly discovered sermons and letters much more effectively than Peter Brown's recent re-vamp of his flawed yet still classic "Augustine of Hippo."

O'Donnell has a deft touch of style and of scholarship. It manages to critically interrogate and profoundly respect the self wh
John Laliberte
Jun 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thology
I wasn't sure whether to call this a non-fiction or theology book? Quite interesting in several ways (background, relationships Augustine had, his theology and theological concepts that formed much of what we call Christian and Catholic) and was a times dense and overly wordy (odd coming from me!) In some parts the book was really hard to follow - what was the point of that section? But in others, it was brilliant, insightful and even witty.
Augustine has always been an intriguing historical figu
Eddie Weingart
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, book-club
This was a little thick for me, and I'm quite a theology buff. However, it was quite gripping and gave me a new understanding of Augustine as well as answers to several unanswered questions. Would definitely recommend to anyone with an open mind and a passionate interest in early Christian history and theology.
While his consideration, as a classicist, of Augustine's place in the Latin world is very good, O'Donnell seems to have too many theological axes to grind, clouding his reading of Augustine's mind, once Augustine has settled in at Hippo.
Adam Jones
Feb 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book reads like an anti-Augustine polemic. The author wants to be sure the reader dislikes the main character, and, in doing so, fails to tell a story or argue any particular point. If you want to learn about Augustine's life, this is the wrong book.
Daniel Mason-D'croz
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
A pretty interesting book exploring the life and legend of Augustine. It is quite educational though often the narrative of the biography is not super compelling, which can make it a bit boring at times. Nevertheless, it is a good book for those who are interested in the history of western culture
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Favorite quote: "We don't laugh enough at Augustine." Favorite emphases: Augustine's contemporary culture of late-antiquity, and continued (mis)readings of his self-constructed persona(e).
Gaetano Amato
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Suffered through this one. Not very interesting or great.
Dolores Despiau
Aug 28, 2010 rated it liked it
The enormous influence this Saint has had on western society.
Frank Spencer
By a former president of the American Philological Association - the other APA.
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