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Learning to Walk in the Dark

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  7,345 ratings  ·  805 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark provides a way to find spirituality in those times when we don’t have all the answers.

Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. Doesn’t Go
Hardcover, 187 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by HarperOne
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  7,345 ratings  ·  805 reviews

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Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book has it's moments, but in general, I found it to be deeply disappointing. Why is Barbara Brown Taylor writing a book on darkness? For the first 50 pages or so, it seemed like the point of this book was to fulfill a three-book contract so that she could go on and write what she really wants to write. I really wanted to read a thoughtful book about the spiritual aspects of the dark. We need more books about darkness, but they should probably be written by people who have experienced it in ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
Great book exploring the "darker" side of spirituality -- the usefulness of "the dark night of the soul" and how integral it is to Christian theology and Biblical understanding as well as our own personal development. Easy read for anyone who is tired of superficial Christian thought that tells people that as long as they "pray" (the right way) all will be well. Sometimes we just have to sit in the dark for a while and see how God comes to us. ...more
Robin Warden
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Would read a book of blank pages if Barbara Brown Taylor's name appeared on the cover :)
Seriously, this is another great, insightful, soul-mining piece by BBT. Having just experienced my own time in the dark...wrought with questions, doubts, hopelessness...this book gave merit and worth to that time. As a dear friend shared (thank you Kate Watkins...for turning me on to BBT AND for sharing that nugget from Isaiah), there are things to be learned from treasures found in the darkness. Great book!
Joanna Beatty
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: refuse-to-finish
Perhaps one's level of edification by this book depends on the levels of darkness one has experienced in her/his own life. Personally, I've thus far found myself casting this work as "Dark-lite; Also Known As Darkness For Amateurs." That's harsh, I know. We can't judge one another's hardships and inner demons. However, it IS true that some experience more severe tribulations and/or more frequent trials than others, and we who struggle so are often in need of those who get it, on our level. Brown ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brown Taylor wants us to think about darkness as another way we learn about God and to experience Him, rather than as the opposite of light. This was a provoking as well as a comforting read. So many cultural and geographical reasons why we think about darkness the way that we do and as Christians we're sometimes dysfunctional in our attempts to see Christianity as saving us from the darkness. Instead, we should think about what we learn about ourselves and the world in and through it. ...more
debbicat *made of stardust*
I just loved this and really connected to it. I ended up adding the audio from audible so I could listen while I walked in the evening. She reads it herself and I am a sucker for an author narrating her book. She has a beautiful reading voice. I have read her book, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith about 3 times now (I have that one on audio too). I imagine I will want a re-read of this one too. I highly recommend it! ...more
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have read Barbara Brown Taylor's other books and had high expectations for this one, but it didn't really deliver on its premise--that there is spiritual insight to be gained from darkness (both spiritual and physical). I tend to agree with her portrayal of the church today as solar-centric and able to offer little more than sunny platitudes for those like St. John of the Cross who experience a dark night of the soul.

I failed to find any spiritual insight in the chapters devoted to a trip int
Michael Austin
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
Learning to Walk in the Dark is a book that took me to a lot of places that I didn't want to go, did so purposefully, explained what it was doing all the way through, and then made me glad that I took the journey. It was a difficult book to read, not because the prose is opaque (it is very clear), but because the ideas were hard. Because, like most people, I am afraid of the dark.

Taylor moves skillfully between darkness as an actual phenomenon, darkness as an emotional state such as depression,
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd really like to give this 3.5 stars if I could. There were so many wonderful insights here and I'm very glad I read this, yet I was hoping for more. More darkness. More depth. More anguish. I listened to this on Audiobook and Barbara Brown Taylor narrates it herself quite nicely. She definitely opened up the spiritual dimensions of darkness for me, but she could have gone farther, deeper. This felt a little shallow in places. She visits a cave, spends a long night alone in a cabin, but I was ...more
David Brazzeal
GREAT BOOK! Touched me in a deep place!
Stephanie Barko
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the March 2020 selection for South Austin Spiritual Book Group, which is meeting online for the first time in its 15 year history this month because of Covid-19. Folks who attend our Group are remarking ahead of our Zoom call about how timely the book seems, which is exactly the way I feel about it.

Barbara Brown Taylor is easy to read. Her writing style is contemporary and friendly--she's comfortable to get next to on paper.
Rachel A.  Dawson
I could not have loved this book more. After talking to a close friend (who happens to be a pastor at my church, an author, and one of the wisest women I know) about feeling like I was in a dark season, this surprise showed up on my doorstep. Such a gift. The words in this book just resonated SO deeply and in the most beautiful, poetic, personal, and meaningful way. I cannot praise this one enough. I've never read a book that just made it all make so much sense and also showed me how beautiful t ...more
Hannah Moerman
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 30-before-30
a book i’m sure i’ll come back to, over and over again. i dog eared so many pages with quotes and ideas i want to come back to + so loved BBT’s wisdom in this one.

two things i wish had been different about my reading experience:

1. i wish it was my own book so i could highlight and come back to things + ideas, not just in my journal
2. i wish i had savoured it more - i am racking up the late fines on this bad boy right now & i felt myself rushing through the last half.

so, those are the two thi
Steve Wiggins
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Learning to Walk in the Dark is a book I didn’t want to approach too quickly. I heard about it five years ago and wanted to read it right away. Instead I waited. Barbara Brown Taylor is a fairly well known cleric and scholar. A former priest in the Episcopal Church and a professor of religion, she is well versed in spiritual practice and gifted in spiritual writing. One need not be religious to appreciate this honest little book. Brown Taylor asks why we are so discouraged from exploring the dar ...more
Tricia Culp
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-life
The premise of this book is that we have injured ourselves though “pure solar Christianity” - the teaching or culture that a strong faith will rescue us from all “darkness” - not just evil, but sadness, loss, pain, and struggle - and one of our spiritual goals is to be delivered from those things. This book asks the question - what if, instead, there are things we can only learn in the dark? And what if by avoiding the dark so belligerently we are hampering our growth and ultimately our peace. W ...more
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I noticed this book laying on a table marked Christianity at Barnes & Nobles. When I flipped the hard cover over and read the summary on the left page I was drawn to it immediately. The book is good however, I felt at times it was a struggle to read. The book itself did not grab me and hold my attention as the summary did. I was hoping for more of a personal experience and from the heart. The book is good but I felt it was forced writing & had to many references as well as quotes. I felt like I ...more
M Christopher
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
An engaging read, I finished in one evening. Barbara Brown Taylor writes beautifully and here she grabbed my attention with a topic that appealed to both the child and the adult in me. Why are we afraid of the dark? What does this mean about our physiology, psychology, culture, and spirituality? Those who are subjected to my weekly musings from the pulpit are likely to hear my ruminations on this book as early as this Sunday as I consider the interplay between belief and unbelief, or as Rev. Tay ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book and I have to say that I was disappointed. For a book about the depths of literal and metaphorical darkness, I found it shallow. The book talks about darkness without ever actually going into it. As the reader, you spend time with her contemplating the lack of physical light, but no time contemplating her own interior darkness or anyone else's. Sad that a topic so rich with spiritual nourishment led to a book that left me feeling full of empty calories. ...more
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love Barbara Brown Taylor and would pretty much read anything she wrote. I was amazed to see her on the cover of TIME Magazine for this book. “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light...”
Marian Beaman
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark is the best book about exploring darkness I have ever read. In fact, it is the only book on the topic I have encountered. Early on, the author warns that her book is more of a journal than a manual, “focusing on spiritual practice rooted in ordinary, physical, human life on earth, like going for a walk, paying attention to a tree, hanging a load of laundry on the line, and treating other people like peepholes into God.” How can we develop the c ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved listening to this, both for the content and for the peaceful sound of the narrator/author's voice. I've always been afraid of my own dark emotions, so this was a thought-provoking and gentle continuation of the work I've been doing in my own heart and mind to reimagine the "dark" emotions and lessen my fear. I love thinking about the passages of Scripture she highlights that talk about the dark and look forward to reading Scripture through that lens, too. Taylor draws on so many interest ...more
Jun 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Learning to Walk in the Dark is not long, but it’s full of wisdom. As Barbara Brown Taylor explains: “Darkness” is shorthand for anything that scares me—that I want no part of—either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. She draws on a variety of sources, ranging from St Augustine to Pema Chӧdrӧn. BBT’s experiments in experiencing literal darkness seem somewhat out of place, but overall I like the book and plan to read some of the ...more
“Meanwhile, here is some good news you can use: even when light fades and darkness falls—as it does every single day, in every single life—God does not turn the world over to some other deity. Even when you cannot see where you are going and no one answers when you call, this is not sufficient proof that you are alone. There is a divine presence that transcends all your ideas about it, along with all your language for calling it to your aid, which is not above using darkness as the wrecking ball ...more
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another wonderful experience with my small group. This book stretched and challenged me and ultimately left me wanting to explore the dark and see a full moon rise (but not to visit the dark inside a cave :-) Again, Taylor's writing is beautiful; she crafts amazing sentences to share her thoughts. and again, I read this book with a pencil and nearly all the pages are marked with underlines, words, exclamation points, stars, or simply hearts. The first part I marked with a heart is from the intro ...more
Shawn Birss
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-2017
Well... This book was... Nice.

It was nice.

I started reading it just before 3am, eagerly wishing to start it after so enjoying her previous book, Altar in the World. One reason I was so eager to finish that book, even in the dark hours of morning, was because I believed that if I was enjoying it so much, this book on darkness, Taylor's followup, must be even better.

It was... Nice.

I expected and hoped for Black Sabbath and Doom Metal and long months of loneliness and dread and fear. I expected
Kathryn Hall
Nov 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Saw Barbara Brown Taylor on Super Soul Sunday and was impressed with her, so bought this book. Loved the beginning. There are exquisite passages I found myself reading to friends. However the book rather devolves away from a rich personal exploration to what felt like "reports" based on intellectual research, and that the "assignment" was "darkness" so I kept losing interest. This was compounded by the author's apparently lifelong struggle with her ambivalence with The Church and its teachings, ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Barbara Brown Taylor examines darkness from literal, psychological and spiritual viewpoints. The part of American culture that encourages us to protect ourselves and others from "darkness" can also prevent us from examining our lives more fully, from doing the work that provides answers to who we are. Short, good read.

p.186: "The best thing I can say is that learning to walk in the dark has allowed me to take back my faith, removing it from the glare of the full solar tradition to recover by the
Christy Joy
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"It fits the way a shadow fits, because darkness is sticky. It attracts meaning like a magnet, picing up everything in its vicinity that is not fully lit"

I really enjoyed this book, but I keep having trouble describing it to other people. Taylor is frustrated by what she calls "solar spirituality" that "divides every day in two, pitting the light part against the dark part. It tucks all the sinister stuff into the dark part, identifying God with the sunny part and leaving you to deal with
Jack Terry
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not really sure why she wrote this book, and ultimately I don't think she is either. That being said, it is a decent primer into the combination of Christianity, spirituality and belief, and the presence of darkness, both physical and metaphysical. She touches on a lot of different ideas and ties them into the changing phases of the moon, but there is a lack of cohesiveness. Most importantly I never get a true sense of why she feels the need to explore the darkness, to challenge herself, and ...more
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wanted this to be a "how-to" guide on how to walk in the dark...instead it seems to be the author's experience with putting herself in literal darkness (in caves, dark nights, etc.). She is introspective, intelligent and grapples with a faith that I can believe in. In those ways I truly enjoyed the book. But, as far as my own walk, I'm going to have to keep navigating my dark night of the soul on my own.

"Sometimes the light is coming, and sometimes it is going. Sometimes the moon is full, and
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Barbara Brown Taylor is a New York Times best-selling author, teacher, and Episcopal priest. Her first memoir, Leaving Church (2006), won an Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association. Her last book, Learning to Walk in the Dark (2014), was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. She has served on the faculties of Piedmont College, Columbia Theological Seminary, Candler School o ...more

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“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” 49 likes
“ life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” 46 likes
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