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How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  962 ratings  ·  192 reviews
The opening lines of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri launched Rod Dreher on a journey that rescued him from exile and saved his life. Dreher found that the medieval poem offered him a surprisingly practical way of solving modern problems.

Following the death of his little sister and the publication of his New York Times bestselling memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Lemin
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Regan Arts.
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David Huff
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So often it seems we encounter certain books at just the right time, and such was the case for me with Rod Dreher's "How Dante Can Save Your Life". My son Matt and I have been doing a buddy read through Dante's "Inferno", which has greatly whetted my appetite for the remaining volumes of the Divine Comedy, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Dante's masterpiece was one of those reading projects I never got around to tackling in school, and I have been amazed at the depth, beauty, complexity and imagery of ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Read this book. I was completely taken in by Dreher 's experience of reading Dante and how it became a map for his life. It taught him how to be alive, how to be healed, and how to forgive. I journaled throughout this book, I bought a copy of The Divine Comedy to begin reading, and I cried a lot. It mirrored parts of my own life and echoed a truth I know. Suffering in this life is not merely to be endured courageously. It is to be transformed into love and communion with God. I will count this a ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I follow Rod Dreher on Twitter, read his previous book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and read a lot of what he writes for The American Conservative, so when he began blogging through The Divine Comedy I read his posts on it with great interest. Dante’s Comedy is my favorite book and one I’ve read and reread for many years. When Dreher announced that the Comedy would be the subject of his next book I was elated, and preordered a copy. I couldn’t disagree with the title: How Dante Can Save Your ...more
Amy Edwards
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rod Dreher stood in a bookstore, browsing through books, never guessing that his next move would change the course of his life. He pulled a copy of Dante’s Commedia off the shelf and opened to the first pages and read,

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
For the straight way was lost.

And with that, Rod Dreher was unexpectedly drawn into one of Western Civilization’s masterpiece works, Dante’s Inferno. He would descend with Dante into hell, climb with him the mountain
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Aug 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Self absorbed writer with little command of the topics under discussion. A lot of preaching and advice and the book reads as if it's a cross between the twelve steps of AA (alcoholic's anonymous) mixed with Jimmy Swaggart's Pentecostalism. I really didn't need the author's preaching and platitudes and his shallow approach to God and religion derived from his incomplete understanding of philosophy, history and religion.

For the right wing anti-humanist (which this author is) beliefs come before r
Ben Smitthimedhin
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography-memoir
How Dante Can Save Your Life, or Why Does My Family Hate Me, Can't They See It's Them? and Other Sermons with Tidbits On Why I Left The Catholic Church.

I was surprised by how little this had to do with Dante and how much this was really just a memoir about Dreher's family. Not that I mind memoirs, but Dreher's uncharitable portrayal of his family as people who just can't tolerate difference of opinion is also a bit off-putting. His characters are also kind of uninteresting, which may be due to h
A more accurate title for this book would be "How the Orthodox Church Saved my Life" because this is Dreher's spiritual autobiography showing his progression from Methodism to Catholicism to Orthodoxy. Dante's The Divine Comedy was an integral part of that journey, helping Dreher to find the deep healing needed for family wounds he was bearing.

I appreciated Dreher's good writing and his ability to make Dante seem less daunting. I think the average person might be turned off from the mystical/Or
Justin Lonas
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dreher has cooked up a very interesting blend of confessional memoir, literary commentary, and spiritual help, and it works astonishingly well. Each of these styles independently can be difficult to render engaging to readers, but the whole is strengthened by the inclusion of all three.

Crucially, he takes us on an instructive journey through his own struggles and spiritual healing without bluntly prescribing any canned self-help quick fixes. Few things are more unhelpful than books in which auth
Ali M
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am a fan of Rod Dreher and I thoroughly enjoy reading his writing over at The American Conservative He is an excellent writer, he is thoughtful and consistent in his worldview and sincere in his beliefs. Of course, that simple statement does not even begin to encompass what a great influence Dreher has on the modern conservative movement. But that is not what this book is about. This book is about Dante’s famous poem and about Dreher’s personal journey ...more
Heath Morber
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I've enjoyed Dreher's previous two books (Crunchy Cons and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming) and really thought this book would be great; he's a fine writer and I LOVE Dante.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. The book was fine but I struggled with the following:

--Dreher is straightforward at the beginning that this is a self-help book . . . each chapter ends with a small section on "here's how my insight can help you, too." Now, I appreciate what he's trying to do here, but it this aspect
Laura Clawson
May 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Reading How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem, I found myself within a forest dark, with any way out partially muddled by Dreher's whiny navel-gazing. I picked up Dreher's How Dante, as a runner-up to his earlier memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life, but couldn't help that feeling that it was the same story...just expanded with a little more distasteful familial jab. The salvific reverence ...more
Joy O’Toole
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this book from Netgalley and I read it slowly as I was reading Dante's Divine Comedy. Rod Dreher was at a low point in his life and just as Dante was lost in a dark wood at the beginning of The Inferno, Dreher was lost and ill and seeking for meaning in his life. As he read through Dante's masterpiece, Rod Dreher began to see what was holding him back from healing and grace and the love of God. This spiritual journey with the help of several mentors as ...more
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars. This book offers one of the most insightful looks at sin I have ever seen. When you live what most people would consider a generally decent life, it can be difficult to realize just how radically sin has affected you. It's even more difficult when many of your problems center around relationships in which you have been treated unfairly. Thanks to a stress-related illness--and with the help of "The Divine Comedy"--Dreher was forced to focus on how his own sins could be cont ...more
Daniel Threlfall
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Unexpectedly poignant, personal, and emotive. Dreher is an excellent journalist, but an even better writer of books that explore the soul. (It reminded me in some ways of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, especially in its more morally didactic passages.) There was less about Dante and the Comedia than I was hoping, and more autobiography of Dreher than I was expecting, so it made for a fascinating reading experience.
Matt Moser
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, moving, and wise.
There's a profound human depth to Dreher's reading of Dante. He reveals the Comedy as a work of life and spirit and struggle and grace. Take. Read.
Matt Manry
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book.
I finally did it. I finally made it through this book. Granted, it took a long shift at a telemarketing job to motivate me to read it, but it happened. It is finished.

There's no way to put this nicely: this should have been a hundred pages shorter. It's not that the arc was bad-I may have been the only kid in my high school class that loved Inferno, and to have someone write a book reflecting on their own spirituality using Dante's three poems as an outline was very cool. The parts where Dreher
Jul 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
This is really more of a Dante-themed memoir than a commentary on Dante (though you do get a bit of that within this book). As a Dante-themed memoir, however, it was quite good. While there are some valid questions to be asked about the wisdom of writing about family members who are either still living or who only died recently with the hard honesty that Dreher displays here, this was a moving book on what it looks like to learn to love difficult people without letting them take over your life. ...more
Audrey Babkirk Wellons
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
A worthwhile read; 4 stars instead of 5 mostly because I had so much frustration and anger (at the author, his conservative family, and the Catholic Church) while reading this. It's the tale of the author's spiritual journey (alongside Dante's) and it definitely brought *me* to a few realizations as well. It made me want to yell at Rod Dreher but also read more of what he's written.

Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Dante's Commedia may save your life but I wouldn't bet on this book doing the same. How Dante can Save Your Life is both interesting, annoying, and ultimately disappointing. If I had stopped in the middle of this book I would have rated it higher. It certainly started out well but, what can only be described as the author's whining, slowly degraded my view.

The seriously religious do not perceive reliable approximations of reality. They are drifting with their phantoms, looking for things that c
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Family conflict brings Dreher to a point of physical and spiritual ill-health that causes him to seek professional help. He dutifully meets with a therapist to discuss his woes, but ultimately finds healing through a combination of agents: a therapist, a spiritual mentor, and Dante's Divine Comedy.

Having just read through the Comedy myself, it was fun to see what struck Dreher. He and I seem to have similar traits, and I found myself marking passages to add to my journal, agreeing with his insi
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: This would be great BOOK CLUB read, especially with an accompanying read of the Commedia.
How Dante Can Save Your Life was utterly engrossing. It mixes literature, history, familial life, theology, and philosophy both poetically and practically.

While not a perfect book by any means (I disagree with Mr. Dreher on many of his Catholic-leaning views of purgatory, for example), I flew through this in a few days, and already anticipate rereading and revisiting this many times. I have a host of friends I am planning on sending a copy to.
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a great memoir. Although the author is Orthodox, this Is not a Christian book per se; although it does focus on The Divine Comedy as a poem filled with great insights to the human condition whether you are religious or not. The author does frequently discuss his own spiritual journey but it offers much to anyone who chooses to explore it.
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
90% whining about his dysfunctional family - 10% Dante. I would have preferred the reverse.
How Dante Can Save Your Life is one man’s account of how that Renaissance poet’s epic tale of a man who had lost his way helped him survive the darkest time in his life. By way of offering thanks, and reflecting on his journey, Dreher guides readers through Dante’s Divine Comedy, recounting both his and the Commedia’s narrator’s journeys. It’s a profoundly intimate encounter with poetry that moved me like few other books.

For Dreher, this is an incredibly personal book; he encountered the Commedi
Tim  Stafford
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
A personal testimony that combines a transformation from bitterness to thanksgiving with an exposition of Dante’s Commedia. Dreher is a very intense individual, and he describes his Louisiana family as more parochial and hidebound than anything I have seen. This idolization of family made Dreher sick (in his resentment for being judged and excluded as “different”), but also in his own inability to let it go because in his own perverse way he had internalized their judgment. Dante led him out (wi ...more
Aug 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this along with reading The Divine Comedy and really appreciated reading the two together. This book is more of a memoir by Dreher on how reading The Divine Comedy changed his life. I do like memoirs and this one was well written and thoughtful.
At times he was a bit whiney about his life, but he also was dealing with his complaints and his transformation was evident as the book progressed.
I recommend this to anyone, even if you don't want to read The Divine Comedy. Reading it might just
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rod Dreher is perhaps a bit melodramatic in his view of Dante, but I confess by the end of this book I might be as well. I've dipped into Dante over the years and made it through entirely once. I obviously need to do it again and really underline and highlight sections with my Google or book annotations on the characters and issues.

Highly recommended.
Rick Beideman
Mar 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Rod struggled with some things that I do not (we all have our own). The story of the intersection between his life and reading Dante (I had just read the Divine Comedy before this) was fascinating. It gives good insights into the Divine Comedy, with many direct references and historical background that was helpful, but it is more related to how he applied what he learned to his own life. I would recommend this book.
Italo Italophiles
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The subtitle of this memoirs/self-help book is The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem (Dante's Divine Comedy). The author offers an engaging read about his midlife crisis and how Dante's masterpiece helped him through it, along with help from his pastor, his therapist, his down-to-earth wife, and his supportive and accepting friends.

The book is presented as an inspirational text for those who might be tempted to make their own Dante pilgrimage, a journey of self-discovery and self-r
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Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has app ...more

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