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

Kierkegaard: A Single Life

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  443 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Discover a new understanding of Kierkegaard’s thought and his life, a story filled with romance, betrayal, humor, and riots.

Kierkegaard, like Einstein and Freud, is one of those geniuses whose ideas permeate the culture and shape our world even when relatively few people have read their works. That lack of familiarity with the real Kierkegaard is about to change

This lucid
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by Zondervan
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 Kierkegaard, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Kierkegaard

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  443 ratings  ·  95 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Kierkegaard: A Single Life
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the sixties, Soren Kierkegaard wasn’t the well-known trademark for honest candour he is today. And there was only ONE modern English Translation of any of his works widely available: that of Walter Lowrie.

Lowrie stood alone among American clerics in speaking out with Soren against the hypocrisy of the ‘comfortable’ churches.

The momentum has built up in his favour, of course, since then.

Nowadays organized religion attracts more negative than positive publicity. But, on the other hand, st
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of the best biographies I've read. Oftentimes, biographies-- especially about historic intellectuals-- are drier than dry, but Backhouse is not merely a biographer but a storyteller. The first half, which tells Kierkegaard's life story, is told in a conversational manner, with all the same intrigue as a novel. The latter half was more factual, more along the lines of a traditional biography. Very much looking forward to this author's future endeavors. ...more
Scott Nickels
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sitting around at 2:00 AM in the morning, mid 1970's, and my wife-to-be giving me her most excited thoughts about Soren Kierkegaard. She had tripped across him as a Religion minor in college. And she was on fire for anything-- and everything--she was learning about his philosophy on Christianity. Soren Kierkegaard - one of those giant names in Philosophy-- a brilliant thinker that I have always fondly name dropped as if I had read some of his greatest works.

Still haven't tackled his writings: h
robin friedman
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Single Individual

Stephen Backhouse, Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St. Mellitus College, London, has written a highly engaging and sympathetic introduction to the great nineteenth century Danish thinker, Soren Kierkegaard, (1813 -- 1855) in his new short biography, "Kierkegaard: A Single Life" (2016) Although Backhouse has also written detailed academic studies of Kierkegaard, his new book is written for a general audience. The book is in two parts. The first 200 pages of the boo
Paul Ataua
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Being an aficionado of Kierkegaard and guilty of constantly scouring the internet for new books on him, I was really excited about getting a hot off the press copy of “Kierkegaard: A Single Life”, and was spurred on by the Amazon blurb claiming that I could ‘discover a new understanding of Kierkegaard’s thought and his life’.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Where I come from when we get ‘a meat and potato pie’, we expect that there is more meat than potato, otherwise it would be a “potato and
Adam Shields
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To the best of my memory I have never studied or read any Kierkegaard. I have heard several people commend Kierkegaard: A Single Life and when I saw it on sale on audiobook I picked it up.

This is a brief, but good overview of his life. And because Kierkegaard is important primarily for his writing, there is good context for that as well. At the end of the book, there was short descriptions of each piece (1-3 pages) which was much more helpful and interesting than I would have suspected going in.
Michael Contreras
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it
An accessible, funny, concise, and sincere treatment of Kierkegaard, with a breakdown of his works at the end. I found myself feeling connected to Kierkegaard the person instead of just the thinker; the lonely, faithfully unfaithful (to established Christendom), courageous critic and friend of God that I grew to know in these pages.
Corey Wozniak
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Zing! ⚡️

Kierkegaard has had me praying, the past several days, to become a "more authentic self." I want very much to become a true Christian, an authentic witness, and not just a drone of 'Christendom.'

Instead of a review, I offer for your consideration the following quotes from Kierkegaard, and one from the author of this biography, Stephen Backhouse. These quotes are my loose transcriptions from the audiobook I listened to, transcribed to the best of my ability, but nevertheless probably imp
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
Kierkegaard lived a boring life, and this is a boring book. Which is a shame, because Kierkegaard's thought and writing are never boring. It probably helps to know a little about his abortive love life, his spats with family members, church leaders, and Christendom in general, but this only helps to frame his personality. I was hoping for something similar to Safranski's bio of Heidegger, where the development of Heidegger's thinking is described in tandem with biographical details. By contrast, ...more
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a straightforward biography about a notoriously complex character. To the self styled 'aficionado' who complained it did not go in depth into Kierkegaard's intellectual life, the author clearly states from the beginning that this book is not for aficionados. There are a few academic biographies out there already that do this job. This one is meant for non specialists who have heard the name of 'Kierkegaard' and want a good introduction to his life and influence on the modern world. ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have been waiting for this book for years and now Backhouse has rewarded my patience. The single best introduction to SK's life, thought and influence to date. It invites you to continue further by reading SK's works. If you choose to continue, be prepared to wade into deep waters. But you will be richly rewarded for your effort. ...more
Claire H
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is the most readable, fascinating biography I've ever read. Just a perfect mix of warm, urbane, articulate analysis of K's ideology, balanced with well-paced narration of his life's events and progression. I'm sad to see Backhouse hasn't done biographies of other philosophers because I would read them immediately if so. ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderful introduction to the life and thought of Kierkegaard. Perfect text and resource for undergrad students, or those coming to the philosopher for the first time at any stage in life.

If 'we read to know we're not alone', this is a book that will serve as that very sort of assurance.
Erin Henry
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Nice introduction to Kierkegaard. 3/4 of the book is a biography and the last 1/4 is an overview of his works. Great place to start if you are just learning about Kierkegaard.
Charles Puskas
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well-written account of the Danish Socrates, approaching him from different angles & perspectives. It also contains a nice overview of his works. My Kindle edition also had an audio component which I occasionally used as I read the text. Publisher's summary: Discover a new understanding of Kierkegaard’s thought and his life, a story filled with romance, betrayal, humor, and riots. Kierkegaard, like Einstein and Freud, is one of those geniuses whose ideas permeate the culture and shape our world ...more
Marcia Pottenger
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
While Kierkegaard's writing is somewhat convoluted, Backhouse has managed to strike a good balance between including Kierkegaard's own words, with Backhouse's interpretation of the more dense passages. This book is readable and engaging, while not losing the essence of who Kierkegaard was and what he believed.

Favorite quote: "Despair is the action of not willing to be one's authentic self. . . If one wants to find one's authentic existence, then one has to be rightly oriented to God. The action
Marc Sims
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

A helpful introduction to a famously difficult philosopher. I would have liked this book to spend more time on Kierkegaard’s philosophical development, and expand on his ideas more—but it focused primarily on his life. Kierkegaard’s writing at times strikes me as brilliantly profound; his life struck me as melodramatic and vain. I read this to help me begin reading Kierkegaard, and I indeed feel excited to do so. With all of the complex layers of irony and pseudonyms used in his autho
Ross Von Hausen
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Simple and succinct. Backhouse doesn't go into the level detail of other Kierkegaard biographies, but maintains a good pace covering most of the important information in a very readable fashion. This book is a great introduction to Kierkegaard for those unfamiliar with him. But, its bare bones treatment makes it of little to no use to any aspiring Kierkegaard scholars. ...more
Tom Anderson
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the most excellent book I have ever read. Written with such clarity and intrigue that you get swept up into it’s pages. Both a biography of Kierkegaard and an insight into his mind, philosophy and struggles.
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A good if fairly elementary guide to Kierkegaard's life and works. I found myself more interested in Kierkegaard, but the book managed to somehow take a compelling figure and, at times, make him fairly boring. ...more
Eric Black
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Backhouse's introduction to the life of Kierkegaard reminds me why I am so enamored with SK.

I am surprised to see Kierkegaard: A Single Life published by Zondervan, as said publisher is generally given to popular level works, and very little about Kierkegaard is written at a popular level. Even this biography reads more like an undergraduate introduction than something intended for mass consumption.

As for Backhouse's scholarship, this particular work relies very heavily on only two sources: Bruc
Alexia Polasky
Aug 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I received this book from Netgalley in enchange for an honest review.
This is one of the few biographies I have found to be fluid and easy to read.
I have to admit I hadn't heard of Kierkegaard before, but I was intrigued by the fact that he was being compared to Einstein and Freud (two of my favorite people to read about).
Scandalous and controvery surrounded him even before he was born. He is such a fascinating character because people either loved or hated him, but even his detractors found the
"Backhouse’s A Single Life is primarily about Kierkegaard’s life and writings. He provides both an engaging biography that is just a delight to read and a useful survey of each of Kierkegaard’s publications. His blending of Kierkegaard’s authorial life with his personal life shows us how the two shaped and fed off of each other. We can also see that the key actions of his life are not necessarily commendable (Kierkegaard’s treatment of his fiancée is particularly despicable), however closely the ...more
Gregory Johnston
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful biography of an extraordinarily complicated man. Kierkegaard's writings are very complicated and his life reflects his work. Backhouse does a great job at separating out the life as opposed to all the writings. If one is interested in the writings of Kierkegaard, there is a summary of his major works at the end of the book - very cool! But the rest of the book is focused on the man and his very strange and interesting life. Whether you are a philosophy minded person, atheist, ...more
Steven Peck
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've read three biographies of K previous to this. This was my favorite. Not the most in-depth, but gave the most human portrait of the lot. ...more
B. Rule
This is basically a novelization of Kierkegaard's life, and I don't mean that as a compliment. Backhouse paints a portrait that relies heavily on previous work by Hannay, Garff, Kirmmse and others, but is distinguished by focusing more on the impressions SK makes on others moving in Danish society at the time. Backhouse writes very vividly of the opinions of SK's nephew Henrik Lund, Bishop Martensen, Regine Olsen, and others, often by purporting to describe their internal monologue. It's engagin ...more
L.I.T. Tarassenko
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a cracking biography.

I put off reading this biography when I saw it had come out because I thought that I had read too many like it, however a client recently asking for a talk about Kierkegaard prompted me to pick it up to refresh my memory yet again.

I have read all of the English biographies of Kierkegaard (except for Carlisle's, yet)--those of Lowrie, Thompson, Hannay and Garff.

And having read all those others, I can tell you that Backhouse's biography is unique in its punch and flai
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent biography of the 19th century Danish philosopher who, though well-known in Copenhagen during his lifetime, was relatively obscure internationally until he rose to become a major influence on the western philosophy and theology of the 20th and 21st centuries, long after his death.

I once filled in a 'what philosopher are you?' quiz on Facebook. I came out as Kierkegaard, and considered that to be a mighty fine outcome, even though I really didn't know much about him nor had I read any
Patrick McGee
In the introduction Blackhouse gives the reason for writing this book: an educated friend of his had attempted to read about Kierkegaard before but found other books intimidating. This biography was written as a response, to lucidly give the reader a sense of SK’s significance. By this measure, the book fails. It’s interesting and readable — the subject is fascinating so it would be difficult to screw this up too royally — but it’s far too much a biography of someone whose life could be written ...more
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I ordered this book for our church library--so I got to read it first! Kierkegaard was a name to me and not much more. I am still puzzled and confused about this life and his thought but he is definitely more than a name to me now.

One quote: “His task was becoming clear: to winkle single individuals out from their crowds so they could relate to each other and to God as persons and not as groups." Not only is this a good summary of his thought but I loved the word "winkle." Yes, the author is B
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Fear and Trembling
  • The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It
  • Fear and Trembling/Repetition
  • Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy
  • The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution
  • Philosophical Fragments/Johannes Climacus
  • Can We Trust the Gospels?
  • The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Pensées
  • Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World
  • The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity
  • The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves
  • Totem and Taboo
  • Revelations of Divine Love
  • Addio fantasmi
  • Augustine: Conversions to Confessions
  • The Punished: Stories of Death-Row Prisoners in India
  • On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision
See similar books…
Stephen Backhouse is the Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St. Mellitus College, London. He has published a number of critically well-received books and articles on religion, history, and Kierkegaard, from the popular Compact Guide to Christian History (Lion Publishers) to the academic Kierkegaard’s Critique of Christian Nationalism (Oxford University Press).

Related Articles

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
117 likes · 20 comments
“The bishop has pushed himself to the limits of his reputation to avoid any connection to the distasteful funeral going on across the way. Yet he knows, along with all of Copenhagen, that the events below are all anyone is talking about. They will be in all the papers tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It is of paramount importance that these papers record that the newly minted Bishop of all Denmark, Hans L. Martensen, shepherd to the nation, was not present at the burial of his former student, now the scourge of all Christendom, Søren Kierkegaard.” 2 likes
“the poem Søren wished to have engraved on his headstone: In a little while I shall have won, Then the entire battle Will disappear at once. Then I may rest In halls of roses And unceasingly, And unceasingly Speak with my Jesus.” 2 likes
More quotes…