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Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  3,008 ratings  ·  382 reviews
Kathleen Norris had written several books, yet she couldn’t drag herself out of bed in the morning, couldn’t summon the energy for daily tasks. Even as she struggled, Norris recognized her familiar battle with acedia. She had discovered the word in an early Church text when she was in her thirties. Having endured times of deep soul-weariness since she was a teenager, she i ...more
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Riverhead
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Cindy Rollins
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Since so many people are reading this now I thought I would pull my old blog reviews out of storage and place it here.

Post 1

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life

Dante's Inferno Canto 7

Once we were grim
And sullen in the sweet air above, that took
A further gladness from the play of the sun;
Inside us, we bore acedia's dismal smoke.
We have this black mire now to be sullen in.

I have never read Kathleen Norris before and I am pretty sure I would not have enjoyed reading her in the pas
Willie Krischke
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Norris says in the introduction to this book that she's been working on it for a long, long time, gathering materials, reading, and writing. I suspect that what she was waiting for - consciously or intuitively - was an organizing structure. She never found it.

"Acedia & Me" is full of lots of wisdom and reflection on the spiritual problem of depression/apathy/boredom/distraction, as well as a smattering of wonderful quotes and stories from church literature that has been largely forgotten by the
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
After digesting this book for a couple weeks, I realize the analogy is that like the Slow Food movement, this book is meant to be read slowly, in small doses, and savored inbetween. The title, for that matter, gives no real clue as to what it contains - especially the word, Acedia.

So what does it mean? Acedia - a tendency, a demonic attack, a spiritual manifestation, a temptation, a sin, that tends to cause apathy in the face of a call to action, bitterness in the face of conditions that call fo
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reread pp 1-80

"David enjoyed a passage I had found in Louise Bogan's memoirs, in which she writes of seeing out the window of a psychiatric ward, a woman hanging clothes and of 'wishing that I, too, could . . . hang out clothes in a happy, normal way.' When she walked with other patients at 'the hour when children begin to scent supper,' she observed an air of despondency came over the group. The women 'knew the hour in their bones. It was no hour to be out, taking an aimless walk'" (81).

"I am s
Sept 2014
After re-reading this book.

I would move this book up to a 4 1/2 star, so am rounding up. Very worthwhile.

July 2010
2010 Review --This is another of Kathleen Norris' books, published in 2008, so the most recent of the books she's written. I read "The Quotidian Mysteries" first, then this book, then her others in random order. The text of "The Quotidian Mysteries" is actually about a chapters worth of material in "Acedia and Me", so you see some of t
D.M. Dutcher
Jan 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian, biography
An erudite, if rambling book that tries to combine the writer's life with meditations on the concept of Acedia. Acedia unfortunately seems to be hard for her to define: it's a habit of mind that combines a sort of fatalistic resentment of things with laziness, and that affects people who are drawn to the monastic life. "I don't want to do anything, and I don't care!"

Mixed in with this are biographical snapshots of her life. Her husbands slow, hidden sink into depression, her life as a young woma
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
FABULOUS. I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed Kathleen Norris before I found this book in a thrift store. Then, it turned out the local library had the audiobook version, with a cd that included a pdf of many of the quotes. This book helped me think through some topics. Here are some of my favorite quotes.

...making your bed is a form of showing hospitatlity to yourself...

physical work is the best way to fight acedia

You struggle with apathy because you have a great capacity for zeal

only worry abou
Nov 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, spiritual
I was disappointed with this book. It was just too uneven of a book, with moments when it really picked up my interest and passages that spoke to my heart, only to fade in a few pages to the repetitious descriptions of acedia. At times I just wanted to scream at her: go back and rewrite it all as essays.

I really wanted to hear more about her experience as a teenager, about marriage, death and spiritual growth. But she insisted on linking it all under the theme of acedia, and too often it felt m
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Oh this latest from K Norris is her best yet, at least to my brain. A little-known-to-the-modern-world wave of thought/behavior called Acedia is its focus. Here Norris has spared no effort, during the book's incubation over the last 20 years, at yanking Acedia out from its sly hiding places in her own life and subjecting it to a lasery investigation. This investigation includes the testimonies of men and women who fled the cities in the early Christian era for the purpose of creating labs out o ...more
Jason Pettus
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Christian author Kathleen Norris has long been fascinated by the ancient psychological condition known to monks as "acedia," and which was actually one of the original "Seven Deadly Sins" back when they were known at the beginning of Christianity as the "Eight Bad Thoughts." But what exactly is it? L
Karleen Koen
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
A philosophical book I didn't expect to like and be moved by. Acedia, an old sin of despair, is discussed. ...more
Rick Stuckwisch
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a challenging, insightful, and thought-provoking book. I found it difficult to read at times, because it is pointed and poignant in its observations, but even with that I found it encouraging and beneficial. The writing is poetically beautiful (not surprising, given that Kathleen Norris is a poet), yet it is straightforward and conversational, down to earth, and practical. I find it refreshing and easy to read, as though I were discussing real and meaningful things with a close friend. I ...more
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Cogdill
Nov 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Naked honesty is becoming. It's a rare and beautiful fashion, suited perfectly to the mind of a writer. Cloaked in this fashion, Acedia and Me may be the finest runway Kathleen Norris ever walks.

Revealing her struggle, and that of her late husband, with the depressive lassitude that can define acedia took enormous courage. A caring kind of mettle that comes from the heart of a writer determined to weave a legacy out of her pain, allowing reader after reader to take its comfort, to warm ourselve
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kathleen Norris has made an auspicious place for herself in spiritual literature, through her explorations with poetry, with place (Dakota), and her extensive time spent in Benedictene monasteries. Her most recent book is a study on acedia, defined as the absence of care. Acedia was one of the "eight bad thoughts" as defined by the desert fathers, and became known as "sloth" when the Catholic church defined seven deadly sins.
Norris acknowledges that this sort of torpor or boredom with repetition
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Kathleen Norris' 'Dakota' captured my attention for a couple of weeks five years ago. It opened my eyes to dynamics that still inform how I see and experience the world today.

When I saw the title and subtitle of this book, I felt I should read it. Norris, in her typical fashion (well-researched, highly personal, filled with grace, and humorous...not a bad combo!), presents a fascinating study on what ancient virtue-ethicists (monks, in this case) called Acedia. She struggles to translate it - it
I am having an incredibly difficult time getting through this book. It seems befitting that a book about acedia is so incredibly dull and unengaging; perhaps there is a lesson in there. I'm determined to get through it, as starting a book but not finishing it always seems wrong. I'm hoping it will get better. ...more
Cara Meredith
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a Kathleen Norris fan, so i'm naturally a little kinder in my review than others - but I've also experienced acedia (and not depression), so her hypothesis of their intersection or lack there of makes sense to me. I love how she puts the pieces of the puzzle together as she writes. ...more
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Can’t think of a better book to read during a pandemic. Or any time. But I’m always a sucker for KN. She’s just the best.
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Though almost everyone is familiar with depression, acedia is a much less well known affliction. Mostly a term used in the monastic community, acedia can be described as a type of emotional slothfulness. Everyday tasks become harder and more pointless to perform, and emotions are dulled almost to the point of desensitization. Acedia takes the form of an unsettled boredom that permeates every area of life, be it physical, emotional or social. In her new book, Kathleen Norris examines acedia in al ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it liked it
The book and its subtitle does a good job of describing its purpose and structure. It is supposed to be centrally about acedia, which Norris defines early on, but muddies throughout the text, adding definitions and details to expand her writing. But the initial definition is "the absence of care." "Acedia is the monk's temptation because, in the demanding life of prayer, it offers the ease of indifference." I especially like and am challenged by Aquinas' comment that acedia is not following the ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kathleen Norris is a bestselling author who blends memoir with Christian spirituality. Although books written from a theological perspective aren’t my first choice of reading matter, I have a profound respect for the ages-old wisdom of monks and other religious orders, and wanted to see how their teachings helped Norris, a writer like myself, persevere in her craft and weather life’s harsher moments.

Acedia is one of the seven deadly sins, according to Christian tradition. It manifests itself as
Skylar Burris
I lost this book when I was almost done with it, but I’m going to go ahead and review it anyway, under the assumption that the last thirty pages is not likely to change my evaluation. Acedia & Me is part textbook, part spiritual autobiography, part poetic reflection, part theology, and part socio-economic political musing. As a spiritual autobiography and poetic reflection, it offered much to think about and prodded my spirit to self-examination. I felt like I could relate to a good portion of t ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a very thoughtful, interesting book about the monastic concept of acedia, which is akin to spiritual sloth or laziness and has obvious connections to what we call depression today. Thoughout the book, Norris discusses her struggles in marriage; in pursuing the often-solitary career of a writer (as a freelancer who also must set her own deadlines, I can relate to this); and with her relationship to religion. Throughout she works through the differences between acedia and depression and th ...more
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
This Kathleen Norris book could well become a classic for researchers of depression and acedia. It is very thoroughly researched and is written in exacting prose, reminding me very much of works by Marilynne Robinson.

A few quotes:
"A friend, a professor of philosophy, observes that many depressives accurately perceive that they are living under conditions in which any reasonable person might be despondent. But, she asks with her customary acuity, can the same be said of acedia? Can it ever be con
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The heart of "Acedia and Me" lies in a quote 3/4ths of the way through the book: "A refusal to suffer pain is a refusal to feel love". Part memoir, part history, part theology, Acedia and Me is Kathleen Norris' exploration of a powerful dark force in her life, one of the monastic 8 bad thoughts, the "noonday demon" that kills joy and disengages people from the world. It's also a moving testimony to the love of her life, her late husband David, and to the power of goodness, grace, and love to sav ...more
Emilia P
Feb 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: churrrch, real-books
Well, Ms. Norris.

The not so great: as she admits early on in the book, this is a subject that she wanted to write about for a very long time, and it sort of shows. It's sort of a pulling together of disparate elements from her life interspersed and not that well blended with meditation on the roots and definitions of acedia. And you kind of have to have read some of her other work to get the spiritual mindset she's coming from, which is a little problematic. So -- she doesn't pull it together th
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I never knew what acedia was until I picked up this book. It means something like sloth, ennui, what the French called "le spleen anglais" in the 19th century; a weariness of life and of everything and everyone. According to Kathleen Norris in Acedia & Me, acedia was recognized as one of the deadly sins in the Middle Ages, but unless you're a student of monastic disciplines you probably don't know that. She is, and was able through her studies to identify herself as a frequent victim of acedia.

Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
I listened to the author read this one, and I'm sure my opinion is somewhat colored by the fact that she is not a particularly good performer, and she has a fairly grating voice. Nevertheless a very interesting book--taking acedia (roughly the Deadly Sin of sloth) very seriously and in fact taking all the deadly sins the same way. She traces its history from one of the eight bad thoughts of the 5th century desert fathers (and, she invariably adds, mothers, although there were precious few of tho ...more
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have only read one other book by Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk. I loved that one and I appreciated this one because it filled in some of the gaps in her personal life that I had wondered about (what was her husband up to while she was spending so much time in that monastery? - and what did he think?). I liked her exploration of acedia and I have struggled with it at times, but not recently at all. In that sense it was hard to relate. It seems like a writer's life (or a monk's) would be hi ...more
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Interesting Reviews 1 29 Oct 08, 2008 08:30AM  

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Kathleen Norris was born on July 27, 1947 in Washington, D.C. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as on her maternal grandparents’ farm in Lemmon, South Dakota.

Her sheltered upbringing left her unprepared for the world she encountered when she began attending Bennington College in Vermont. At first shocked by the unconventionality surrounding her, Norris took refuge in poetry.

After she grad

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