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Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,060 ratings  ·  122 reviews
The author of Anam Cara describes, in his unique style, rediscovering the true sources of compassion, serenity, and hope in our lives

In this eagerly awaited follow-up to his international bestsellers Anam Cara and Eternal Echoes, John O’Donohue turns his attention to the subject of beauty—the divine beauty that calls the imagination and awakens all that is noble in the hum
Paperback, 261 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
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Average rating 4.47  · 
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Glenn Russell
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing

A beautiful book written by a beautiful man, John O'Donohue’s Beauty is filled with such inspiring words I found it difficult, almost inappropriate, to read even a chapter straight through since many lines invite us to reread and linger with their fragrance for days. Here are several such lines coupled with my brief comments, taken from two of my favorite chapters – The Call to Beauty and The Music of Beauty:

"Indeed, the subtle touches of beauty are what enable most people to survive. Yet beauty
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare books that sound as though it were written by an angel, and the sort of writing that cannot be paraphrased. It left a gentle impression upon me and even more, it renewed my perception. After I read just the beginning, an ordinary task like preparing lunch felt sacred to me—I relished the shapes and colors of spinach leaves. "Beauty visited me", and through the perception O'Donohue awakened in me, I know beauty's experience is an interaction between seer and seen.

The bo
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”

In written form, this would perhaps be the kind of book one would read now and then when the mood struck. A book to set a mood, a book to have you sit a spell and ponder, as my grandfather was wont to say.

This was the first audiobook I bought, after I read my goodreads friend Glenn’s review sometime last
Geoffrey Gioja
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes his other work, or who enjoys the work of Davud Whyte.
Shelves: john-o-donohue
I recently learned that my good friend John O'Donohue had died in his sleep in January 2008 while in Paris. We had not spoken since 2006. The last time we got together was in Galwey, Ireland in the Spring of 2004. I've downloaded every video and audio I could find on the Internet after spending a day in my own private Memorial Observance. What a sweet and yet critical soul! I have three transcripts and recordings of conversations that are each eight to fifteen hours long. While working at a prio ...more
Sep 25, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This is an author that came Highly recommended to me, so now I'm waiting to read the book. But here's an excerpt from his "Reflections":

"Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realise how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
A much needed treatise in an age where beauty has been exploited; sexualized, commercialized, and objectified. If you are wishing to reconnect with the sacredness of beauty - your own, others', and that of the world around you - then delve into this sincere attempt to honor that which is a true gift to humanity. ...more
Howard Franklin
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As an author who fancies that he has some facility for using language, reading Beauty was truly a humbling experience. In fact, other than Thomas Wolfe of You Can't Go Home Again fame, in my sixty-nine-year reading odyssey I have never encountered a writer with such a gift of language as John O'Donohue, and I highly recommend reading Beauty to experience of the author's incredible ability to depict the various aspects of beauty and describe thoughts and feelings about it alone. Add to this gift, ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
A book to linger over. And I did, more mornings than not, for a year. O'Donohue sees everything from a different perspective- a more true, hidden, mystical perspective that I hope leeches into me every time I open the book.
The 'Music of Beauty' and 'Color of Beauty' were memorable but clearly were written by a poet/author peering into these areas rather than looking out from. Some of the facts about color weren't accurate so they had a misplaced mysticism that flared up my skepticism and outed
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
O’Donohue had an ability to exquisitely explain mysterious and philosophical concepts (that I’ve tried to foggily contemplate) in a poetic but still accessible way. He gives well-crafted words and explanations to things I could not find words for myself. One might think this book is about visual beauty, and it is in some ways, but it is more comprehensively a book about life and the human experience. He reminds readers of the deeper layers of goodness and beauty that underlie creation and life. ...more
Michael-David Sasson
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I really, really like O'Donohue's poetry and I could tell that the quality of thinking and philosophical exploration in this book of essays is one piece of what allows him to write the high quality poems/blessings that he has. Still, I didn't find the essays particularly compelling or useful.

There were some snippets and I'll quote some of those below but they came at too great a distance apart often -- if they had come in 75 pages rather than 250+ I would have rated the book more highly:

p8 Noti
Mary Karpel-Jergic
John O'Donahue writes beautiful prose. The words all sit in lines like strings of lustrous pearls. This book is no exception to his style and offers the reader a glimpse into an enchanted landscape beyond the everyday.

If you are a materialist and consider consciousness as simply a by-product of brain activity then this book is not for you, but if you have a nagging sense that there IS something more, something precious and wonderful about life and death then John's words will be be a balm to you
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read a lot of books. John O'Donohue has this talent to put the beauty of the world into words. His book is very simple to read, broken into simple sections that can be read daily or all at once. He points out the beauty of the simplest things that most of us don't notice but have always been there. His book will jerk your emotions and show you the world in different light. THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ. ...more
Ryan Greer
Apr 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book filled with wisdom. Overpowering at times, but saturated with thoughts meant to pierce the soul. I read it like a devotional, which worked much better than trying to power my way through at a regular pace. If you're looking for deeper insight into the nature of beauty, I would highly recommend it. ...more
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mystically beautiful book.. it sometimes transported me into a different state of being and urged me to question myself about various things. This book will always embellish my bookshelf, and I will probably come across as cheesy saying this but I will always turn to this gem of a composition. "When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming" ...more
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vintage O'Donohue. A look and listen in the depth we usually associate with O'Donohue. Relationships, nature, music, art, language, are all part of the embrace. His own language is itself a thing of beauty. The additional delight in this audio version is the celtic music opening and concluding each chapter and the text is read by John himself. ...more
May 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
John O'Donohue has a magical way of writing what you never knew you always knew. This book stimulated my mind and stirred my soul. ...more
May 03, 2009 added it
This book is a delicious journey. Every paragraph is full of insight and original thinking.
I need to read this book again immediately. Every sentence is poetically crafted and it's just a beautiful book. ...more
Will Jeffries
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
All of John O'Donohue's books are good. I particularly enjoyed "Anam Cara".

For more information on John O'Donohue, go to:

Peace and Blessings...
Henriette Weber
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: self-dev
I couldn't finish it - after the first 100 pages where he starts to describe the beautifulness of the colors, i simply couldn't take it anymore, so I let it go. ...more
Collette Caffrey
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. It is so beautiful that it almost evokes an occasional tear. It is a book for life. One that you should read parts of as you journey on this earth.
Stephen Roach
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
John O Donohue doesn't just write about beauty, he writes from a vantage point within beauty. His words embody the beauty which they point us toward. ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Some of his sentences are clearly written by a poet. Some good stuff here, but as an overall book it was a little scattered...
Bobbi Salkeld
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Either John O’Donohue knew everything or he was full of it. Either way, these big ideas are beautiful.
Jungsook Chung
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am so glad that I was able to finish 'Beauty: The Invisible Embrace' by John O'Donohue at last. I came across some of John O'Donohue's favorable quotations at FB. I wanted to know about him.
I borrowed three books written by him, but amazingly he was quoted several times by James Martin, SJ while I was reading 'Jesus,' one previous book I had read before reading 'Beauty.'

I was a little discouraged and disappointed with 'Beauty' at the beginning since it was rather difficult and abstract for me
It has never taken me this long to read a book. Never have I read and reread sentences, paragraphs and chapters and became this still in wonder. This book has accompanied through most of 2020 this far, and I intend to continue allowing these words to gently wash over my being whenever it feels parched, like life-giving rain. If I can only ever recommend one book out of all the books I have ever read, here it is. May you find beauty, and may it find you.

A Blessing for Beauty, by John O’Donohue

Andrea Levin
O'Donahue was a former Catholic priest with a PhD in philosophical theology. He was also a poet. Even though I am not totally aligned with him theologically, I found lines on nearly every page of this book that made me swoon -- SWOON so hard while drunk on the beauty of his language -- that I know that I will revisit this book many times in the future. This book explores the various dimensions of beauty - nature, music, art, love, spirituality, etc. - through philosophical essays and poetry. Bec ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I looked this book up after listening to a gorgeous conversation between O’Donohue and Krista Tippett on the “On Being” podcast. While I found O’Donohue’s words had more power for me when I could hear him speaking them, I still enjoyed this book. Each chapter contains a loosely connected collection of meditations on a particular aspect of beauty, and the book glitters with keen observations of the subtle workings of the mind and gaze in the presence of beauty. Sometimes I wanted more structure f ...more
Ben Lerner
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, soothing
In a time of instant gratification and ceaseless striving, listening to this book was a blissful reprieve. I first heard John on a podcast and I was very taken by his steady, serene reverence for the divine. He has a knack for dissecting common experiences with his poetry and giving you a new perspective on them, such as on the shifting relationship between heart, mind, and self as one grows older. For the best experience with this book, I would recommend ...more
Katie Crommett
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an inspiring and mesmerizing book to listen to on Audible as it was narrated by John O’Donohue (who passed in 2008). The book is presented in his narration more like a series of talks than a straight reading. His voice has a lyrical cadence and an Irish brogue that will stay with me when I look at the world around me with new eyes, to appreciate the beauty that we live among. It’s as if I can hear his voice narrating the scene around me, pointing out the beauty in everyday life. His wor ...more
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John O'Donohue, Ph.D., was born in County Clare in 1956. He spoke Irish as his native language and lived in a remote cottage in the west of Ireland until his untimely death in January 2008. A highly respected poet and philosopher, he lectured throughout Europe and America and wrote a number of popular books, including Anam Cara and To Bless the Space Between Us.

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“What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation.

When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.”
“When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.” 41 likes
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