Archives For Kathleen Norris


This week marked the 70th birthday of poet and memoirist.  In honor of the occasion, we offer this introductory reading guide to her work.

We’ve ordered this list in the order that we think the books should be read, and we offer a brief explanation of why each book was included. We’ve included excerpts of most the books via Google Books.

1)  The Cloister Walk

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Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out:
(Kathleen Norris, Maya Angelou, David Dark, MORE)



Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader
To keep up with all the latest ebook deals,
be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook


Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life

Kathleen Norris

*** $4.99 ***

 *** Our 2008 Book-of-the-Year!

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Two excellent books that are being released in cheaper, paperback editions this week.  Now would be an excellent time to read them, if you haven’t already!

Acedia and Me - Kathleen Norris

Acedia and Me:

A Marriage, Monks
and A Writer’s Life.

Kathleen Norris.
March 2010.

Our 2008 Book of the Year!

[ Read our Review ]

[Buy the paperback! ]

Beyond Biotechnology:
The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering.
Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott.

University Press of Kentucky. 2010.

[ Read our Review ]

[ Buy the paperback! ]


The Other Journal has recently published a wonderful two-part interview with Kathleen Norris about her new book Acedia and Me, which you do not want to miss!!!

The Other Journal (TOJ): Hi, Kathleen. We’re really interested in your new book Acedia and Me. Also, a lot of our readers are going into church leadership positions or are interested in current trends in theology, so we are really excited to hear your perspective on things. Thank you very much.

Kathleen Norris (KN): Oh, great! I am interested, of course, in anything that talks about theology and culture.

TOJ: When I read Acedia and Me, I found myself feeling two emotions: relief and astonishment. I was relieved that someone had named this thing and astounded at how pervasive acedia had become. It was a little bit like finding one ant in the bedroom and then on further investigation finding a million ants in the bedroom! The more I read this book, the more I really did agree with the nun that warned you about the danger of approaching acedia—1

KN: Yes, I brought her up because to me, that’s it. Sometimes, some of the audiences I’ve had have said, “Is there anything positive about acedia that you can learn from it?” No. I think you just learn from the discipline. Like the desert monks say, “Prayer is warfare to the last breath.” So, there are some positive things, but I tell them that acedia is about the most negative thing I can imagine. It disconnects you from yourself, from other people, from God. It’s an incredibly negative thing. I really can’t think of a real positive spin on it. I can’t think of one.

TOJ: I was fascinated with the fact that it really is one of the most negative things yet also one of the most subtle and invisible things. It seems that it may also be the easiest thing to pass over; because it doesn’t wear a bright uniform, it blends in with the background really well.

KN: The best writing on acedia is really from the fourth century. You can’t beat Evagrius. He’s so good.

I, also, was so enchanted to find the great Canadian novelist Robertson Davies’s statement—if you look at my “commonplace book,” at the end of the book, I’ve included an excerpt from him. He really captures it, exactly what acedia is and how it works.2 He shows how it really kind of creeps up on us; we don’t quite know what it is and how devastating it is. And here he is, a fairly secular writer, I believe, in a speech he gave called “The Deadliest of the Sins,” and somehow, he understood what acedia was better than most—that is such a great description of acedia.

The reason that commonplace book exists, of course, is because I was collecting material on this for twenty years. I just kept finding things and then finding more things. That speech was actually a fairly late find for me. It was a speech he’d given, and it was collected in a book of his essays and speeches, miscellany kind of stuff.

TOJ: I remember following up on interviews with you over the years, and you occasionally mentioned that you were going to write a book on sloth.

KN: That was the easiest way to describe what I was trying to do, to talk about sloth, because if I said acedia, unless the person that I was talking to was Benedictine or a Trappist, they would have no idea what I meant. So that was the way I chose to talk about it. I would say sloth or spiritual sloth and then people could kind of connect, but normally the word acedia, for reasons I explain in the book, has been kind of lost to us. It’s not a familiar term.

 Read the full interview:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Acedia and Me:
A Marriage, Monks and A Writer’s Life.

Kathleen Norris.

Hardcover. Riverhead Books. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $21 ] [ Amazon ]


“Why are we so depressed?”

A Review of
Acedia and Me:
A Marriage, Monks and A Writer’s Life.

by Kathleen Norris.


By Chris Smith.


Acedia and Me:
A Marriage, Monks and A Writer’s Life.

Kathleen Norris.

Hardcover. Riverhead Books. 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

I have long harbored an intuition that the desert fathers and mothers have provided humanity with some of the keenest insights into the depths of the human conidion.  Kathleen Norris in her newest book Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and a Writer’s Life, demonstrates a similar intuition, as she probes the little-known temptation acedia, which – although its usage has all but ceased in the English language – is alive and well in our consumer culture.  What is acedia? Well, considering that Norris devotes a 40+ page appendix to laying out definitions and illustrations from historic and literary sources, one could say that acedia is hard to nail down.  In brief, acedia comes from Greek roots that denote a lack of caring and could be described as a sapping of energy, motivation and focus that often leads to a restlessness culminating in “a hatred for the place, a hatred for [one’s] very life [and] a hatred for manual labor” (xv) – to use the words of the fourth century monk Evagrius.  The desert monks found that acedia often set in during the heat of the mid-day hours, which also led some to refer to it as “the noon-day demon.”

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Halden Doerge reflects on
Slavoj Zizek’s new book Violence 


“I’m currently reading Slavoj Žižek’s latest book, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. The book it vintage Žižek, going off on somewhat related tangents frequently that are always thought-provoking and often entertaining. What is helpful about the book is the way in which it rightly complexifies talk of violence and peace. Žižek delineates three forms that violence takes, one which we are familiar with, and two which tend to happen below the surface of our perceptions about society. The first form of violence that Žižek describes is what we commonly think of as violence: the event of one person perpetrating harm on another. This Žižek calls “subjective violence.” It is clear and visible and it is always perpetrated by a guilty subject. The central thing to note about how we perceive this form of violence is that it is always an interruption into a prior background of tranquility and peace. First things are in a state of peace and then that peace is disrupted by an act of violence.  … ”


Read the full review: 

Slavoj Žižek.

Paperback. Picador. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $11 ] [ Amazon ]

Books and Culture reviews
Kathleen Norris’s newest book
Acedia and Me.

If Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett had waited a few years to perform their chart-topping hit so that they could first read Kathleen Norris’ new book Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, they might have described more insightfully the “half-past twelve” tedium they were escaping for a “five-o’clock somewhere” drink. And country music aficionados like me might have understood better why we seek diversions from the daily tasks that seem so mind-numbingly routine.

Ever since Norris first encountered the word acedia in early monastic writings twenty years ago, she has been mulling it over, wiping the dust off this forgotten concept. In the book that grew out of that preoccupation, she examines her life—and her marriage in particular—in order to illustrate acedia’s characteristics, dangers, and cures, contemplating the many facets of this vice with the help of monks, psychologists, philosophers, poets, novelists, and pharmacologists.  …”

Read the full review:

Acedia and Me.
Kathleen Norris.
Hardcover. Riverhead. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $21] [ Amazon ]
Neal Stephenson’s newest novel

“A telling moment comes early in Anathem, Neal Stephenson’s latest mind-bogglingly ambitious epic saga. On the planet Arbre, mathematicians and philosophers have been segregated from the rest of humanity for a very, very long time. They live in “concents” — an intentional conflation of the words “concentration camp” and “convent.” As the story begins to unfold, our hero, Fraa Erasmus, is giving an outsider a tour of the concent’s main attraction, a magnificent clock that depends on the sun for daily synchronization.

In practiced tour guide patter, Erasmus casually observes: “But even during a nuclear winter, when it can be cloudy for a hundred years, the clock doesn’t get too far out of whack.”

The concent’s residents organize their lives according to a time scheme in which not just seasons, but nuclear winters, come and go. Outside the concent’s walls, the rest of humanity goes about its business like so many fast-food- and video-game-obsessed mayflies.


Read the full review:

Neal Stephenson.

Hardcover. Wm. Morrow. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]