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Learning to Walk in the Dark

Learning to Walk in the Dark

4.6 11
by Barbara Brown Taylor

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New York Times Bestseller

From the New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark provides a way to find spirituality in those times when we don’t have all the answers.

Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our


New York Times Bestseller

From the New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark provides a way to find spirituality in those times when we don’t have all the answers.

Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. Doesn’t God work in the nighttime as well? In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” She argues that we need to move away from our “solar spirituality” and ease our way into appreciating “lunar spirituality” (since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes). Through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most.

With her characteristic charm and literary wisdom, Taylor is our guide through a spirituality of the nighttime, teaching us how to find our footing in times of uncertainty and giving us strength and hope to face all of life’s challenging moments.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Taylor (religion, Piedmont Coll.; An Altar in the World) continues her unconventional, outside-the-pulpit Episcopalian ministry, so successful in her best-selling Altar, by showing readers how she has learned from the darkness: learning to cross the street as if blind; looking for God's nocturnal appearances in the Bible; wondering at the Black Madonna; and contemplating the dark night of the soul. VERDICT Taylor writes with consistent charm and an unobtrusive faith in God; her work is certain to appeal to some church groups and to fans of Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott.
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/10/2014
On the cover of Taylor’s well-wrought guidebook, the light of the moon gives trees slim shadows, poppies bleed on the ground, and an owl gazes, as the book’s title laces itself among the trees. Taylor (An Altar in the World) observes these moonlit elements well: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light...,” she writes. Ever the teacher (Piedmont College and Columbia Theological Seminary), she passes on her knowledge, whether purposefully studied or accidentally absorbed, of living with loss. Among these lunar lessons are antipathy to “full solar spirituality,” that is, seeing God as light alone, leaving dark to the devil; and sympathy toward the ever-changing moon (imagined as a Sabbath bride, she mirrors the soul better than does the steady sun). Taylor considers “endarkenment,” light bulbs, blotted stars, and Our Lady of the Underground beneath Chartres Cathedral. Taylor’s intimate voice makes good points and asks good questions, especially in the last chapter’s dialogue. She writes exemplars of exposition (narration, description, argumentation), and pens poetry in her similes and metaphors. Agent: Tom Grady. (Apr.)
Shauna Niequist
“Reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing stuns me, challenges me, and heals me, both with the beauty of her prose and the depth of her wisdom. A gift to every person who’s felt the darkness but not had the words to articulate it… A truly beautiful book.”
Lauren Winner
“Beautiful. Profound. Nourishing. I have needed to read this book for a long time.”
Sharon Salzberg
“Eyes wide open, Barbara Brown Taylor has written a precise and evocative field guide to the dark. Exploring the complex and generative terrain of twilight and absence on her own terms, she generously includes us on her journeys, and encourages us to make our own.”
Kansas City Star
“Taylor seems simply incapable of writing a bad book. . . . A wonderfully gifted Christian writer and speaker.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“In this season of national want, Barbara Brown Taylor serves up beefy soul food.”
National Catholic Reporter
“Taylor’s spiritual reflections are original, bringing fresh air to her topics because her spirituality is steeped in everyday life while illuminated by the ancient Christian spiritual tradition.”
Thomas Lynch
“To the parish of the seldom, or sorely, or no longer ‘churched,’ to the doubting and dumbfounded and blessedly vexed, Barbara Brown Taylor tenders an elegant epistle.”
Raleigh News and Observer
“Barbara Brown Taylor is a favorite among church members who struggle to connect the sacred and secular, the heavenly and the earthly. These readers appreciate the candor with which she writes about it.”
Scott Cairns
“With calm confidence and hard won humility, Barbara Brown Taylor continues to serve our recovery of a whole faith, a performed faith, a lifesaving and lifegiving faith. With a delightfully deft touch, she replaces a wide array of false dichotomies with true coherencies.”
The Congregationalist
“Barbara Brown Taylor penetrates the religious clutter. She comforts. She revives our spirits.”
“Barbara Brown Taylor is one of our most important spiritual writers today.”
Tony Jones
“In the spirit of the great mystics, Barbara Brown Taylor has looked beyond the walls of the church and found...God. With her always winsome prose... we can confidently place ourselves in her hands; she is the most generous and gracious of spiritual guides.”
“An elegant writer with the common touch, Taylor is always a wonderful guide to the spiritual world, and this book is no exception. Here she encourages us to turn out the lights and embrace the spiritual darkness, for it is in the dark, she maintains, that one can truly see.”
CBA Retailers magazine
“Barbara Brown Taylor shows readers that dark times can be great times of learning. The former Episcopalian priest shares her experiences of walking through the dark in her own life. … She takes the reader on a journey to explore and understand the ‘dark’ better.”
Shelf Awareness
“Compellingly makes the case for why darkness is as necessary to our well-being as light. . . . A charming, witty and wise guide into the heart of darkness. . . . There is plenty here to ponder.”
Interfaith Voices
“Offers a different way of looking at darkness, not as something to be feared, but as something to be embraced.”
Time magazine
“Few souls are as synched to the world’s mysteries as Barbara Brown Taylor’s.”
“Few souls are as synched to the world’s mysteries as Barbara Brown Taylor’s.... Taylor writes spiritual nonfiction that rivals the poetic power of C.S. Lewis and Frederick Buechner.”
Spirituality & Health
“Taylor challenges our negative associations with darkness and our attraction to light in this thought-provoking new book. She draws on her own experiences—from exploring caves and experimenting with blindness, to her questioning of her own religious training and faith—to explore what might be gained by embracing darkness.”
The Covenant Companion
“Taylor offers no consolation for those who demand the banishment of darkness. But to those willing to enter the darkness and wait in silence, she gives hope.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Barbara Brown Taylor is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller An Altar in the World and Leaving Church, which received an Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association. Taylor is the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College, where she has taught since 1998. She lives on a working farm in rural northeast Georgia with her husband, Ed.

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Learning to Walk in the Dark 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
KitCatCF More than 1 year ago
I found this book refreshing, inspiring, and comforting. The author's use of imagery of darkness, both physical and spiritual, opened up my mind, heart, and soul in a way that light never could. I loved it so much that I loaned it to my pastor as soon as I finished it. I want to read more by Barbara Brown Taylor.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Reading Rev. Taylor’s words is an opportunity to sit with a person who: witnesses life (including her own), allows the truth of what she sees to Be, is able to translate that witness into a coherent narrative, then speaks that truth to the heart of her present time.  If this sounds like a definition of a Prophet, it is both accurate and applicable to this bright, curious, brave, inviting and truth-telling Pastor whose parish has become those who inhabit her physical orbit or who read her words. To be more specific, Barbara Brown Taylor has lived enough life to no longer care about the “correct” answers, she is learning to sit with the questions as if they were teachers.  This book is the next installment of chronicles in her journey of her rediscovery of what it means to “believe.” In developing the structure of the work, Rev. Taylor follows a cycle of the moon, beginning and ending with that celestial body in its “full” phase.  She uses astronomy, theology, folklore, myth and an amazing number of other sources to explore “dark” and “darkness.” She speaks to the possibility that “Dark” has gotten an unearned reputation as the host and representative of evil. The book is an exploration of how that reputation has developed and looks deeply at the benefits of darkness. From the near darkness of a full moon to the absolute dark of a cave, she is able to “lead a discussion” of possible definition of darkness, how we are affected by that dark and that definition and allows space enough for the reader to “learn” how different the world is when there is less light in their world. There is so much richness to be found within this books’ pages that the reader needs to be careful not to read too much of it too quickly or find that they have too much to digest in one sitting. She asks the reader to consider their relationship with “darkness” in ways that lead to meaningful confrontation of one’s Self.  “. . . our comfort or discomfort with the outer dark is a good indicator of how we feel about the inner kind.” (p.60). “. . . it is sometimes hard to tell whether you are being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down.” (p.67) “Sight and sound . . . . If I do not limit their access to me, I will grow such thick callouses that I am no longer capable of seeing or hearing things that really matter” (p.93). It bears being reminded that the author is speaking of learning to walk in the dark. The level of intimacy in this book is astonishing. I could find no instance of “other” language – each word was offered as if she and I were sharing a cup of tea, speaking of personal experiences so close and secret that they are recognized as treasures jointly discovered.  Her gift of taking such intimate material and making them immediate to the reader adds to the feeling of “shared moments” found regularly throughout the book. Her experiences became part of me as she spoke of family camping trips, spelunking adventures, reflections of life that too easily pass by. Such “present-ness” can (were) be too close, hence the need for frequent breaks for reflection and breathing. I will be reading this book for some time to come.  There is still so much I need to learn about walking in the dark.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed all the research that Barbara put into this book. Organ Cave walk was so interesting. It gave me a whole other perspective on being in the dark and darkness as opposed to being in the light. A welcome read. I had read Barbara's memoir, Leaving Church, which I liked very much. I would like to read her "An Altar in the World" next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book, Taylor talks about a wide variety of kinds of darkness and uses of the word darkness in perception, in psychology and in matters of faith and belief. With our excellent leader, a minister, we engaged in meaningful discussion of the book and of our own ideas, experiences, and beliefs as brought to mind by the book. The discussion was far more interesting and helpful to me than the book, but that discussion would not have happened if we had not read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been afraid of the dark until now. This book is a must read and a definite eye opener. I love this book. 
Library_ladyLNU More than 1 year ago
If you have ever been fearful of the dark or worried about what may be in the dark, Barbara Brown Taylor has written a book that is worth your time to read and ponder. She says that in this world of bright, shiny things, when sunny and radiant are the exemplars of what is good and “right,” we may well be overlooking an important alternate way to view the matter. Prof. Taylor points out that many of the most profound experiences that are presented in religion, literature and real life often occur in the dark—or at least what most of us think of as “the dark.” This is a work that is worthy of multiple readings both to savor the author’s glorious use of language and to contemplate the many profound thoughts that she offers. A useful Bibliography for further reading and study is presented at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love how Barbara Taylor talks about what she went through and how it is that you shouldn't be afraid of the dark. Very inspiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned that life is hard.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago