Posted in History, Male Author, Nonfiction, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Rewind ~ The Devil: A Biography


The Devil: A Biography by Peter Stanford

Cover via Goodreads

“The Devil’s deepest wile is to persuade us that he does not exist”.–Charles Baudelaire. But now, Peter Stanford’s highly readable survey brings the Devil to the forefront as he focuses on the Church, literature, folklore, psychology and history. The result is a lively account of our age-old response to the challenge of why evil and human suffering exist.(via Goodreads)

Recent discussions on Reddit have reminded me of one of my favorite non-fiction authors: Peter Stanford. I have a checkered history with The Devil: A Biography, the first book of his that I read. I checked it out from the library in 2002, didn’t finish it, and then purchased it at Powell’s in 2003*, but didn’t get around to reading it until May of the next year. This sort of thing is not uncommon for me.

From the 05/10/2004 entry:

I’ve moved on to reading more of Peter Stanford’s The Devil: A Biography. It’s an interesting book, it just got put aside. I can’t believe I started reading it in December of 2002, returned it to the library, bought it at Powell’s when we were in Portland last summer, and am just now getting back to finishing it.

The Devil: A Biography is a pretty inclusive look at the character and caricature of the devil. How much of the modern pitchfork-wielding devil is Biblical? Where did that image come from? What does any of that have to do with philosophies of evil and sin? It’s a pretty dense book, but one that’s engaging if pursued. Obviously, it took me a while to get into it, but I count it among my favorites.

* I’ve only visited Powell’s once, but this is what I hauled all the way home to AZ:

Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury
Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison
The War Poems by Siegfried Sassoon
Iona by Fiona Macleod
The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
(my paperback copy got wet in Florida, so it seems right that it should be replaced on another disc trip)
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
The Devil: A Biography by Peter Stanford
The Good House by Tananarive Due