Ensouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer’s Life by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Ensouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer’s Life
Stephen Harrod Buhner
Inner Traditions (2010)
ISBN 9781594773822
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (10/10)


As an author of nonfiction books and working in the publishing industry, I was excited to have the chance to review Stephen Harrod Buhner’s “Ensouling Language.”  Knowing he will come from a place of empowerment and encouraging the writer to seek guidance from within, I set forth to read the 463-page book.  This book is deep and will have you contemplating as well as “adjusting consciousness.”

I’ve heard many authors say that nonfiction is easier to write, however, Buhner has a  different take on it.  He states “They’re wrong but it is easy to understand why they think so.  Mostly, it’s because the majority of nonfiction writers take the easy way out and produce poor work.”

Buhner suggests to writers go within and get into feeling about what is written.  He encourages us to feel the inhabited and uninhabited words, and recognize ensouled and unensouled words.  He advocates show, don’t tell. As well, Buhner suggests we go into a writing trance where “the substance of the mythic world flows into the book.”  Basically, we, as writers have to connect with the soul of ourselves and that of the reader.

Although I feel Buhner has a lot to offer, I found “Ensouling Language” overwhelming.  I agree with him that we have to get in touch with our own inner being before we can touch the souls of readers; however, for me it was just too much information.  As well, I believe for me a workshop would have had more impact than the book itself.

But, that said, I can claim that “Ensouling Language” is an important book that encourages inner reflection before and during writing as well as focusing on the feelings of the reader. The technical proponents of publishing are addressed and intertwined throughout giving the writer a glimpse into the “heart of writing.”

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