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In Praise of Retreat

A small retreat cabin in the woods inspired In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World, about the powers and pleasures of the ancient practice of taking a step back from society.


From northern Ontario to Scotland, from Brazil to India, Kirsteen follows in the footsteps of history’s hermits, monks, pilgrims, naturalists, artists, creative thinkers and free spirits--and falls for the solitary and reflective side of life.


Learn more below in Reviews; Media, Interviews & Podcasts; and News & Events.


Shelf Awareness

"In Praise of Retreat—part memoir, part nature essay, part guidebook—is thoughtful, thoroughly researched and often refreshingly wry."

The Cyberlibrarian

“MacLeod is an excellent writer, and her descriptions of her own retreats, from her cabin in the woods, to the wild places in the Scottish highlands make the reader yearn for some time away .… Articulate, well written, and profoundly challenging, I recommend this book to help us all navigate these uncertain times.”

CBC All in a Day Ottawa, Book Panel recommendations, September 2021 “I really enjoyed it and found it inspiring…very informative and relaxing… worth checking into,” says Ann Archer, a manager at the Ottawa Public Library. [In Praise of Retreat starts at 7.08 mins].

Story Circle Book Reviews, by Mary Anne Moore
“Insightful and educational with delightful doses of good humour…a wonderful book full of the gifts of retreat and pilgrimage as well as their challenges, with insightful passages on which to reflect—all of it, it’s own sort of sanctuary.”


“In this fascinating—and vicariously soothing—memoir, yoga instructor Kirsteen MacLeod discovers the quiet pleasures of wilderness cabins, spiritual sojourns, yoga retreats, and more.”

Open Book, by Stacey May Fowles
"The work of being alone, of escaping both external and internal noise, is very real, and hard, and necessary. We live in a time where we tend to, as MacLeod puts it, 'over-venerate the active and the social,' where intrusions are relentless and demands never-ending."

Quill & Quire
“MacLeod’s writing is clear, and her love for quiet, green spaces shines through in lyrical passages about life at her cabin. Her curiosity and passion make for engaging reading throughout the historical sections of each chapter…. The chapter on artists is particularly delightful, rich with anecdotes about well-known writers either loving or loathing the solitude of writing retreats…. It’s a book worth reading, one that would make a solid addition to a cottage bookshelf, to be pulled down and riffled through by lamplight on quiet summer nights.”

Winnipeg Free Press
In Praise of Retreat poses interesting, challenging questions.” “Amongst detailed accounts of retreat from the lives of Emily Dickinson, Rachel Carson, Leonard Cohen and other lesser-known figures, MacLeod examines her own retreat experiences. These stories of Ontario’s Hastings Heritage Trail, of a near-disastrous yoga retreat and of a sumptuous creative writing emplacement add verve and personality.”


this is not a review: ‘in praise of retreat’ by kirsteen macleod

“A gorgeous and enlightening read in which I’ve learned so much about ’emptying.’ Written in my favourite style, heavily researched but conversational in tone, like lunching with someone whose every word you hang on to the point your soup gets cold and you don’t care one whit. MacLeod knows exactly how to balance research with a good anecdote.”

24 symbols “Best books of the Moment,” In Praise of Retreat
“The perfect read for all those who are aching to get away from the noise and buzz of the city, or who are in need of a break from work, social media or society in general….If you cannot afford to seclude yourself entirely, this is the best next thing.”

"The book's pace is smooth, and its diction is beautiful. Engaging intellectual curiosity pervades the book's historical elements, and its storytelling has a strong sense of place...."

"Anyone looking for a respite from everyday busyness or struggling through quarantine will be inspired by MacLeod’s fresh perspective on the benefits of solitude."

"In this wide-ranging and deeply thoughtful book, retreat offers fearless self examination, intimate attunement to the present moment and a willingness to be utterly transformed— in other words, living on the edge."

Sarah Henstra, author of The Red Word

“This fascinating exploration of retreat illuminates the ongoing necessity of creating space to nourish what is sustaining. Beautifully written and endlessly engaging, In Praise of Retreat is the perfect book for our time.”

Helen Humphreys, author of Rabbit Foot Bill

Media & Interviews

Media, Interviews & Podcasts

Further Reading is a podcast from the University of King’s College MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. "Kirsteen joins us to talk about the creative process, the business of writing, and the sometimes-fuzzy lines between fiction and nonfiction. You can listen on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud."

CBC Ontario Morning: (In Praise of Retreat starts at 19 minutes); also appeared on Sirius radio's Canada Talks


CBC Here and Now Toronto book club with Gil Deacon: “In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World" is the title of Kirsteen MacLeod's latest book. She shared with Gill Deacon how the ancient act of stepping back from society to reconnect with a deeper part of ourselves is even more important today than ever.”

Global News: "That got really existential really fast!"

CBC Books: “Works of nonfiction coming out in 2021”


CBC Books: “20 books to get your mom on Mothers’ Day”


Kingston Whig Standard: "Finding a New Dimension"


60 Mindful Minutes: "The Undeniable Value of a Retreat" with Kristen Manieri, Apple top 100 social science podcaster 


The Globe and Mail's Winter Books Preview: "Celebrate the possibility of inner adventure"

Toronto Star/Hamilton Spectator: “New and notable,” "embraces the idea of being alone...a peaceful read..." Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star Books


Canadian Geographic: "An utterly engaging dive into our modern ways of retreat — where we go, why we’re drawn, and how it’s urgent"

Hamilton Review of Books -- Books and Beer, “What's Brewing This Spring?”


Publisher’s Weekly: “Don’t Fence Me In: Religion & Spirituality Books for 2021”

49th Shelf: "Why We All Need Breathing Space"


CIBA Books, Summer Reading for Adults selection

Better Me podcast, “Stepping Back to Breathe”: A conversation with Heather Ross about many subjects, including how retreating from society from time to time can, paradoxically, reveal ways we’re all interconnected.

The New Quarterly, Read the "Green Cathedral" chapter here:
"The cabin is a mile down a winding logging road, deep in the green forest..."


News & Events

Poetry "Writer in Residence" in the County
I’m honoured to have been selected for a fall 2023 residency in Prince Edward County at the Al Purdy A-frame.


In Praise of Retreat wins a gold IPPY!

Winner of U.S. Independent Publishers’ “IPPY” Gold award, 2021

Reading at Novel Idea

with author Pamela Mulloy

Nov 9, 2022, Kingston

Wild Writers Literary Festival
Finding Solace, Retreats and Reading
November 16, 2021, 7:00 - 8:15 PM, $10
From monks and hermits to poetic geniuses and long lost loves, join us for this lively talk about In Praise of Retreat, and Susan Olding’s Big Reader, hosted by The New Quarterly’s Susan Scott. View Wild Writers Literary Festival event poster.

Word on the Street
In Praise of Retreat with Kirsteen MacLeod
November 4, 2021, 7:00 MT

A conversation with Jonathan Jarvie, part of Lethbridge Library’s Reading Series.

See Word on the Street poster

Kingston Writers Fest

"Adventuring Within" On In Praise of Retreat
September 23, 2021, 2:00 - 3:00 PM
Kate Kristiansen talks with Kirsteen about the powers and pleasures of the pause!

"Building a Productive Writing Group" 
September 25, 2021, 11:00 AM  - 12:00 PM
Join the Villanelles to hear how a group may support your writing
Writers' Studio Seminar, $30

"Taking Care: How to Balance Art With Self-Compassion"
September 26, 2021, 2:00 - 4:15 PM 

An inspiring session on creating artistic sanctuary, and antidotes for common artistic afflictions
Writers Studio Master Class, $30

Blue Metropolis
Rest & Recuperate: from Taiwan to Norway to Bancroft Ontario
View this panel discussion from the Slow Series 2021, hosted by Shelley Pomerance, with Kirsteen (In Praise of Retreat), Jessica J. Lee (Two Trees Make a Forest), and Torbjørn Ekelund (In Praise of Paths), “exploring our relationship to nature and the desire to reconnect with the self."

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