No Man Is an Island
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No Man Is an Island

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,795 ratings  ·  141 reviews
A recapitulation of his earlier work Seeds of Contemplation, this collection of sixteen essays plumbs aspects of human spirituality. Merton addresses those in search of enduring values, fulfillment, and salvation in prose that is, as always, inspiring and compassionate. “A stimulating series of spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling to...live the...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 28th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1955)
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Reed
Having just finished No Man Is an Island, I can honestly say that it is one of the best spiritual books I've read. This is the second of Merton's that I've read. I took awhile to read it only because I was only reading one small part at a time. But lately, I've devoured it. He speaks to the depths of the spiritual life with compassion, honesty, and simplicity. Merton seems to strike the proper balance between mysticism and practical living, or rather mysticism in practical living.

The last chapte...more
Nicole
Amazing. Breathetaking. I adore this book. I have never given a book a five because there is no such thing as perfection but this book is more or less perfect it is that close. For a million hundred different reasons that is hard for me to explain. But I shall try, yes it is a religious book so it is about god or partly about god and our relationship to him but its not just about that. Its about us as humans and our flaws and our perfections, its about our connection to ourselves to others to th...more
Karin
I have been reading this forever. At first, I couldn't get past the all male language that he uses throughout. The only feminine language used is when referencing the Church, although in both negative and positive lights, the Church, in this book, is in direct conversation with God. Of the conversation partners, God, is always male.

So after I got over that - this book is AMAZING! Theology is inspiring and clearly comes from a place of experience and practice. Merton is both a practitioner, acad...more
booklady
Just one listen and that's not enough. Like Contemplative Prayer I am going to need to listen to this again ... and probably again and again before I can write a review. He's not easy! But taking a break in between to listen to The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals, while I read a bio about him as well.
Adam
A good read, but might be more frustrating than enlightening depending on where you're coming from. Merton does a great job of describing the spiritual plight of humanity (particularly the plight of humans who cultivate no sense of the spirit), but his prescriptive assertions are too narrow to be of much use to anyone who isn't already a devout Christian. As a quasi-skeptic (and seeker of truth) with a history with religion, I found plenty to think about and relate to here, but also plenty to qu...more
Michael Noes
I believe that love is the highest human aim. What Merton has done here is talk about love well. He exposes false love, and examines the mechanics of proper and pure love. For that, I would like to give him 5 stars, but that would do more to betray the relevance and timeliness of his message in my life than to attest to the work's literary merit. Not that the writing is lacking- Merton is a pleasure to read.

Many topics are covered in these essays, some of them more religiously specific than oth...more
Tabasco
Too abstract, too airy, too many vague references to other things that are never actually mentioned. The Bible has more than enough vagueness in itself, but that has also its own historic reasons. This was written 50 years ago and it gave me absolutely nothing that the Gospel did not already give me.
Come on, Catholicism is in desperate need of a sweeping reform, a fresh look at the same old truths, and it needs the oxygen of plain English talk, especially in our times. But these type of books n...more
Ali M.
An incredibly dense set of essays that need to be taken slowly, else you risk missing the full impact of Merton's wisdom. His words build, circle back, progress, and then hit a point of paradox that feels so true-to-life I sat there and reveled in the fact that someone had managed to express it with mere language. My favorite chapters were Silence, Being and Doing, and The Inward Solitude. I kept forgetting that I was borrowing a friend's copy of the book, so I would fumble for a pen to notate a...more
Megan
I really like Thomas Merton in something of an indescribable way. This will not stop me from trying to describe my love for Merton. When I read him I just think he "gets it". He says the most insightful brutally honest things and I feel understands what I understand the search for God and truth to be, especially in the context of being an active Catholic. And by active Catholic, I mean he doesn't take his faith for granted but is actively engaged in probing it's meaning. No Man is an Island is m...more
djean
Have wanted to read this book for a long time and finally did, and was not disappointed. Although he was a Catholic, Trappist monk,many people draw upon Thomas Merton's quotes and meditations that evolve from his study of Eastern religions. However, I found this book to be very orthodox in its presentation of the tenets of Catholic Christian theology, especially in his writing on redemptive suffering, and the importance of silence and solitude in our lives. All-in-all, I would definitely recomme...more
Shawn Nguyen
I Have been reading many spiritual books: Zen and Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity, and I must say No Man is an Island is the greatest book I have read so far. This is not one of those books one can just read and understand (even though it is written in simple English). This book should be read by all who are seeking for meanings in life and in their relationship with God.
Audrey Conn
This book changed my life. Right from the first page. I've read other books by Merton, some of which are quite complicated, but this one I loved. I read it every few years. Reminds me about what is important, to get out of myself, to listen to others, to learn, to remain teachable, to find what your purpose in life is and use the talents God has given you.
Sam
NMIAI gets my highest recommendation. Merton was a true Christian, a true genius. He had his thumb on the pulse of humanity, its many cultures and ways of thinking. Oftentimes in this book I felt as though he was addressing me personally- he is that good at diagnosing the human condition. Get it, read it.
Joey O'Connor
One of Merton's absolute best books! If you really want to understand why you're on this planet and how to live within it with any sense of sanity, read this book. It will put so much in perspective. I can't say enough good things about it!
Shanon Eubank
As many who heard Christ speak, I echo their words after reading this book..."these are hard sayings indeed!"
Cameron
One of my favorite authors, Thomas Moore, references Thomas Merton quite a bit and I had to acknowledge my ignorance of Merton and find out a little more about him. I was interested to learn that Merton was a monk of the Trappist order and was a prolific writer. I had to search online to find out what I should read first. No Man is an Island seemed to be a favorite of many and one website recommended The Sign of Jonas so I thought I would just read both. The Sign of Jonas seems to be more of an...more
Georgette Suggs
Loved it! This is one that I'll read again.
Steven Gower
One of the best books on self-denial, sacrifice and devotion to a living God.

Merton writes, "Nothing that we consider evil can be offered to God in sacrifice. Therefore, to renounce life in disgust is no sacrifice. We give Him the best we have, in order to declare him infinitely better. We give Him all that we prize, in order to assure Him that He is more to us than our "all." One of the chief tasks of Christian asceticism is to make our life and our body valuable enough to be offered to God in...more
§--
+JMJ

[Bought it at a neighbor's yard sale in Glencarlyn in 2011. Makes me wonder about that neighbor.]

Read it slowly, out loud even; it is a masterpiece of condensed writing. It is denser than almost any poem or zen koan; I had to pause after each sentence, as we do in the liturgy of the hours. I recommend that you do the same. Merton writes astonishingly well, and with great wisdom and insight into the questions that nag modern man--dealing with your mortality, living a life of integrity, disco...more
Audrey
Growing up in a sub-culture where black is black and white is white, and all shades or grey in between are either swept under the carpet or worse, denied, can lead to anxious frustrations and an inability to deal honestly with the real complexities of life. Often surfacing from this type of orientation to life are indications of marked defensiveness, ongoing protection of one’s self image, a deep-rooted guilt complex, and continuous justification of one’s actions. When faced with the inconsisten...more
DJ Seifert
A reread in sections as part of some questions Merton gets at, one of which is dealing or interacting with a world who like me walks about blindly to important realities. Merton helps me here to work at staying awake to penetrate some illusions in order to begin to touch some realities. One such place where I needed open eyes individually was on my daily interaction among the mass of consumers as I continue to live more simple.

Anger Management

Off in the morning fog among the mass
of acceleratio...more
Phil
This is the first book by Thomas Merton that I've read; I liked it and found it challenging. It seems like basically a series of reflections on various spiritual topics that Merton was thinking about--almost like reading someone's journal, but more structured. Its full of fantastic and sometimes unsettling insights into human beings, the inner life, sin, and the character of God. Here's a sample:

"When a man constantly looks and looks at himself in the mirror of his own acts, his spiritual doubl...more
Amy
As a person, I find Thomas Merton really interesting. About a year ago I read a 4-part biography about some key Catholic writers of the 20th century. Besides Merton, the biography also featured Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy and I found each of these individuals to be extremely interesting people, especially in their interpretation of personal faith into their writing craft and their lifestyles. After reading No Man is an Island, I have to say that I enjoy reading about Merton...more
Mark
I haven't always found Merton easy to read; not because of his writing style but because some of the topics and subject matter he chooses to write on simply don't interest me.
I do believe, though, that certain books- like certain people- drop into your life at opportune times to help shape your experience and possibly to help light the path toward God. This was just such a book. Every passage seemed directed toward me and my life- and my half-assed theology- as if to say "wake up- it's not abou...more
Dionne
If I had ever entertained some vague dream of writing a book, all of that is now gone because Merton has said it all in this book. By the measure of its impact on me, I rank this book on par with Kierkegaard's Works of Love and Teresa of Avila's The Way of Perfection i.e. One of the books that have greatly influenced me short of The Bible and I wish I could read it over and over (except that would go against its own message).
Jordan Jeffers
In lieu of a review, I'd just like to quote the following from Merton's chapter on silence, and hope it convinces you to read this book. Just know that about every other page has something this good, or better:

If our life is poured out in useless words we will never hear anything in the depths of our hearts, where Christ lives and speaks in silence. We will never be anything, and in the end, when the time comes for us to declare who and what we are, we shall be found speechless at the moment of
...more
Brandon
I was surprised at how conventionally religious Merton's thought here is. Likely, it shouldn't have, even those this work debuted 13 years before "Zen and the Bird of Appetite"; though if I really wanted to follow up on how his thought developed from interacting with Buddhism, I should really read later works.
Ryan Trimble
I'm not a Christian, but this is a good book. It is very poetic and philosophical, but easy to savor. Recommended for anyone interested in a more "spiritually" based understanding of (mostly) Christian ideals.
Daniel
One of my truly favorite books. Even as an Atheist, I found this a wonderful read. Merton's style, his wisdom, his willingness to challenge himself, and his honesty all lead to a book of literary wonder.
Scott
Merton is timeless and this one is a classic. So much depth in this writing that I had to slow down to take it in. A few quotes that struck me:

"Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity."

"As a man is, so he prays."

"Sanctity does not consist merely in doing the will of God. It consists in willing the will of God."

"Action is the stream and contemplation the spring."

"We cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great."

"A man who fails well is better than one who success badly....more
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Thomas Merton was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the 20th century. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, in the American state of Kentucky, Merton was an acclaimed Catholic spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist. Merton wrote over 60 books, scores of essays and reviews, and is the ongoing subject of many biographies. Merton was also a proponent of int...more
More about Thomas Merton...
The Seven Storey Mountain New Seeds of Contemplation Contemplative Prayer Thoughts in Solitude The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century

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“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” 2627 likes
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” 2455 likes
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