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No Man Is an Island

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,247 Ratings  ·  170 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 the ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 28th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1955)
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Apr 17, 2009 Reed rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2015 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Noes
Feb 28, 2013 Michael Noes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2009 Karin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tom 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
Feb 15, 2012 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Ali M.
Dec 31, 2009 Ali M. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soul-food
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
Mar 21, 2007 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thomasmerton
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
Oct 28, 2015 Kayla rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kayla by: KC
Merton! How did I not read him before? I guess things come to us when we are ready for them. As Anne Lamott says, often we are only given the circle of light right in front of us. Only when we step into it are we given the next one.

This books is kicking my butt in the best kind of way. Here are my circles of light:

One: Real love isn't hungry.

Two: We have a "death instinct," the force that is self-love turned to self-hatred. This is healed by understanding that you don't live for yourself alone.
Jan 29, 2013 Audrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2015 SeaShore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. I read this a few years ago and return to it again and again. It's a book you must own: finding yourself, knowing yourself; healing body, mind, Spirit. I also read. "Seeds of Contemplation", which I recommend. I had read Marianne Williamson's "A Return to Love", in 1993 and this sent me on a search for the source of inner healing. Love is the answer. Our subconscious at work, which is ever reinforced in Dr Joseph Murphy's book, "The power of your Subconscious Mind". see the website "I ...more
Stephen Bauer
Published in 1955, No Man is an Island is a guide to help Christians find meaning and purpose in life, through charity, prayer, self-knowledge, and the virtues.

Each chapter is a deep meditation on a particular subject. To absorb the content requires that you stop and ruminate over each idea before going on. The sections within each chapter are numbered, and so I left it on my night table and for a long time, read one numbered section at a time and only when I thought of it. After about a year a
I am a fan of Thomas Merton and I read this book for a reading challenge which means I read it faster than I should have. His books are meant to be slowly digested and therefore I failed in fully appreciating it. I found that some of the concepts presented were repeated over and over and in different ways, almost as though the concepts were folding over themselves. Often the book would pick up and have this wonderful movement forward and then it would get lost in the over explanations. I feel th ...more
Feb 01, 2014 djt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 14, 2009 Shawn Nguyen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2012 Audrey Conn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 20, 2009 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
This was a generally good read, although not a quick one. I found Merton's writings difficult at first to absorb, as he has a tendency to be long winded and unclear. His examples are often vague, rather than concrete. I'm sure to the religious and contemplative community, this is fine, but to a first time reader of Merton and a lay person, his writing can be frustrating and takes time to absorb. That being said, Merton has interesting insights and profound thoughts on God and spirituality. I hig ...more
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!
Dana Kraft
Nov 22, 2014 Dana Kraft rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by Merton. It won't be the last. There is a lot of depth here that I hoped to find in My Bright Abyss, but didn't.
Specific passages or concepts that were most meaningful to me now:
- distinction between tradition and convention.
- the truth is something to serve, not something to obtain or own
- "scattered powers are easily fatigued"
- you can't find god simply by trying to not sin. "You can not be found in the Temple simply by expelling the money changers."
- when w
David Jones
Merton readily admits that the content of No Man Is An Island is rather simplistic. So it follows that most of the content seems elementary. Additionally, he frequently lapses to vague ramblings of general topics, like hawks hunting--always circling without so much as flapping a wing, but never swooping in to strike. The electronic format leaves much to be desired, what with the frequent grammatical and spelling errors (e.g. "five" or "fives" should be understood as "live" and "lives" respective ...more
Katie Jensen
Feb 05, 2015 Katie Jensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful man. Dense book with lots of good thoughts on a variety of topics. Looking forward to reading more from T Merton.
Shanon Eubank
As many who heard Christ speak, I echo their words after reading this book..."these are hard sayings indeed!"
Jul 12, 2014 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2013 Georgette Suggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! This is one that I'll read again.
Jan 12, 2016 Galicius is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 08, 2016 Janice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2016
I loved this challenging book, highlighted much of it,and have many questions in the margins. The title, No Man is an Island, is perfect. We know this is true in the core of our being, Yet we live and process our lives so often as if we are the center of the universe. This book of profound soul searching essays by Thomas Merton will be a book to which I return for devotional reflection time and time again. This is a quote that inspires me of the need for reflection, "Only when we see ourselves i ...more
Steven Gower
May 10, 2014 Steven Gower rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Blake Strother
I read this book in a disjointed way over the period of almost two months. While I was busy and that contributed to my disjointed reading of this book, I think the book itself also prevented me from picking it up more often. The book seemed disjointed and disconnected with various themes of spirituality having little interconnection. Therefore, the reader is kind of left at the whims as to whether they have interest in Merton's commentaries on any particular topics that are covered. In addition ...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
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