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The Seven Storey Mountain

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,255 Ratings  ·  651 Reviews
A modern-day Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Seven Storey Mountain is one of the most influential religious works of the twentieth century. This edition contains an introduction by Merton's editor, Robert Giroux, and a note to the reader by biographer William H. Shannon. It tells of the growing restlessness of a brilliant and passionate young man whose search for peace ...more
Paperback, First Harvest edition, 467 pages
Published October 4th 1999 by Harcourt, Inc. (first published January 1st 1948)
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Lynne King
Sep 03, 2015 Lynne King rated it really liked it
A Trappist monastery is a quiet place! In a Trappist monastery, monks typically have three motivations to speak to one another: to get a particular work project carried out efficiently, to engage in a community discussion, or to discuss one's spiritual progress with a director or confessor. Sometimes, too, Trappists will enjoy friendly conversations with each other in a conversation room or in nature. These different types of conversation are balanced with the discipline of fostering a general ...more
The first part of this book was painfully slow at times, yet interesting. Then in the second part, after Merton was baptized.... WHOOOOSHH!!! off we went! And I was spellbound til the end. Its impossible to summarize this book, and there are many reviews out there for everyone to peruse. So I'll simply quote a few of my favorite passages in the book.

As a newly baptized Catholic, I found this passage incredibly beautiful and accurate:

"I had come, like the Jews, through the Red Sea of Baptism. I
Daniel Villines
Jan 03, 2015 Daniel Villines rated it did not like it
Merton’s autobiography is the story of his quest to understand life and to give it some semblance of purpose. Not unlike each of us, in our own way, trying to develop a philosophy that will provide us the seeds of meaning to the infinite number of events that will assail us between now and the end of our days. If this was all that Merton accomplished in The Seven Story Mountain, then this would not be the book that it is. In my mind, Merton crosses the line. He selfishly places his quest above e ...more
Feb 18, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you, if you like Merton, Henry Nouwen, Christian mystics
I finally read Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain. Mostly out of obligation because if you tell anyone you’ve read Merton they ask if you’ve read Seven Story Mountain.

First, one neat story. Merton was at Cambridge, studying sociology, economics, history (196). On Merton’s first day of school, he accidentally seated himself in a class on the works of Shakespeare. So he got up, then sat back down, stayed. Later that day he went to the registrar and officially added the course. Here’s what he sa
Merton is a gifted writer, and his descriptions of growing up in Europe are interesting. Much less interesting are his spiritual/religious judgments of others. These judgments seem to break down along the following lines:

If you're a bad person, and are not Catholic, the reason you're bad is because you're not Catholic.
If you're a bad person, and are Catholic, the reason you're bad is because you're not Catholic enough.
If you're a good person, and are not Catholic, the reason you're good is becau
Now this, I never knew about men:

Is there any man who has ever gone through a whole lifetime without dressing himself up, in his fancy, in the habit of a monk and enclosing himself in a cell where he sits magnificent in heroic austerity and solitude, while all the young ladies who hitherto were cool to this affections in the world come and beat on the gates of the monastery crying, "Come out, come out!"

This is the tone you get from this author as he tells of his life: a peculiar mix of contempl
I listened to the abridged version of Merton's spiritual autobiography back in the 90's, loved it, and actually thought I'd read this book. Now I've read the unabridged book and learned all I missed.

However, given where I was 20 years ago, I doubt I would/could have appreciated so many of the things Merton described so well in his journey, especially his experience of being led from one Master to another, often via friends, travels and the many pitfalls of sin and shame. Speaking just about som
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 14, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Memoirs)
My first encounter with Thomas Merton (1915-1968). Orphan at the age of 16. Monk in the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, USA at the age of 26. This is his memoirs detailing the first half of his life when his family that originated in France had to move to England, Bermuda and United States. Born protestant, his parents were not avid followers of any religion, he got his first attraction to Catholicism by wandering around old deserted churches in France until his family moved to the US ...more
Oct 19, 2009 Jason rated it did not like it
Merton's quest for personal happiness leads him from a life of booze and women to a Trappist monastery. I read this book with an open mind, hoping that some of Merton's findings would translate into my own life. He abandons his secular life in favor of godly devotion, but along the way he trades analytical analysis for superstition, and logic for blind faith. He routinely blames saints and devils for mundane events in his life, and interprets the outcome of any situation to be a sign from God. R ...more
Nathan Marone
Reading Merton's autobiography almost tempts me to become a Catholic. As a Protestant, there are elements of Catholic theology that I could never affirm, but Merton, an excellent spokesman, gives the reader a sense of the aesthetic beauty and solemnity of the Catholic faith that us pragmatist Protestants sorely lack. We are casual and friendly with God where they are formal and filled with awe. There is probably a right balance in our response to God here, and Merton's book offered me the vicari ...more
Brigid Hogan
Jan 02, 2015 Brigid Hogan rated it it was amazing
This was so hard for me to read, but so worth it. The questions Merton asks himself, especially at the end of the book when he has come into the church and has changed so much of his life, are incredibly challenging questions to turn on myself. I understand that this was written when he was still relatively new to monastic life and that he later regretted some of the more condescending or pietistic passages, but even those passages provide such deep insight into the soul of a young believer - th ...more
Jane Lebak
Mar 27, 2016 Jane Lebak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholic
The first half of the book got a little tedious, but the second half simply flew by. If you find it tough going at first, just persevere. It gets better.

What we've got her is in effect a modern Confessions of St Augustine. Merton goes into detail in what amounts to a spiritual autobiography/memoir. One of the interesting things I found was that he lived in a lot of places I'm familiar with, unlike when I read the lives of saints who are predominantly from Europe. When he talks about Flushing, Do
Mar 26, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
I have known about the Trappist monastery Gethsemani my whole life, having been born not too far from it in Kentucky. Growing up, my beloved grandmother always had a loaf or two of Trappist bread with the stamp of the monastery on the package. It was the best bread I've ever tasted, from grains grown and harvested by the monks at Gethsemani. Later on, I found my father reading this biography by one of their own, and I've been intrigued by Gethsemani and Merton ever since.

Merton writes in this on
Christian Engler
Sep 20, 2013 Christian Engler rated it it was amazing
Upon reading the spiritual autobiography of Thomas Merton, the immediate details of his life that boldly jutted out and painted the overall portrait of the man was his controlled yet cyclonic whirlwind of pell-mell inconsistency and the overall amorphousness of his ever evolving life up into manhood.

Thomas Merton's life seemed to be the never-ending quest for the ultimate truth, and there were many byways that he chose in order to obtain that: literature, academia, writing, traveling, communism,
Dec 15, 2008 Keegan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I've been plowing through this in my spare moments the past two weeks or so. I can see how my father and grandfather were affected by it.

If I had a different experience of Catholicism as a child, this book might have functioned as some sort of catalyst for rejoining the church. Fortunately my experiences were uneventful; tepid, even. I didn't leave Catholicism out of some reactionary experience. It was gradual. God was ground to dust throughout this decade in the millstone of my brain. My atheis
Jan 06, 2008 Janet rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Catholics, orthodox Christians, people interested in religion and psychology
(from notes in my journal, Nov. 9, 2007)

Why did I wait so long to read Thomas Merton? I've known so many fans of his work and had so many opportunities to get to know him. In my mid-twenties I lived for a few years in Lexington, Kentucky, just about an hour from Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery where Merton spent the second half of his life. I had a lover who made regular pilgrimages and once brought me seeds from Merton's garden, carefully folded inside a dollar bill. But I never visited Get
Amy Neftzger
Aug 16, 2013 Amy Neftzger rated it really liked it
This book is essentially Thomas Merton's autobiography of his early life through the time of his conversion to Catholicism and entry into a monastery. Aside from being an interesting story, there are a few additional insights to be gained from this book that make it extraordinary. For example, at the end of the book Merton talks about how vices can also be manifested in spiritual forms. It's through his own self reflection that he discovers how a person may display pride over spiritual accomplis ...more
This autobiography is my favorite to date. I started this book about five months ago and I intentionally took my time reading this along with my Bible. It was amazing to follow along Thomas Merton's beginnings and eventually to his final home at the Trappist monastery in Kentucky. Written with honesty and vulnerability and a touch of humor. I especially loved the latter section of the book just because of his finally coming to the realization of his vocation. There is a thread of sadness at leas ...more
Apr 08, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, biography
The book is a classic of 20th century American spirituality. I'll give it that. But, reading it through 21st Century eyes, I cannot help but see a pain-filled young man struggling with deep, deep grief at the loss of his parents at a very tender age. His way of coping is the Roman Catholic Church. A lot of what Merton has to say is buried in intellectual stuff (he is, after all, a brilliant Columbia grad), but, at base, I see a hurting orphan who finds comfort in a heavenly father, and the earth ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
I have intended to read this book for a long time and finally it worked its way to the top of my reading stack.

Merton is very, very certain that Catholicism is the only true religion and path to God. He is very critical of Protestantism. If his treatment of other faiths had been more even handed, I believe it would have made his account of his journey to the Trappists more effective in terms of evangelism. However, maybe evangelism is not his goal and maybe his criticisms accurately reflects hi
Apr 10, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it
This edition of the book intimidated me at first, because neither of the prefaces exactly warmed me to the subject matter. The second, in particular, by some unctuous "we're so much more enlightened than this since Vatican II" type, really made me wonder if I would find anything in Merton that made any sense to me.

Fortunately I did. I started the book in the hotel and read probably the last four-fifths of it on the way back from Vienna to Chicago. I've never read any spiritual work that makes mo
In fact, I finished this amazing book a couple of weeks ago,but with the iffy situation on the internet,have not been able to give my full report. Now I am on a fairly decent machine and with a bit of time to spare, but the book is no longer with me for reference. It barely held up through the rough treatment,covers gone,but what a good choice for this arduous journey. Merton was a real pioneer,honest and true to his genius,discreet in a way that did not strike me as false modesty,and if he coul ...more
May 30, 2009 Matthew rated it did not like it
Shelves: spiritualistic
Hugely disappointing. There were two main things about this book that turned me off:

First, I am irritated by the way that he seems to treat esoteric Catholic doctrines as clear and obvious, thus needing no explanation. For example, he presents Marian intercession as a universal principle that should be self-evident to any person capable of reason, despite the fact that (so far as I can tell) it has very little basis in Scripture and is not even a particularly important part of scholastic philos
First of all, no I didn’t spell “storey” wrong…that’s how it’s spelled on the book’s cover. This is Merton’s spritual autobiography, and it’s an intimidating book at first in its size, but I had no trouble being gripped by Merton’s writing style and his personal journey. In the end, he feels led into a Trappist monastery, from where he writes this book. While I loved his story of his journey of faith (I think anyone struggling with faith questions would), I have always been baffled by the decisi ...more
Skylar Burris
Dec 24, 2007 Skylar Burris rated it really liked it
Part literary analysis, part theological speculation, and largely spiritual autobiography, this 467 page tome is a much easier read than one might initially expect. There were times when, as a non-Catholic, I got bogged down in some of the particulars of the tradition, but much of the book has a universal appeal. The Seven Storey Mountain tells of Merton's journey from agnosticism to Catholicism, from self-absorbed young man to contemplative monk. The work is well enough written to have captured ...more
Mar 05, 2008 Suzanne rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
I had always been curious about the Trappists which led me to this book. What would or could drive someone into silence and isolation? To some degree Merton explains his voyage from atheist to scholar to the disciplined harsh world of monastic life. Many criticized him for just trying to avoid serving in World War II, but I don't believe that fear motivated him. I've always believed that the World at that time, became very ugly and his retreat and commitment to a lifetime of prayer was his answe ...more
Aug 02, 2009 Kristen rated it did not like it
This book came highly recommended but I can't recommend it in turn. Maybe if you skip forward to page 225 or so, when he's baptized and starts dithering about whether to enter a monastery. As someone who's never been at all interested in any sort of life of institutionalized contemplation, that part's pretty interesting. The first half of the book, though, is much too much like talking to an angsty teenager who insists on telling you about how "weird" and "crazy" he is when it's obvious to any c ...more
This is a must read for anyone who loves the study of religion, personal testimonies, conversion stories and advice on how to live in this crazy world without losing your faith in God and humanity.

Thomas Merton lived in an Abbey just about 45min from my home so I grew up hearing about him. It wasn't until I was an adult though that I really began to study his writings.
Justin Pitt
Mar 27, 2016 Justin Pitt rated it it was amazing
I'm not really certain how you summarize and review a book of this magnitude, both in terms of volume and depth, in such a short space. How do you begin to reflect on the currents that ran in a young, talented writer's life that moved him to become a Trappist monk in his mid-twenties? What may be sufficient to say, however, is that there is something in many of us that has recognized an emptiness in the current age - an emptiness built on the never-ending desire to satisfy one's anxieties and de ...more
Jan 17, 2013 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
My grandfather's favorite book.
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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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“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” 288 likes
“Souls are like athletes, that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity.” 105 likes
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