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No Man Is An Island

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  2,125 ratings  ·  163 reviews
Here, in one of his most popular of his more than thirty books, Thomas Merton provides further meditations on the spiritual life in sixteen thoughtful essays, beginning with his classic treatise "Love Can Be Kept Only by Being Given Away."

This sequel to Seeds of Contemplation provides fresh insight into Merton's favorite topics of silence and solitude, while also undersco
Hardcover, 233 pages
Published 1955 by Clonmore & Reynolds
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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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Oct 02, 2015 Kayla is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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.

I'm not even halfway through this book and it's kicking my butt in the best kind of way. Here are my circles of light thus far:

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 understand
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
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
Katie Jensen
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!"
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
"The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, puts us in the fullest possible contact with reality-not as we imagine it, but as it really is. It does so by making us aware of our own real selves, and placing them in the presence of God."
The process of living, of growing up, and becoming a person, is precisely the gradually increasing awareness of what that something is."

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the

[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
Daniel 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
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
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  • The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton
  • Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
  • When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings
  • The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling
  • The Ascent of Mount Carmel
  • The Spiritual Exercises
  • Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat- Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
  • Interior Castle
  • The Sacrament of the Present Moment
  • Prayer
  • The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium
  • The One Thing Is Three: How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything
  • Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within
  • Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel
  • Revelations of Divine Love
  • My Life With the Saints
  • Markings
  • The Lessons of Saint Francis: A Monk's Guide to Daily Life
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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“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” 2884 likes
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