Thoughts in Solitude
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Thoughts in Solitude

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  932 ratings  ·  55 reviews
In thirty-seven concise and beautifully written chapters, Thomas Merton explores the meaning of interior solitude and its necessary role in bringing every life to joyous fruition. "What is said here about solitude is not just a recipe for hermits," he writes in the preface, "it has a bearing on the whole future of man and his world."
Paperback, Abridged, 144 pages
Published May 11th 1993 by Shambhala (first published 1956)
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Thomas Merton wrote THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE in 1956, one of 60 books and numerous writings while living in Our Lady of Gethsemani. He was a Trappist Monk, who for 27 years lived and wrote in the Kentucky Abbey. A mostly solitary existence, Merton had an impact on world affairs including the Viet Nam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

"Contradictions have always existed in the soul of man. But it is only when we prefer analysis to silence that they become a constant and insoluble problem. We are not...more
My copy of this is very coffee-stained. I enjoyed Merton's thoughts on interior life and the human need for reflection. And, I found the short chapters conducive to daily reflection and prayer. But before I'd made it to the halfway point of this book, I was already alienated by Merton's male-only pronouns. I understand he was a product of his day, and I think Merton served as novice master at the monastery for a while and was accustomed to addressing young men. Nonetheless, being beaten over the...more
Amy Neftzger
As a fan of writers such a Augustine, Aquinas, and Thomas a Kempis, I'm very familiar with the writings of monks. I've benefited from the timeless wisdom and though provoking writings of all these authors. However, this was the first book I've read by Merton.

I really enjoyed this short book. Merton writes beautifully and from a philosophical as well as practical perspective. He defines solitude (which can be found either amid groups of people or when we're alone), the benefits of it, and explain...more
wow. This completely exceeded my expectations. There were a few sections that I found difficult to relate to, but the vast majority of the book blew me away. I will doubtlessly be returning to Thoughts In Solitude again and again.

A word in season. I greatly look forward to checking out some of Merton's other works!
Of some authors it is said that they never waste a word: this is true of "Thought in Solitude". This is a truly wonderful book filled with the wonderful insight that comes from the quiet reflection of a splendid mind. Each meditation is a treasure and a guide for developing the spiritual life.
a purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for action.
Incredible. Merton is able to put into words...things that I didn't know had words.
But at the same time, he is kind of confusing. Because I'm not a Catholic monk, mostly.


"Before we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he does not possess." p.29

"Why should I want to be rich, when You were poor? Why should I desire to be famous and powerful in the eyes of men, when the sons of those who exalted the false prophets and stones the true -...more
Very thought-provoking book, revealing much of truth that I have sought over the years. This book definitely requires more than a single reading and I continue to read and digest its goodness.

One of Merton's quotes that expresses my heart:

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I...more
This is a small book and in time an easy read but there is a lot of thought in it that gets you thinking. He challenges the reader to take the time in solitude and quiet to address simple things like temperament and what it means spiritually. This is something that cannot be addressed in a busy life style. And so these notes of Merton challenge one to stop and listen to one's heart and the the Spirit; Something that few of us can hear in todays nosy world.
This is my first Merton and the moment I read the first sentence, I knew it wouldn't be the last. As a recovering addict this spoke volumes to me: "There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us." I'm am now a huge Merton fan!
Dean P.
Perhaps not the strongest of Merton's works, Thoughts in Solitude serves to underscore the many aspects and truths Merton has discovered through a life of professed solitude. It is easily read and consumed in one sitting, but it is best used for short, thoughtful snippets upon which the reader can meditate and ponder the role of Merton's advice in their own life.
Paul Dubuc
Enjoyed reading this book while on retreat a the Abbey at Gethsemani and afterwards. Many of the thoughts were deeply inspiring to me, others not so much so. That is in line with the author's expectation in the introduction. I think this is the kind of book you come back to now and then and find it different each time and well worth reading.
Emily Dy
This guy goes up there with CS Lewis among my favorite Christian authors. He writes about contemplation and links it back to action, and back to life. And he clearly delineates between the authentic and the shallow or fake. He brings clarity to the matter of hipocrisy through simple explanation, sans condemnation and holier-than-thou language.
Merton was a Trappist monk deeply influenced by eastern mysticism and this collection of thoughts reflects that clearly. He is deeply insightful and eloquent in regard to spirituality and transcending the distractions of the soul.
Mar 21, 2007 Lila rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: exiles
i read a borrowed copy in switzerland and copied out whole passages, bought a copy in washington, and had to ask to have it shipped to me in saint petersburg because it had suddenly become so indispensibly connected to my thoughtlife.
Amy Lowry
I am a huge fan of Thomas Merton....thought provoking and brilliant. Anyone interested in spirituality and God without the demands and limitations of "organized religion" will enjoy his journals, poetry, and books.
Karen Floyd
Part One made me lose my temper a lot, which is why it took me so long to read this. Liked Part Two on Solitude. Need to keep in mind while reading this that he was writing for his fellow monastics.
A great book, though a bit preachy at times. I found that even as a non-christian, I could understand most of Merton's message in the first half. The second half was a bit too preachy, though.
Tom Marsan
Like most books I've read by Merton, this one is both challenging and reassuring, thought provoking and peaceful. Makes me wish I could run out to my own little hermitage at the end of each day.
This is the second time I've read this book and I'm sure it's not the last. I too find it to be a "timeless" work that serves as a reminder of how important solitude can be to a person's well-being.
Steph Fisher
I would like to read this book again, all the way through. I stopped reading it halfway because it made me feel like such a heathen. But his writing is lovely and thoughtful, lifting the soul.
Merton is on the border of being "too mystical" for my tastes... yet... this book is very good. Perhaps I am growing as a person just enough to relate to what he is saying better.
I love Merton. Love his philosophy. The only reason that I didn't give this a 5 star is because... well, I felt as though I was in his most private thoughts and was intruding...
Merton's personal spiritual reflections are universally applicable to any serious Christian. Its his style that charms some more than others, as it has obviously done so with me.
Jesse G
My dad gave me this wonderful pocket sized edition and I carry it with me everywhere. Merton's insights propel me to a prayerful/meditative/contemplative state over and over.
A meditative little book, not always theologically perfect, but worth the read, inspiring and comforting when we feel as though we are alone in this big scary world...
Picked this up at a used book sale. Inside were lots of insights on the spiritual life and man's solitude before God. I plan on rereading this book from time to time.
Oct 14, 2009 Steve marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ui-lib
Heard about this book while reading profile of David in the book of Psalms, Renovare Bible. David waa someone who connected with God in times of solitude.
This book was outstanding. Very thought-provoking and honestly quite faith-affirming. I expect that this will be a book I read through on a regular basis.
I am in love with all things Merton. His writing companions me daily. His honesty overwhelms me, and I couldn't imagine a day without a bit of Merton in it.
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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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“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” 512 likes
“If a man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.” 141 likes
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