Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Seven Storey Mountain” as Want to Read:
The Seven Storey Mountain
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Seven Storey Mountain

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  18,244 ratings  ·  1,273 reviews
One of the most famous books ever written about a man’s search for faith and peace.

The Seven Storey Mountain tells of the growing restlessness of a brilliant and passionate young man, who at the age of twenty-six, takes vows in one of the most demanding Catholic orders—the Trappist monks. At the Abbey of Gethsemani, "the four walls of my new freedom," Thomas Merton strugg
Paperback, First Harvest edition, 467 pages
Published October 4th 1999 by Harcourt, Inc. (first published 1948)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Seven Storey Mountain, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Danell Dumas Yes, I am currently reading it on my Kindle.
Debra The original was released in 1948 by Harcourt Publishing. The copy I am holding was released in paperback in 1999 by First Harvest.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,244 ratings  ·  1,273 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Seven Storey Mountain
Lynne King
Aug 08, 2015 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 genera ...more
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Last July, I read On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old by Parker Palmer, in which he made frequent mention of Thomas Merton, his spiritual mentor. Last month, I read Richard Russo’s Chance Are…, in which Teddy, my favorite character, named his small university publication 'Seven Storey' owing to his great admiration for Merton and his writing. Thus, I was led to read The Seven Storey Mountain, an autobiography of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk. It was published in 1948.

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
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 s
Daniel Villines
Jan 16, 2012 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
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
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
Oct 19, 2009 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
Apr 18, 2009 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
Second Reading- The True Reading.

The first time I read this, I actually listened to an abridged audio version but didn't realize it was abridged. I am so glad I read this amazing autobiograhy! It is so inspiring and beautifully written.

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
Alex Strohschein
Truly one of the greatest Christian autobiographies of the twentieth century. There some eye-rolling swipes at Protestantism typical of Catholic converts (which I am told he repudiates in later editions) but much more than that there are rich contemplations on God's ways with the human heart. Surprisingly little of the autobiography takes place after Thomas Merton's entrance into the life of a religious. ...more
K.D. Absolutely
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
Ramón S.
May 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didn’t like it but I respect the real conversion of Thomas Merton. Sometimes is confusing the way he explains things. I guess I will never read it again
Tom LA
Sep 25, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impossible to understate the power and the importance of this 1948 book. Thomas Merton’s autobiography is not only the story of a flawed man who converted and decided to become a Trappist monk. It’s a crystal-clear look into our own soul, and above all, it asks a question: how can we integrate all the conflicting parts of ourselves? How can we make the fighter in us, the lover in us, the artist in us, the leader in us, the writer in us, the reader in us … how can we make them all coexist in peac ...more
Erika Robuck
Jun 06, 2022 rated it it was amazing
With clear, beautiful, honest language, and set amid the wars of the early twentieth century, a deeply affecting account of one man's spiritual journey. ...more
Katie Fitzgerald
#CathLit2019 - A Spiritual Memoir

I was really surprised at how much I loved this book. I was drawn into the details of Merton's life and conversion from the very first page, and I found it impossible to put the book down. I love the way he incorporates observations about the Holy Spirit's influence in his life throughout the biographical sections of text, and his sincerity in trying to discern his true vocation.

Since finishing the book, I have learned (from my current read, The Life You Save Ma
Eileen O'Finlan
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Seven Storey Mountain is the telling of Merton's conversion against the backdrop of the Depression and World War II. It is honest, deeply human, and moving. A true classic. ...more
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is so much to be gained from this book. I will need to read it again.
Oct 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
(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
Jan 29, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, and I honestly expected to be bored silly by it. I'm so happy to be wrong. Reading this reminds me how much I love a well-written memoir. I read a lot more memoirs in my 20s and somehow I've fallen off reading them in recent years. Merton's writing is so good, his voice so distinct. The narrative flows along so effortlessly and compellingly. There's a quality to a well-written memoir that I don't know how to describe. It's a feeling I get, a kind of joy to be in the hands of a ...more
Jan 28, 2022 rated it really liked it
I read this book in the 60's but found it difficult for my teenage mind to comprehend. Rereading it now I can appreciate Merton's desperate search for God. His faith and budding spiritually eventually pointed him in the direction of Catholicism. As a graduate student at Columbia, he converted to Catholicism but still needed to make a more definitive commitment to his new faith and began thinking seriously about becoming a priest. After earnest conversations with a Priest he knew at Columbia and ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
It's probably a sin to cast aspersions on the writings of a monk, but I get the feeling Merton would have had a few things to say about my spiritual failings. Like so many people who are called to a religious life, Merton spends almost as much time judging others as he does himself, and compassion isn't one of his virtues. I had heard that he was first rejected from the priesthood because he fathered a child, and I kept waiting for that part of the story--he must have felt love and affection for ...more
Aug 02, 2009 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
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I think I expected much more relatable spiritual insights than this book ended up providing. While the writing is in many places fabulous, it’s also extremely wordy and overwrought at times. While I appreciated his spiritual questioning and insight, the narrative didn’t feel as if it went far enough at times, and what must have been taken out might have met that need. While I don’t want to judge the work on what choices Merton made later in life, I’m wondering if this book “spoke” more to previo ...more
Kirstin Dobson
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book... the writing, the vocabulary, the places, the experiences, and especially the depth of spiritual insights.
Benjamin Lawrence  Walker
Oct 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
My first in-depth look at Merton leaves me looking for more. Brilliantly funny, VERY catholic, deeply wise. As I was preparing to read this book it was describe to me as a modern day Confessions, and I agree about 89% with this statement. He’s not Augustine- obvi- but his vulnerability and depth of personal insight gave me similar insights into my own spiritual journey.
Mar 09, 2013 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Catholic Book...: Lenten Recommendations 5 36 Apr 29, 2019 08:07PM  
Catholic Writers ...: Lenten Recommendations 1 9 Mar 15, 2019 07:58AM  
By Your Boot Straps: Lent Idea! 1 1 Mar 15, 2019 07:54AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. What is a vocation? 2 25 Mar 23, 2016 01:54PM  
The Catholic Book...: 6. Life changes 3 21 Mar 23, 2016 01:48PM  
The Catholic Book...: 1. What is the interior life? 3 20 Mar 23, 2016 01:04PM  
The Catholic Book...: 2. Discuss Merton's communal perspective 4 18 Mar 20, 2016 01:22PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith
  • Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
  • The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
  • My Life with the Saints
  • Dark Night of the Soul
  • Crossing the Threshold of Hope
  • The Imitation of Christ
  • Confessions
  • Life of Christ
  • Eightt is God
  • Introduction to the Devout Life
  • Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
  • Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too)
  • The Secret Of The Rosary
  • The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas
  • The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection (Cistercian studies 59)
  • To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

News & Interviews

  With more than 5.7 million votes cast and counted, the 14th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards are now official. Launched in 2009,...
46 likes · 2 comments
“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.” 412 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.” 145 likes
More quotes…