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The Monk's Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  82 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The story of a monk, a minstrel, and the music that brought them together

In 1965 writer-activist-monk Thomas Merton fulfilled a twenty-four-year dream and went to live as a hermit beyond the walls of his Trappist monastery. Seven months later, after a secret romance with a woman half his age, he was in danger of losing it all. Yet on the very day that his abbot uncovered
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published March 14th 2018 by Eerdmans
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Tim Hoiland
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So good.
Anthony Head
Jan 31, 2021 rated it liked it
The Monk’s Record Player is a biography centered on a controversial 1960’s religious figure’s obsession with a popular 1960’s musician, written by a Christian essayist who admits to his own fixation on both figures. Trust me, it reads better than it sounds.

Both Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan are iconic figures in the baby-boomer pantheon, and as a result, numerous biographies have been written about each of them. Amazon lists over a thousand for Dylan and over 300 for Merton. With this expansive li
Adam Khattak
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great insight into the life of a highly unique catholic monk and the weird parallels between his life and Bob Dylan during the 60s.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Thomas Merton's fanboy attraction to Bob Dylan's seminal albums is a slender thread to hang another biography of Merton on, but hang it does, and though it illuminates Dylan's influence on Merton the influence was the urge to share and imitate. Well, any writer who likes Dylan has felt those urges.

The Monk's Record Player is a functional, and well-written precis of Thomas Merton's early life, his struggles as a hermit monk in the world, his unconsummated love affair with a young nurse, and his
Mark Walker
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The story of a monk, a minstrel, and the music that brought them together

My initial interest in this book was the monk, Thomas Merton, which was the result of a visit to the Trappist monastery hermitage in Snowmass, Colorado when I was a student at Western State University in Gunnison. I was impressed by the contemplative lifestyle and asked one of my professors why someone would join such a group, “Read Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain, Professor Fay said, “as he describes his growing restl
Y.S. Stephen
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Monk's Record Player looks at the influence Bob Dylan's (a singer-songwriter) music had on Thomas Merton's (a Trappist monk) life and writings.

Fans of Bob Dylan might want to stay away from this as I believe there isn't enough Dylan's material to entice them. However, there is a lot of juice on Merton, hence, admirers of his work will likely love this book.

One the main flaws of spiritual biographies of any kind is the tendencies to cover up the
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
He writes clearly and engagingly despite the wide-ranging yarn the book lays out. However, Hudson's premise, that Dylan and Merton were closely linked, still seems a bit of a stretch. The connections are a bit touch and go. Merton was definitely influenced by Dylan, but to what degree remains a bit uncertain to me. Merton's influence on Dylan seems particularly spurious. However, Hudson's treatment of this subject did explore two points that I see rarely thoroughly and non-sensationally document ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The promo from Eerdmans had me at Merton and Dylan in one book. Thomas Merton is one of the spiritual giants of the 20th Century. Mystical, practical, sinner, saint, and lots of things in-between. His personal wrestling with life and God's calling turned into wondrous insights and intriguing possibilities. Hudson looks closely at one period of Merton's life in his last several years prior to his tragic accidental death. During that period he had an emotional love affair that turned his world ups ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Super interesting book, drawing in parallels in the lives of two people who seem to have nothing in common-- Catholic writer and monk Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan. Hudson focuses heavily on Hudson-- Dylan's own trials are kind of a side story-- but that works pretty well. Merton stumbles in his discipline after he falls in love, and he regains his spiritual footing in no small part due to Dylan's music. This is not at all hard to imagine, but it makes for an excellent story. Frankly, Hudson made ...more
Joyce Donahue
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fascinating Tandem Biography

This is quite simply a tour de force. Hudson manages to expose the poetic confluence between two very different men who never met, but whose writings are reflective of the restless world of the 60's. This is a deep and loving look at the tormented spiritual journey of Merton's final years, revealed in his writings and relationships, showing how influential were the songs and persona of Dylan, the rebel troubadour. Dylan, however, remains a bit more of an enigma.
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a good, scholarly look at two men living parallel lives in the mid-1960s. It made me want to read more Merton and listen to more Dylan.

Since I bought the book I may re-read it, listening to the songs and poetry of both men as I can find them on the interwebes. There also songs by Joan Baez and John Coltrane I want to listen to.

The well-documented bibliography has a discography! (p.233)

Nick Junker
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book definitely challenges conventional thinking about monastic life. Merton's life is a constant tension between withdrawing from and absorbing the culture and world around him, a search for solitude and rubbing elbows with celebrities, writing about and working for peace and justice... Merton eventually arrives where you'll find most Catholic thought takes you: the either/or gives way to the both/and. Plus there's a steamy love story. What's not to like?! ...more
J.D. DeHart
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book inventive from the title on. Once I read the synopsis and the title, I was curious. As a literary enthusiast and dabbler into Merton's work, I continued. Author Robert Hudson made this a worthwhile read, with a voice all its own. I look forward to reading more from this author. ...more
Ted Gurley
Jun 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Worthy Study

Well researched and well told bio of Thomas Merton. The author uses Morton’s interest in Bob Dylan as an accessible entry point to lure in the reader who might be unfamiliar with Merton, I was one of those lured in and I’m glad I was. I now have a perspective of Thomas Merton that I didn’t have before. Well done.
Scott Dieterle
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this to be an interesting read. It gave me a deeper look at two individuals of who I have a very peripheral knowledge. Their connection is very much a one sided appreciation/fascination on Merton’s side, but still an interesting look at the influence Dylan and current events had on Merton.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
My advice is to skip the first 2 parts of this book and get into the story written by Mr. Hudson but even that isn't compelling enough for me to want to suggest this book. Part of a church book club which is why I read it. ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
will review soon
Kevin Sutton
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great read about someone that I knew very little.
Barbara Q
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
The writing is good enough but the tenuous thread (if that) between Dylan and Merton do not a book make.
What I did like was learning a little about Merton.
Deborah  Cleaves
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Not worth the read.
Warren Hicks
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book to be read, marked, learned and inwardly digested. The connections are at times subtle and yet profound.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review soon on the Englewood Review of Books (
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