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No Man Is an Island

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  5,375 ratings  ·  298 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 undersc ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 14th 2005 by Shambhala (first published 1955)
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Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
"We are always asking, 'What is Truth?' and then crucifying the truth that stands before our eyes."
- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

Appropriately, I guess, I read this while flying back to the US from a week with my family in Malta. On the plane I ran out of tabs, so had to ink this sucker up. Something I'm usually reluctant to do if I have enough tabs. The problem is Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk/Zen Scholar/Social Justice warrior, etc., is infinitely quotable. He writes well and, I (an agnos
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian Eshleman
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is short and power-packed. If you are a new taker, as I am, you will find yourself making slow progress not because Merton's epigrams are hard to understand but because you will want to squirrel them away for future use. ...more
Tom LA
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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. ...more
B.J. Richardson
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If we are lucky, once or twice in our lives a book will come along that will truly, drastically, change us. This was one such book. I first read it a little more than fifteen years ago and I felt that it was unquestionably one of the greatest books I had ever read. It humbled me. It challenged me.

Since that time it has been sitting on my shelf and I kept saying I need to get back to it. Finally, I have done so but I almost wish I hadn't. This is still a really good book. It is actually more of
Michael Noes
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Adam Lauver
Feb 15, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Ali M.
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: soul-food
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 transcribed the thoughts of Merton in this spiritual handbook to understand his journey and message for myself. There are sections and passages in Merton’s work that I found difficult and obscure and I specified when I came across such. I don’t propose that my notes will make the overall experience any simpler or easier. I suggest reading the original No Man Is an Island to get the full message and see for yourself perhaps what I did not fully comprehend.

I found "No Man Is an Island" difficul
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I first picked up No Man Is an Island almost five years ago, after reading New Seeds of Contemplation , and was forced to abandon it when I moved to Europe. I have read hardly anything by Thomas Merton in the interval. But lately, seeking relief from spiritually-inflected depression, I chose No Man Is an Island to follow Addison Hodges Hart's The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd and started over from the beginning.

Five years ago I was newly married and minimally employed as an adjunct prof
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Bookishnymph *needs hea*
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I didn't agree with everything in this book, but I found it interesting. A few passages really helped me. ...more
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Can be a bit flowery at times, but most of the time its a bop. I think he called me out for something I was doing or some mentality I had in just about every chapter.
Bryan Taylor
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are certain books that need to be read at certain points in your life. This is one of those books. The message throughout resonates with me today. If I would have read this 10 years ago, I don't know if it would have had the same impact. The spiritual reflection throughout is so needed in today's day and age. "Without a life of the spirit," Merton writes, "our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory. The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, ...more
Max Marko
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Merton has such an approachable way of spelling out the spiritual dangers and pitfalls common to Christians.

I found myself again and again caught amidst these pages both convicted and relieved. Convicted that so often my prayer revolved around me; relieved that I now finally have new perspective to pursue God more honestly and with my whole self.

10/10 Would recommend this book to anyone desirous of giving his/her whole self to God!
William O'Neal II
It took me so long to read this book but it was worth it. The information is so rich and dense that I had to take hours to digest and meditate on the philosophy of a single paragraph. Nevertheless “No Man is an Island” has helped me so much and given me many things to think about and many ways to change. This book read me. And it is one I will have to read again.
Ben Smitthimedhin
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
Succinct, precise, clear, yet intellectually stimulating. Merton is a rarity. He understands the paradox of the Christian faith and does an excellent job at articulating the knotty issues of orthodoxy. Still, he never departs from the practicalities, and reading him is nourishing because he gets at the heart of Catholic faith and its hope for the modern man.

He should be read slowly. Almost every sentence elucidates the inner life (that we are so good at ignoring) in a way that is humbling, revea
Mar 05, 2021 rated it did not like it
Thomas Merton is not a great philosopher - he is a great wordsmith.

I forced myself to finish this book, hoping with every turn of the page (each with a sigh of relief that I was one page closer to the end) that I would eventually find the nuggets of wisdom that make his books so popular. Instead, what I found was 264 pages of nonsensical and often completely incoherent writing that turns the simplest idea into 4 pages of head-scratching confusion.

Merton is a Christian and his writings are center
DJ Dycus
I have long been a fan of Merton's. Even when I couldn't follow what he was talking about, as in New Seeds of Contemplation, I was attracted to his ideas. In everything I have read by him, this is, by far, Merton's most accessible work. His insights into human behavior, spirituality, and culture are absolutely astounding. ...more
There were some gems in this book but overall, it was not that inspiring to me.
Brian Tucker
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill his vocation he can only be one person: himself.
Kevin Perrine
3.5 some essays really good and others somewhat less so, but still a solid read.
Jeff Aupperle
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
The greatest temptations are not those that solicit our consent to obvious sin, but those that offer us great evils masking as the greatest goods
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read. Merton offers a wonderful analysis of the spiritual life. From asceticism to hope, this book has changed a lot of my perspectives.
Ian Ritchie
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is good in this book is really good. I'll leave it at that! ...more
John Defrog of the Antarctic
I’ve never read Thomas Merton’s famous autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (or indeed anything by him), but I’d read bits and pieces about his life and his writings, and I decided to give him a try. This is a collection of 16 essays united by the basic premise of the title (which is taken from a John Donne quote): Christian spiritual life is ultimately defined by our connectedness to others, which has implications for every other aspect of Christian faith, even including silence and solitud ...more
Jackson Clark
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Timeless, and of great depth. This is a book that I will be coming back to continually.
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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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