Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “No Man Is an Island” as Want to Read:
No Man Is an Island
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

No Man Is an Island

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  3,507 ratings  ·  270 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,507 ratings  ·  270 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of No Man Is an Island
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.
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
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
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thomasmerton
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
John Defrog
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Michael Vidrine
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most insightful books I’ve read in a long time.
Julianne Bigler
May 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christian
"You who love Him must love Him as arriving from where you do not know and as going where you do not know. Your spirit must seek to be as clean and as free as His own Spirit, in order to follow Him wherever He goes." Okay, Thomas, I'll get right on that.

"If He should teach us how to follow Him into the wilderness of His own freedom, we will no longer know where we are, because we are with Him Who is everywhere and nowhere at the same time." What. The fuck.

"The Lord travels in all directions at
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Friendship with God: An Uncommon Dialogue
  • Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self
  • The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling
  • My Life with the Saints
  • Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions
  • The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life
  • Interior Castle
  • The Way of Perfection
  • What We Talk about When We Talk about God
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
  • Time for God: A Guide to Mental Prayer
  • The Reed of God: A New Edition of a Spiritual Classic
  • After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path
  • Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
  • The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
  • Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
  • Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
See similar books…
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

Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people fall in love with books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts throug...
14 likes · 4 comments
“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” 3738 likes
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” 3290 likes
More quotes…