UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia
 
The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia

William H Shannon, Christine M Bochen and Patrick F O'Connell
ISBN 1570756570 (9781570756573)
Orbis Books, 2006
£19.99

Category: Language & Reference

Without a doubt, this is the definitive work on Thomas Merton, a book that no Merton enthusiast or student should be without, and a volume that any theological library would do well to stock. First published in 2002, it has now been released in paperback with new indexing of names and subjects.

The authors are acknowledged Merton experts, founding members of the International Thomas Merton Society, Shannon its founding president, whilst Bochen and O'Connell have also served terms as president; and all three are responsible for a raft of other Merton studies besides the current volume.

A comprehensive and thorough overview of Merton's life and works is offered, starting with a timeline running from his birth (1915) through his death (1968) and beyond to list posthumous publications up to 2002. This is followed by a brief introduction emphasising the rediscovery of contemplative spirituality as Merton's gift to the Christian community, and outlining the four types of articles within the Encyclopedia:

  1. Merton's Books
  2. Themes emerging from those books
  3. People who were important in Merton's life
  4. Places where Merton lived

The whole collection of articles is arranged alphabetically, starting with 'Abbot' and ending with his 1968 publication Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Inevitably articles overlap to some extent and, although many articles end with a 'See Also' pointer to related articles, this is where the newly added indexes come into their own, allowing users to cross-refer even more effectively.

Without a doubt, if it were possible to capture Merton's spirit within a single volume, this would have it: but such a thing (thankfully!) is not possible. This book serves as a superb reference that should help not only Merton scholars but anyone else seeking an understanding of his life and thought — and as a pointer towards Merton's many writings which, in turn, will have served their purpose if they point us on towards a contemplation of the divine.

I take this opportunity to thank authors and publishers alike for providing us with a such a wonderful resource.

Phil Groom, September 2006

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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