The most recommended books about monks

Who picked these books? Meet our 36 experts.

36 authors created a book list connected to monks, and here are their favorite monk books.
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Book cover of The Evening and the Morning

S. J. Arnott Author Of Sword of the Angles

From my list on early English history.

Why am I passionate about this?

We know so little about early English history that it’s a period often ignored by novelists who prefer to set their tales in eras that are a little more fleshed out and familiar to their readerships. This is a shame as, though much has been lost, there is still plenty to discover, and England’s ‘dark age’ offers us a rich seam of untold stories. By combining research, scholarship, and imagination an author can strike a literary light that will illuminate even the darkest corner.

S. J.'s book list on early English history

S. J. Arnott Why did S. J. love this book?

A prequel to the famous best-seller The Pillars of the Earth this book follows the fortunes of three disparate characters as they navigate the perilous Viking-riven world of 10th-century England. Although some of Follett’s books are considered ‘light’ reading by many he’s a meticulous author who enjoys his period research and always presents his readers with stories as rich in historical accuracy and verisimilitude as they are in drama and intrigue. A broad cast of characters gives us a view of life from all the strata of English (and Norman) society: from noblewoman to slave; craftsman to monk. A long, long book that will leave you wanting even more.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Evening and the Morning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller
An Amazon Best Book of 2020

The thrilling and addictive prequel to The Pillars of the Earth--set in England at the dawn of a new era: the Middle Ages

"Just as transporting as [The Pillars of the Earth] . . . A most welcome addition to the Kingsbridge series." --The Washington Post

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict…

Book cover of Living With Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton

John Dear Author Of A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World

From my list on the greatest modern peacemakers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent my entire life in pursuit of peace and nonviolence, and tried to be a peacemaker to our poor world of permanent warfare, extreme poverty, systemic violence, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction. I’ve organized hundreds of demonstrations, spoken to a million people, written some forty books on peace and nonviolence, been arrested 85 times, traveled the warzones of the world—all the while trying to practice peace and nonviolence, and not doing a good job of it. That’s why I look to the examples of legendary peacemakers who lived the life of peace and changed the world with their disarming presence, people like Gandhi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Thomas Merton.

John's book list on the greatest modern peacemakers

John Dear Why did John love this book?

Thomas Merton is perhaps the best-known and most beloved monk in history. His 1948 best-selling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, inspired millions of people. He went on to write over 100 books on every aspect of the spiritual life, as well as racism, war, poetry, and peacemaking, while spending his days in his Kentucky monastery, until his untimely death in 1968. The third of Jim Forest’s biographies, Living With Wisdom sums up Merton’s story using all his writings, journals, and letters, along with many photos, and offers the best overview of Merton’s shining example of contemplative peacemaking. It will inspire everyone to go deep into the spiritual roots of peace and nonviolence and become authentic peacemakers.  

By Jim Forest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living With Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is a lavish pictorial biography of Thomas Merton, the extraordinary Trappist monk whose writings--including his classic autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain--exerted a profound influence on millions. An extensive collection of photographs captures the life and vision of one of the greatest spiritual figures of the century.

Book cover of An Excellent Mystery

Jeanne M. Dams Author Of Murder in the Park

From my list on historical mysteries that make the period come alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I used to hate history, until I made the startling discovery that history wasn’t about dates and wars—the stuff we had to memorize in high school—but about people. And what can be more absorbing than people? When I started my first historical series, set in the very early 20th century in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana, I delved into the local newspaper and learned that the people of the time and their problems were very much like today’s. That pulled me in, and never let go. Now, researching the 1920s, I’m meeting people who might live next door. It’s so much fun!

Jeanne's book list on historical mysteries that make the period come alive

Jeanne M. Dams Why did Jeanne love this book?

I love all of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael books for so many reasons.

One is the crisp excellence of writing, one is her illuminating description of her medieval setting, one is her endearing protagonist, one is her exceptional plotting. This particular title has a most intriguing plot and a thoroughly satisfying resolution.

I chose the book (which I have reread many times) with a satisfied smile. And finally, the books are set in the England I so love, even if her setting is 11 centuries ago. 

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Excellent Mystery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war- and a mystery. The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephen has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely- and mute- must seek refuge at Shrewsbury.

From the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses that they are bound by something deeper than their…

Book cover of Enlightened

George J. Berger Author Of South of Burnt Rocks: West of the Moon

From George's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Book reviewer World traveler Lived on both sides of the tracks Family guy

George's 3 favorite reads in 2023

George J. Berger Why did George love this book?

This graphic novel about Buddha’s early years is presented through striking but simple two-color-palette illustrations. Spare text and dialogue harmonize well with the illustrations.

This fictionalized story flows through Siddhartha’s early conflicts and his struggles to learn about the cycle of life, leading to profound lessons on the path to self-mastery.

Readers will be intrigued by the largely true story and will come away with a solid understanding of the basic tenets of Buddhism. Some may even be tempted to learn more and perhaps shed parts of their current lives for a more modest and spiritual journey.

By Sachi Ediriweera,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enlightened as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

A spirited young prince longing to learn more about the world grows into a man on a quest to find the cause of human suffering in this first-of-its-kind graphic novel retelling of the life of Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism.

Prince Siddhartha lives in a beautiful palace in the heart of Kapilavastu. His father, the king, ensures that he has the best of everything-he just can't go outside. He is locked up away from the city, away from anything that might cause him pain. He knows nothing of illness, aging, sorrow, or death, yet Siddhartha feels the pain regardless, and…

Book cover of Think Like a Monk

Joe Hart Author Of Take Command: Find Your Inner Strength, Build Enduring Relationships, and Live the Life You Want

From my list on personal growth and building strong relationships.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a young man, I pursued law school and practiced with a major firm. However, it wasn't until I enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course that I discovered my true passion for personal growth and building strong relationships. Now, as the CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates, I am dedicated to helping individuals and businesses unlock their full potential through personal growth. I believe that everyone has untapped potential, and with the right tools and mindset, they can achieve greatness.

Joe's book list on personal growth and building strong relationships

Joe Hart Why did Joe love this book?

This book by Jay Shetty combines ancient wisdom with practical advice that we can all apply to our lives.

Drawing on his time as a monk, Shetty provides insights and exercises that can help us overcome negative thoughts and habits, reduce stress, and access the calm and purpose that lie within all of us.

By developing these skills, we can improve our relationships and give the gifts we find in ourselves to the world.

Think Like a Monk is a must-read for anyone looking to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

Whether you're looking to improve your personal growth, build stronger relationships, or simply find more peace and purpose in your life, this book has something for everyone.

By Jay Shetty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Think Like a Monk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

Jay Shetty, social media superstar and host of the #1 podcast 'On Purpose', distils the timeless wisdom he learned as a practising monk into practical steps anyone can take every day to live a less anxious, more meaningful life.

Over the past three years, Jay Shetty has become a favourite in the hearts and minds of millions of people worldwide. One of his clips was the most watched video on Facebook last year, with over 360 million views. His social media following totals over 32 million, he has produced over 400 viral videos, which…

Book cover of How to Live Like a Monk: Medieval Wisdom for Modern Life

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

This is a medieval history unlike any other you’ll read, literally bringing the past into the present. How do medieval thoughts and practices relate to modern life, from the usefulness of minimalism to church "vision boards" to the healing properties of green spaces?

Cybulskie is lightheartedly critical of certain practices of the past but is always respectful, never treating people as strange or backward.

Illustrated with images from medieval manuscripts, this book covers everything from Easter ball games to party saint Brigid to Benedict’s vision of a room for communal undies. We see medieval religious folks interested in science and innovation, as well as history and ritual, and connected to the world around them in ways we might not have imagined.

By Danièle Cybulskie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Live Like a Monk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We know that they prayed, sang, and wore long robes, but what was it really like to be a monk? Though monastic living may seem unimaginable to us moderns, it has relevance for today. This book illuminates the day-to-day of medieval European monasticism, showing how you can apply the principles of monastic living, like finding balance and peace, to your life.

With wit and insight, medievalist and podcaster Daniele Cybulskie dives into the history of monasticism in each chapter and then reveals applications for today, such as the benefits of healthy eating, streamlining routines, gardening, and helping others. She shares…

Book cover of A Canticle for Leibowitz

Christopher Ruocchio Author Of Empire of Silence

From my list on science fiction for fantasy readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of 5 (nearly 6) science-fantasy novels in my Sun Eater series, as well as the author of 2 novellas and nearly two dozen short stories, as well as an 8-year veteran of the publishing industry. For 7 of those years, I worked as an editor for Baen Books, a nearly 40-year-old publisher of science fiction and fantasy. On top of all that, I am a lifelong sci-fi and fantasy fan, and something of an amateur historian of the field. 

Christopher's book list on science fiction for fantasy readers

Christopher Ruocchio Why did Christopher love this book?

Folks daunted at the prospect of jumping in to a longer series will be delighted to know that this is just a standalone novel. In fact, it was the only novel Walter M. Miller, Jr. wrote in his lifetime. There is a posthumously published sequel to this novel, but it was completed by another writer and is generally considered the lesser work, and at any rate, Canticle stands on its own. This is a post-apocalyptic novel, set after a nuclear war in the 1960s wiped out civilization. It takes place over the course of centuries, and follows a small Roman Catholic monastery in the American southwest as they struggle to preserve documents from before the bombs destroyed everything—scientific knowledge, mostly, knowledge the poor monks can’t even begin to understand.

This is one of the most beautifully written novels in the genre’s history, and one that—though I’ve only read it two…

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Canticle for Leibowitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth…

Book cover of The Sixth Lamentation

Lyn Farrell Author Of One Dog Too Many

From my list on stories of survival in WWII beyond the battlefield.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lifelong reader who has always been interested in the period of WWII. Stories of courage under fire are my favorites. As a little girl, I attended a one-room school without a library. Luckily, my enlightened teacher contracted with a Bookmobile, a travelling library. The first time I got inside the Bookmobile, I decided I’d like to live there and was only removed forcibly by the bus driver. I'm an educator turned author who worked for thirty-five years at the medical school at Michigan State University. Luckily, my circle of family and friends includes doctors, lawyers, and police officers who are consulted regularly for advice on my mysteries.

Lyn's book list on stories of survival in WWII beyond the battlefield

Lyn Farrell Why did Lyn love this book?

William Brodrick is a British solicitor who became a lawyer after leaving a monastery where he was a monk. Like Brodrick, I have re-invented myself as an author after 40 years of working as a medical educator. Knowing what it took for me to succeed in a new career, I admire what it cost the author to achieve such a radical shift. Monk-turned-lawyer-turned-Novelist Brodrick has written a stunning story about a guard at a WWII death camp who is being brought to trial fifty years after the war. The story is told by Anselm, a lawyer who left the Old Baily in London where he worked as a solicitor, to become a monk at Larkwood Priory (the reverse of the author’s life).

Another reason this story speaks to me so profoundly has to do with my background. I am the eldest child in an abusive family that enforced silence about…

By William Brodrick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sixth Lamentation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What should you do if the world has turned against you? When Father Anselm is asked this question by an old man at Larkwood Priory, his response, to claim sanctuary, is to have greater resonance than he could ever have imagined. For that evening the old man returns, demanding the protection of the church. His name is Eduard Schwermann and he is wanted by the police as a suspected war criminal. With her life running out, Agnes Aubret feels it is time to unburden to her granddaughter Lucy the secrets she has been carrying for so long. Fifty years earlier,…

Book cover of A Morbid Taste for Bones

Emily J. Edwards Author Of Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man

From my list on mysteries set in the perfect time and place.

Why am I passionate about this?

Of course, every mystery needs a perfect crime, but what about the perfect setting? I’m fascinated by how authors manipulate time and place to add to the heightened emotions of their murders, thefts, blackmail, and frauds. It’s the juxtaposition of truth and fantasy—what we believe times were like and how they actually were—that makes setting such an essential detail of every whodunnit. Doing research on my own novel, I wrenched apart the facts and fictions of Post-War America, and grew even more ravenous for mysteries that leveraged their settings for the utmost entertainment. 

Emily's book list on mysteries set in the perfect time and place

Emily J. Edwards Why did Emily love this book?

Did I ever think that a nearly 50-year-old mystery series… following the trials of Welsh monk…during the war between King Stephen and Queen Maude in the mid-1100s… would become one of my favorite mystery series of all time? Obviously not. But Brother Cadfael is, of course, not your ordinary monk, and this is not your ordinary cozy series. The strictly ordained lives of cloistered brothers make a fantastic structure on which to hang brilliant murder mysteries that involve reliquaries, lepers, and more than a few gallant soldiers.

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Morbid Taste for Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the gentle Shrewsbury spring of 1140 the midnight matins at the Benedictine abbey suddenly reverberates with an unholy sound - a hunt in full cry. Pursued by a drunken mob, the quarry is running for its life. When the frantic creature bursts into the nave to claim sanctuary, Brother Cadfael finds himself fighting off armed townsmen to save a terrified young man. Accused of robbery and murder is Liliwin, a wandering minstrel who performed at the wedding of the local goldsmith's son. But his supposed victim, the miserly craftsman, is still alive, although a strongbox lies empty. Brother Cadfael…

Book cover of The Seven Storey Mountain

Jane Christmas Author Of What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostela

From my list on memoirs that combine the inward and outward journey.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I hated the outdoors, hated change, hated discomfort. Imagine my surprise when, in 2004, without an iota of expertise, I decided to hike Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It was life-changing and world-opening on so many levels. Since then, I’ve written five best-selling journey memoirs, two of which have been nominated for awards. I read just about anything but I am particularly drawn to stories about those who leave the comfort of their homes to go and live another life. We all think of doing it; few of us actually do.

Jane's book list on memoirs that combine the inward and outward journey

Jane Christmas Why did Jane love this book?

Admittedly, a book about a womanizing druggie who finds God and goes off to be a Trappist monk sounds trite. But this is the real deal, mainly due to Merton’s candidness, but also to his beautiful writing. Though published in 1948, it feels entirely modern. There’s a journey here but you’ll remember the interior one more than the exterior one.

By Thomas Merton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Seven Storey Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The complete and unedited edition of Thomas Merton's famous autobiography, one of the greatest works of spiritual pilgrimage ever written.

'The Seven Storey Mountain is a book one reads with a pencil so as to make it one's own.'
Graham Greene

'A remarkable book, a classic of its kind, written in a vivid, rich and alert style which ranges from crisp vernacular to passionate eloquence, full of picturesque incident and passing at times into religious ecstasy.'
The Times Literary Supplement

'A book which may well prove to be of permanent interest in the history of religious experience.'
Evelyn Waugh