Born in France, Thomas Merton was the son of an American artist and poet and her New Zealander husband, a painter. Merton lost both parents before he had finished high school, and his younger brother was killed in World War II. Something of the ephemeral character of human endeavor marked all his works, deepening the pathos of his writings and drawing him close to Eastern, especially Buddhist, forms of monasticism. After an initial education in the United States, France, and England, he completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. His parents, nominally friends, had given him little religious guidance, and in 1938, he converted to Roman Catholicism. The following year he received an M.A. from Columbia University and in 1941, he entered Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, where he remained until a short time before his death. His working life was spent as a Trappist monk. At Gethsemani, he wrote his famous autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain" (1948); there he labored and prayed through the days and years of a constant regimen that began with daily prayer at 2:00 a.m. As his contemplative life developed, he still maintained contact with the outside world, his many books and articles increasing steadily as the years went by. Reading them, it is hard to think of him as only a "guilty bystander," to use the title of one of his many collections of essays. He was vehement in his opposition to the Vietnam War, to the nuclear arms race, to racial oppression. Having received permission to leave his monastery, he went on a journey to confer with mystics of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He was accidentally electrocuted in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 10, 1968.
John McManus is a practising manager, speaker, teacher and consultant and author in the fields of strategy, project management, software development, business reengineering, total quality management, and change management. A senior manager, John has 15 years front-line software, project, and general management experience. He has managed the development of a variety of software projects, utilizing Rapid Application Development, Structured Software Analysis Design Method, PRINCE and other software led project methodologies. He has managed large project teams and is responsible for providing independent assessments on numerous software projects. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a professional member of the British Computer Society, a Chartered Software Engineer and holds degrees from Manchester and London Universities.Sue Monk Kidd was born in Sylvester, Georgia on August 12, 1948. She received a B.S. in nursing from Texas Christian University in 1970 and worked throughout her twenties as a registered nurse and college nursing instructor. She got her start in writing at the age of 30 when a personal essay she wrote for a writing class was published in Guideposts and reprinted in Reader's Digest. She went on to become a contributing editor at Guideposts and a freelancer. She primarily writes non-fiction, but is best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which won the 2004 Book Sense Paperback book of the Year. The book was made into a movie in 2008. Her other works include God's Joyful Surprise, When the Heart Waits, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Firstlight, and Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story. The Mermaid Chair won the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction and was adapted into a television movie by Lifetime. Sue's title, The Invention of Wings, was selected as the Oprah Book Club 2.0 read in January, 2014. This title also made The New York Times Best Seller List.