Merton's tale is enthralling and anyone, particularly those considering becoming a Catholic, is well-advised to read it. While he considered himself a poet this autobiography is his magnum opus. The descriptions of his inner turmoil and the interactions between friends and acquaintances, lay and religious, are masterly and captivating. I found much with which to empathize and sympathize.
That said, however, I must confess I find Merton not to be a terribly likable fellow. Despite frequent self-deprecating comments, a rather high self-opinion is still apparent and while he endeavors to portray himself the struggling and penurious writer, that effort is belied by the circumstances of his upbringing: public school in England, college at Cambridge and Columbia. Truth be told, most bohos are of upper-middle class or higher backgrounds and Merton is no exception; living off a trust fund that while not substantial, is adequate enough to ensure his never having to go unfed or untraveled. A character in the book I find much more likable is his Columbia chum and classmate Robert Lax, a non-practicing Jew who also converted to Catholicism and became a fine poet, a better one than Merton, I think (Lax's full story remains to be told and should be; for his poems, get this book, which I believe contains the lot of them).
It is Merton's quest for faith, however, that is the main story in Seven Storey Mountain and a wonderful and inspiring account it is. I wish someone had made me read it when I was wrestling with the decision whether or not to become a Catholic (it was recommended to me at the time by a friend but as my late father once advised, if you want to make sure someone never reads a book, recommend it to him).