A friend of mine asked me to pass this question onto members of this list.
His wife heard a new book being discussed on a radio talk show, apparently
non-fiction, about the monastic culture in early Christian Ireland. What
intrigued her was the discussion about the men who took vows to be hermits
or anchorites, but found the social instinct too strong and eventually
gathered together to create illuminated manuscripts.
You may find the book "How the Irish Saved Civilization" useful. Author:
Thomas Cahill. Publisher: Doubleday. 1995.
It deals with how the Irish monks preserved many of the great works of the
Romans and Greeks while the rest of Europe was going through the Dark Ages
(ca. 400 - 700 C.E.).