Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Manalive” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  1,716 ratings  ·  177 reviews
A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness, and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea. It a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a flagon, and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of intricate and embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion ...more
Hardcover, 172 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Wildside Press (first published 1912)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Manalive, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Manalive

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jessica Snell
The first time I picked up this book, I was working in a library. I flipped it open and found this conversation:

". . . But the cold fact remains: imprudent marriages do lead to long unhappiness and disappointment - you've got used to your drinks and things - I shan't be pretty much longer-"

"Imprudent marriages!" roared Michael. "And pray where in earth or heaven are there any prudent marriages? Might as well talk about prudent suicides ... Unhappy! of course you'll be unhappy. Who the devil are
This is quite possibly my favorite book. The "message," storyline, characters, and even simply the choices of descriptive phrasing and wording all champion Chesterton's favorite topic- the complete enjoyment of the "experiment of being."

This is probably not the best choice for an introduction to Chesterton- the book is more enjoyable if you already know Chesterton's opinions and worldview. It felt like he wrote it not to prove anything or make a great earth-shattering statement, but to celebrat
Becca Jane
Chesterton is definitely my favorite author - he has brought life to my Christian walk. He has a fantastic understanding of the abundance of life that is present in creation, does a great job pointing out the falsity of modern nihilist thought, and is a genius as he uses paradox to illustrate many of his points. Stick it out through the first few chapters, and you will be grateful you read this book.
G.K. Chesterton really outdoes himself in this book.
"I must be sent down,' Smith said, 'and the people must not be told the truth.'
"'And why not?' asked the other.
"Because I mean to follow your advice,' answered the massive youth, 'I mean to keep the remaining shots for people in the shameful state you and I were in last night-I wish we could even plead drunkenness. I mean to keep those bullets for pessimists-pills for pale people. And in this way I want to walk the world like a wonderful surpri
Absolutely brilliant. MANALIVE manages to be touching, heartfelt, and incredibly life-affirming without resorting--not even for an instant--to saccharinity or melodrama. Of all Chesterton's works, this book perhaps best encapsulates his personal outlook on life, and the amount of wit required for writing a novel like this is mind-boggling. MANALIVE is utterly jam-packed with the sort of delicious paradoxes and unconventionally conventional wisdom I've come to expect from Chesterton, but this is ...more
I want to live in the world of G. K. Chesterton stories, where everyone sits around in awkward predicaments discussing the human condition. In Manalive, we get to talk about morality and mortality--when is a thief, a bigamist, a murderer, and a deserter of wives none of those things and yet all? In a G. K. Chesterton book, that's where. There's also this giddy delight in being a man, alive, with two legs, which is a pretty good thing to be, all things considered. If the last chapter is a little ...more
Rachel Heffington
Another strange but funny and (at moments) poignant allegory. I loved Innocent Smith and the havoc he wreaked simply by being an optimist in a pessimistic world. :D
Aaron Heinly
There is a fine line between genius and insanity. GK Chesterton likes to play hopscotch down that line. Manalive is about a VERY eccentric person named Innocent Smith who acts something like a mix of Willie Wonka and Buddy from the movie Elf. He is happy and playful and energetic - like a giant hyperactive kid. But he is smart and philosophical and likes to point his gun at folk. He comes into town like a cool and wild breeze and turns everyone's lives upside down. Love and passion is stirred an ...more
Jesse Broussard
Mar 19, 2011 Jesse Broussard rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humans
Recommended to Jesse by: N.D. Wilson commanded, and it was obeyed.
Shelves: excellent, chesterton
Similar to Thursday, but very excellent. So queer and living a man.

#3). I have to say, I really am fully convinced that Chesterton was married to a redhead. There's no other reason for all of his heroines to have red hair. I would also like to take this opportunity to laugh at Brooke--if Chesterton married a redhead, then redheads are obviously superior to every other hair colour.

This book is vintage Chesterton: characters that you meet every day with one that no one but he could dream up. The m
I keep thinking I need to read more Chesterton, and especially his fiction. And then I read a book like this and I think, “I’m not smart enough to read Chesterton.” The premise behind this book is one that seems normal, and maybe even dull, on the surface. Carried out through the novel, though, it was for me first confusing and then intriguing.

What if we didn’t live as though we were happy? What if we were really happy? What if every day was new and the joy in life was not in finding the new but
Dan Ward
Oh yes. I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite of GKC's novels, but this one is definitely in the top two (Napoleon of Notting Hill being the other). It's a wonderful, confusing, topsy-turvy and surprising story about a man named Innocent Smith, who is accused of (among other things) polygamy, murder and burglary. And of course, he's innocent of it all, even though he actually did do just about everything he's accused of...

Read the book to understand (whoa, that's a deep statement).
Brittany Petruzzi
This goes on my need-to-re-read list. I loved it the first time around, when I read it far too quickly. I'll never forget the idea of traveling around the world for the express purpose of coming home again.

Re-read March 2013 and its even better than I remember. Soul-stirring and inspiring.
Feb 17, 2009 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Robert Moore-Jumonville
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Miller
As a Chesterton fan Manalive is one of my all time favorite novels of his and really one of my all time favorite novels. This story Innocent Smith seems to me to often be the story of G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton was a man deeply thankful for all things and would go beyond stopping and smelling the roses, but stopping and noticing he had two legs. This novel also reminds me of some aspects of his The Napoleon of Notting Hill in the court that occurs in the house. His idea of neighborhoods becomin ...more
Karl El-Koura
G. K. Chesterton was a man who discovered the secret to a happy life—I doubt one can read much of his work without coming to that conclusion. The most natural reaction to his body of work, I think, is amazement: to wonder what secret this man discovered that allowed him to take so much delight in a sheet of brown paper, for example, or where he found the energy to defend his faith in a land growing faithless with so much gusto and wit.

In Manalive, a short novel full of events as improbable as th
Title: Manalive

Author: GK Chesterton [You didn't think I could leave him out of this, did you?]

Published: 1912

Year I read it: 2011

One sentence summary: The odd and enthusiastic Innocent Smith arrives at a London boarding house full of disillusioned modernists; but after the stir he causes in the cause to improve his fellow tenants, he is arrested and charged with burglary, polygamy, and attempted murder, turning the boarding house into the trial of Innocent.

Interesting fact: Chesterton was frien
Very, very tricky book so far. It's like a story version of Orthodoxy. It's sort of the opposite of the Iliad, which I just finished: The Iliad is dense and long, but not that hard to understand (I think), while Manalive is short and snappy, but it feels like there are layers and layers of meaning behind everything. I like it, but it feels really complicated.

Chesterton has a little thing for alliterations, which is kind of cute.


It was good, but I liked Orthodoxy better. This seemed less ce
Apr 16, 2015 Anna added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: goodreads, chesterton
Shelves: humoresque
“Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

“I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

This farcical fairy-tale tells the adventures of Innocent Smith and the cast of characters
The otherworldy Smith is described in this way: "He
At first I did not like this book. But I kept a thought in the back of my mind from the Introduction that it may be a difficult book if this is your first Chesterton novel, It was but I persevered. When I finished it and understood what is was all about, I started reading it again. I'm glad I did. It is a magical tale & to enjoy it, you have to pay attention to it's subtle messages. .
David Shane
Quite the ridiculous book, and intentionally so. I'd personally recommend reading Orthodoxy first - I felt like a lot of the same ideas were being expressed, but less clearly here. (But then I generally prefer nonfiction to fiction.) Stick with it - it gets better as you go along (I almost quit about 20 pages in, thinking it boring), and the ending is especially fun.
I really liked this book. Usually when I read something by Chesterton, I really want to like it, and then after I finish, I say "What just happened?" and feel super confused.

However, this was wonderful. More later. Maybe.
Finished this one a while ago but haven't marked it as read. Incredibly good. Totally recommend, a must read at least once in your life. Challenges and yet readable and fun.
Emma Christmas
Once you tune in to his languid linguistic style this book is an absolute joy to read and should be a guide to life.
Alasdair Peterson
Excellent, GKC again challenges his readers to remember how amazing the world we live in really is.
This was delightful. I can't think of anything to add or subtract from that.
Alex Stroshine
I read this book in two days. It is only the second Chesterton novel I have read after the celebrated "The Man Who Was Thursday". As has been noted elsewhere, this novel is rife with Chesterton's personal philosophy of joy and astonishment at the universe and the character of Innocent Smith could very indeed be Chesterton himself.

Anything by Chesterton is worth reading and, while I never realized what an exceptional writer he was at painting a portrait with words, I feel that the novel was lacki
Is Innocent Smith criminally insane, or is he a "good wind that blows nobody harm?" And do the inmates of Beacon House have the right or the responsibility to pass judgement?
An eminently readable, often outrageous, and endlessly thought-provoking challenge to conventional thinking.

As so many of Chesterton's works, "Manalive" is also eminently quotable. Here are a few of my favorites:

"We are never free until some institution frees us; and liberty cannot exist till it is declared by authority."
A case where the quotes are better than the book.

The descriptive language flows rich, fast, and deep - to the point of drowning the narrative. For once I didn't entirely buy the odder philosophical points either, but it was good that it was in there as it made an otherwise too silly story more interesting

Basically, a rich philosophy student went a bit bonkers and took to trying out some extreme ideas in order to test them and to be as 'alive' as possible. Seems like he's a bit of an adrenaline j
I had a conflicted response to Manalive. Chesterton's writing here is among his best, particularly his descriptions, and his notorious wit and paradoxes are abundant. Bothersome, though, is the nature of the narrative--which is to say, there isn't one. The entire second half of the book abandons character development or plot in favor of dismantling straw man representations of accursed modernity. I have no qualms with most of Chesterton's arguments, but the presentation is backhanded.

It's best t
I finished this book in the midst of a wikkid bad pissy spell, so I think my overall impressions of this book were somewhat mottled by my erstwhile emotional shenaniganzerie.

The story is brilliantly arcane, but I honestly wish I had stopped reading about 10 pages short of the end. Maybe it was the mood I was in, but the tidy resolution of the inconceivable complexities presented in the beginning and middle of the book let me down a little bit. In the end (don't worry, I won't spoil it), I had ho
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Place of the Lion
  • Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton
  • On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
  • Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis
  • At the Back of the North Wind
  • The Mind of the Maker
  • Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
  • The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
  • Angels in the Architecture: A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth
  • The Spirit of the Liturgy
  • Uncle Dynamite
  • Solomon Among the Postmoderns
  • Practice in Christianity (Writings, Vol 20)
  • Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
More about G.K. Chesterton...

Share This Book

“I don't deny," he said, "that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.” 55 likes
“Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.” 19 likes
More quotes…