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

To a God Unknown

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,138 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
While fulfilling his dead father's dream of creating a prosperous farm in California, Joseph Wayne comes to believe that a magnificent tree on the farm embodies his father's spirit. His brothers and their families share in Joseph's prosperity and the farm flourishes - until one brother, scared by Joseph's pagan belief, kills the tree and brings disease and famine on the fa ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 30th 2000 by Penguin Classics (first published 1933)
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 To a God Unknown, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about To a God Unknown

The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Best Books of the Decade: 1930s
121st out of 456 books — 788 voters
East of Eden by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckCannery Row by John SteinbeckThe Pearl by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
16th out of 43 books — 172 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 17, 2015 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle

Back in 2012 I embarked on a project of reading my way through the works of John Steinbeck. Looking back on it, I should have developed a bit more of a plan: reading the novels in chronological order probably would have appealed to my Virgo tendencies. As it is, I started with Cannery Row, moved on to The Grapes of Wrath and then just read whatever came my way. Having finished To a God Unknown, I now only have one more novel– Steinbeck’s first, Cup of Gold – and a couple of volumes of non-fictio
Apr 30, 2011 Suzy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nick, Teri
Continuing in my quest to read all of Steinbeck...

Wow, this book affected me more than any other book in a long while. First, Steinbeck's writing is pure beauty. Sometimes I stop and savor each sentence, particularly in descriptive passages, and the perfection with which he writes is unbelievable.
Like the protagonist, Joseph, I love and feel connected to nature in a deep and a strong way. I also have a strong sense of the sacred that permeates my everyday experiences; Joseph seems always distrac
Aug 16, 2016 qwerty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Μια από τις καλύτερες εκδόσεις που συνάντησα ποτέ και μια άψογη μετάφραση του Κοσμά Πολίτη. Ένα συλλεκτικό παλαιό βιβλίο που πραγματικά αξίζει να το έχει κανείς στη βιβλιοθήκη του. Πολύ ωραία η εισαγωγή του Αντώνη Σαμαράκη και τα σκίτσα στην αρχή του κάθε κεφαλαίου δίνουν μια ταξιδιάρικη ώθηση στη φαντασία του αναγνώστη. Και για όσους ενδιαφέρονται για τον Steinbeck, υπάρχει στο τέλος μια υπέροχη ιστορική αναδρομή στους προγόνους του, στη ζωή και στο έργο του, καθώς και μια συλλογή από σπάνιο φω ...more
Jun 28, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Everything seems to work with a recurring rhythm except life. There is only one birth and only one death. Nothing else is like that.”
― John Steinbeck, To a God Unknown


An early Steinbeck filled with amazing biblical, pagan, and Greek images. The novel sketches the relationship between Joseph and his efforts homesteading out West with his family. It is a story of four brothers who move from the East (Vermont) to the West (California) to work the land and raise cattle.

Joseph Wayne isn't the olde
André Shart
Mar 22, 2015 André Shart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, classics
Pensei que me fosse mais fácil escrever sobre este livro, mas talvez noutra altura. Por enquanto quero só dizer que foi uma experiência bastante enriquecedora e que tenciono, quando tiver mais disponibilidade, ler outras obras do autor. Muito, muito recomendado.
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Steinbeck wrote a number of California novels. The early ones feature lyrical descriptive prose of the land, whether of the Salinas Valley or the Pacific Coast. Clearly Steinbeck loved the area, had a real passion for the valleys, the vegetation, the animals and the people who lived there. But while almost all of his other California novels that focused on the land and the people who lived on it were gently affectionate, To A God Unknown is a very different bird. The title is taken from an adapt ...more
Apr 04, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
An odd, often clumsy, but also fearless book. To a God Unknown is John Steinbeck's second novel, following a historical romance. I would not have guessed, in reading its first half, that I would end up giving it a 4-star rating, but its insistence on its unusual pantheistic themes, coupled with Steinbeck's tremendous evocation of the interior, unsung part of the California landscape's beauties and terrors, combined for powerful effect. The reader must be prepared for unrealistic dialogue -- Stei ...more
May 13, 2007 Meghan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mostly just Steinbeck fans
I opened this book for the first time - one of the few Steinbeck novels I had not yet read - shortly after completing my own first attempt at writing a novel. The little book is one of Steinbeck's earliest published works and, interestingly enough, the one that took him the longest to complete. It was in this context that I found the book most provoking: myself an aspiring writer, it was interesting to witness part of the development of one of my favorite novelists. Although not yet as strong an ...more
Jorge Cienfuegos
Jun 21, 2016 Jorge Cienfuegos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tiene todos los elementos que luego van a marcar la obra de Steinbeck: la importancia de la tierra, sequías, familias humildes luchando por salir adelante, migraciones, el oeste, misticismo y mucha simbología bíblica. La parte final me ha parecido un poco árida, y en general toda la novela se centra más en transmitir la idea y abandona un poco a los personajes, que están lejos de ser tan entrañables como otras familias steinbeckianas. Aun así, la he disfrutado mucho, y es interesante comparar es ...more
Luís Miguel
Jun 12, 2014 Luís Miguel rated it really liked it
Desconhecido, mas não irreconhecível. O segundo romance de Steinbeck tem os seus aspectos mais crus, mas a constante tensão que irradia demonstra arte. A própria sinopse é reveladora de desgraça: Joseph obtém a benção do pai para se mudar para um vale na Califórnia onde, após a morte do patriarca, desloca os seus três irmãos. No novo rancho da família, Joseph acredita que o espírito do pai continua vivo, através de uma árvore. Contrariado pela visão pagã de Joseph, o irmão Burton "mata" a árvore ...more
Simona Bartolotta
Dec 19, 2015 Simona Bartolotta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1900
"Vi dico che quell'uomo non è un uomo, a meno che non sia tutti gli uomini in uno. La forza, la resistenza, il lungo e incespicante pensiero di tutti gli uomini e anche tutta la gioia e tutta la sofferenza che in essi si cancellano a vicenda senza uscirne. E' tutto questo, è il ricettacolo di almeno un frammento d'ogni anima umana, e più ancora è un simbolo dell'anima della terra."

John Steinbeck è senza pari. Gli scrittori come lui sono pochi, i narratori come lui si contano sulla punta delle di
Mike Frost
Feb 20, 2009 Mike Frost rated it it was ok
Although it runs only 240 pages (compare that to East of Eden at 601 pages), To a God Unknown was the project which took Steinbeck the longest to complete. It was only his second full-length novel, and he worked on it over a period of five years, nearly scrapping it on more than one occasion. And despite all of his revisions and efforts he just did not succeed in making it a great piece of literature.

Now don't get me wrong -- it is still in an entirely different league than the pulpy kind of gar
Po Po
Jun 04, 2014 Po Po rated it liked it

The things I liked were: (1)the breathtaking, awe-inspiring descriptions of nature...(2) the (sometimes heavy-handed) symbolism...and (3) the well-rounded portrayal of women as sexual beings yet with boundless strength and intelligence.

The things I didn't like: (1) the hero Joseph Wayne made choices that consistently made me want to discontinue reading...(2) the glorification of emotional unavailability / stoicism, as if it were an ideal character trait (is it really ideal? This trait was un
Lavinia Zamfir
This is Steinbeck's second novel after the unsuccessful Cup of Gold. I've ended up reading it because I've seen the book at the public library and I said why not, I liked every single Steinbeck novel I've read. And I liked this one too!

As Joseph Wayne decides to move out his family's ranch, he starts wandering around in order to find a place of his own. He eventually records his homestead in the Nuestra Senora valley. He later finds out his father has died and begins to think of the great oak tr
Mar 06, 2015 Yana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Книгата на Джон Стайнбек „To a God unknown“ (Към един незнаен бог) беше втората книга прочетена по препоръка на приятел. И втората книга на Стайнбек, която въобще чета.

Първата ми среща с автора беше чрез „За мишките и хората“, която ме остави с доста постни впечатления и въобще не ми допадна. Ако не беше препоръката най-вероятно въобще нямаше да посегна отново към Стайнбек, но сега не съжалявам.

Историята сама по себе си не блести с оригиналност – Джоузеф Уейн напуска бащиния дом и заминава за да
Sep 25, 2014 Allan rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
This is the earliest of Steinbeck's novels that I've so far read, and if truth be told, one of my least favourites.

Recounting the story of the Wayne family, who set up a homestead in the Nuestra Señora Valley after Joseph, the main protagonist leaves his father's land in the east, the novel is full of mysticism that I found it hard to identify with, charting as it did the relationship that humans have with the land on which they farm. I found it hard to identify or empathise with any of the cha
Jan 11, 2016 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was Steinbeck's third book in a long career. All of the wonderful elements of a Steinbeck book are already there: the prose, the tension between characters and inside each character, the love of the land. However, it seemed to me that was in a rush: a rush to create archetypes out of the protagonist Joseph Wayne and wife Elizabeth; a rush to describe the beauty and pull of the land; a rush to show us his literary versions of the sacrifice of Issac.

Perhaps the rush was his developing s
Buck Ward
May 28, 2015 Buck Ward rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Early on To a God Unknown put me in mind of East of Eden, Steinbeck's great novel which was written much later. At first I found the prose a little stiff; not so much the comfortable flow of Steinbeck that I have come to enjoy so much. But as it moves along, the writing comes into its own. It is a good story, but it is the writing that makes it so good, as usual with Steinbeck. It moves along on its steady pace and then there is a thing that happens, and it grabs us, and we, the reader, are caug ...more
Apr 03, 2008 B. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of American lit
One of Steinbeck's early novellas, it is eerie, neo-paganistic, and sublime. The brother who is murdered was actually based on a real literary figure...Joseph Campbell. The two ran with the same literary crowd in the 40s and Campbell had an affair of the heart with Steinbeck's wife. Steinbeck handled the affair with grace and tact in reality, but poured out some righteous anger in To a God Unknown. Awesome stuff.
Rafael Villegas
Feb 24, 2016 Rafael Villegas rated it liked it
To a God Unknown, Steinbeck's third published book, was, to me, about determination, about how far our proactivity can go. It had fantastic messages of the world as god--mother nature. And it had great Californian history. But, it wasn't great; it didn't have Steinbeck's beleivable and relatable characters. Yet, this story was awesome because it showed what an author, like Steinbeck, is during the beginning of his career. We all have to start somewhere, and though this book lacks character, and ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In To a God Unknown, Steinbeck uses allegory to explicitly advance the philosophy of Nietzsche's Übermensch.

After meeting an old man "over the range" and witnessing the sunset sacrifice of a pig at his hands, Joseph asks: "Why do you do this?" After the two engage a back-and-forth dialogue, the old man hits his point: "I do it for myself. I can't tell that it does not help the sun. But it is for me. In the moment, I am the sun. Do you see? I, through the beast, am the sun. I burn in th
Uncle Tootie
Jan 07, 2016 Uncle Tootie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One man had been notable for his height, another ugly and fat, but that was changing. The dancers lost identity. Faces grew rapt, shoulders fell slightly forward, each person became a part of the dancing body, and the soul of the body was the rhythm." p.90

"He saw the crucified Christ hanging on his cross, dead and stained with blood. There was no pain in his face, now he was dead, but only disappointment and perplexity, and over these, an infinite sadness." p.173

This is one of Steinbeck's first
Andrew Liptak
Sep 03, 2010 Andrew Liptak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

One of the latest books that I’ve read recently is John Steinbeck’s To A God Unknown, his second novel, and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The story, which looks to the Bible, ancient myths, paganism and several other influences, weaves together a story about belief and faith, mixing reality and fantasy in what I would really call a speculative fiction novel.

Set in the 1800s, the book follows the story of the Joseph Wayne, a Vermonter, who yearns to go out west, and receiving the
Oct 11, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it
I can always count on a Steinbeck to break the streak of crappy, 2-star reads. I love how I can always return to him, with a book I’ve never really heard of, and immediately fall back in step with his style, his worldview, and completely love his message.

Apparently this is his second book, and you can clearly see how he’s building up to his greater works, laying the foundation for themes to be developed throughout the course of his writing career. Though clearly in his second tier under Grapes,
Jun 23, 2012 Ginny_1807 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
L’evocazione di temi biblici, spesso contaminata da una religiosità pagana misteriosa e quasi magica, caratterizza molta parte della narrativa di Steinbeck, sia per le vicende che tratta, sia per le caratteristiche che imprime ai luoghi e ai personaggi. In particolare, il paesaggio naturale si carica di significati inquietanti, di presagi propizi o infausti, scandendo e talora determinando il decorso degli eventi e le sorti delle persone; alcuni protagonisti dei suoi romanzi, poi, possiedono un’ ...more
Jul 11, 2013 Hosanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-again, 2012
Its ambiguity, a novel written in ode to an unknown god, is what originally drew me to the book. Seeing that Steinbeck's latter works tended to be pretty biographical, I got the book, curious to see whether it gave any insight into how Steinbeck viewed religion or his faith. It was surprising to realize that the book is not so much intended to be a coherent story that spawns reader admiration, but rather, as Steinbeck himself put it, a complex mesh of his ideas and musings about life, death, and ...more
Brian Adams
Jun 04, 2016 Brian Adams rated it really liked it
To a God Unknown is a journey through metaphysics with John Steinbeck as your tour guide. A relatively simple story that is a metaphor for one man's trip to, and through, self-awareness and universal connections. I would read a bit each day while my students were on their independent work.

It has all that I love about Steinbeck - vivid descriptions that put you in the saddle of the horse, or in the middle of the oaks, or on a trail to the ocean. He parches the tongue as he paints a picture of th
Dec 08, 2010 Losososdiane rated it it was amazing
This was Steinbeck's second novel. It was a fascinating read. The symbolism is heavy. The tone is very serious. The subject is the relationship of man to nature and god. The novel foreshadows subjects that Steinbeck continued to deal with in his later works. The writing is beautiful if a bit overwrought. I loved his careful and loving observation of the land. I live maybe sixty miles south of the setting and took great pleasure in his evocation of the sights, sounds and smells of the land and th ...more
Fred Forbes
Jun 18, 2013 Fred Forbes rated it liked it
While it has some of Steinbeck's trademark descriptive powers, short though it is, I found the book a bit of a plod (his first novel). The thoughts and actions of the characters seem to indicate they are "a half a bubble off of plumb" which made it hard for me to empathize with their actions. Still, since I have read his other books, it is good to cross this off my list. (His book "The Grapes of Wrath" makes my all time top 10 list so it was fun to get back to him for the first time since "Trave ...more
Martin Hernandez
Jul 16, 2016 Martin Hernandez rated it it was amazing
En épocas recientes he visto noticias preocupantes sobre los efectos de una larga sequía en los valles californianos, donde se producen buena parte de los productos agrícolas de EEUU, y el calentamiento global se cita con frecuencia para explicarla. Sin embargo, en esta novela, publicada en 1933 se menciona que el fenómeno es recurrente, y ya desde entonces se describen sus devastadoras consecuencias.
John STEINBECK nos entrega la apasionada historia de Joseph WAYNE, un migrante que llega a Ca
« 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 »
  • Internecine
  • The Wreck
  • World of Strangers
  • Lying With the Dead
  • Húmus
  • The Monkey Grammarian
  • Roughneck
  • Uma Abelha Na Chuva
  • Gospođica
  • Across the River and into the Trees
  • Granta Portugal 1: Eu
  • Sinais de Fogo
  • Stories
  • Collected Stories
  • Hotel Memória
  • O que diz Molero
  • Jean Barois
  • James Baldwin
John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
More about John Steinbeck...

Share This Book

“There are some times...when the love for people is strong and warm like a sorrow.” 56 likes
“Life cannot be cut off quickly. One cannot be dead until the things he changed are dead. His effect is the only evidence of his life. While there remains even a plaintive memory, a person cannot be cut off, dead. And he thought, “It’s a long slow process for a human to die. We kill a cow, and it is dead as soon as the meat is eaten, but a man’s life dies as a commotion in a still pool dies, in little waves, spreading and growing back toward stillness.” 17 likes
More quotes…