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

Cool Hand Luke

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  748 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Out of his experiences working on a chain gang, Donn Pearce created Cool Hand Luke, war hero turned "pretty evil feller," whose refusal to "git his mind right" becomes part of his fellow convicts' mythology of survival.
ebook, 304 pages
Published August 18th 1999 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 1965)
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 Cool Hand Luke, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Cool Hand Luke

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 01, 2009 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a great story of an individual who entered the Army during World War II. He rebelled against the rules, went AWOL, was sentenced to a stockade and was transferred to a combat infantry unit as a condition of commuting his jail sentence. Postwar, he did not adjust well to civilian life, and was eventually arrested and sent to Florida's Raiford Prison. He was transferred to a prison Road Camp, where daily life consisted of working in a chain gang, under the hot Florida sun, tarring roads o ...more
Jul 22, 2009 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book makes me nostalgic for my dad because one night when i was a young child, i couldn't sleep and i got up and found my dad in the livingroom watching the movie from this book, and i stayed up and watched it with him for awhile. I NEVER FORGOT THAT MOVIE from having watched it with my dad, even though i was just a young child. paul newman is excellent!
Suzanne Moore
The story of Luke Jackson, a.k.a “Cool Hand Luke,” is said to be based on personal experiences of Donn Pearce, the book's author. Following time in military service as a Merchant Marine, Pearce became involved in counterfeiting and safe-cracking. His crimes eventually lead to a short prison sentence, working on a chain gang.

Luke was a war veteran who most likely was experiencing PTSD when he was arrested for “cutting the heads” off of parking meters. This offense sends him off to hard labor, wor
Stacey Woods
May 06, 2012 Stacey Woods rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool Hand Luke might be familiar to you as the movie where Paul Newman eats fifty eggs for a bet, and this was certainly all I knew about it when I was asked to review the novel a little while ago. In actuality, the egg eating is only a very small part of the novel which is semi-autobiographical and describes Donn Pearce’s experiences on a Florida chain gang. I believe that this new edition has been brought out to coincide with a new play of the book which played last year in London starring Mar ...more
James Morcan
May 06, 2015 James Morcan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cool Hand Luke!
Man, this is one of my favourite novels and the book which one of my favourite movies ever (the 1967 Paul Newman movie of the same title) is based on.

Luke (the ultimate rebel) is a real hard case and no matter how hard he's disciplined he just cannot be broken...Until he is broken...

This novel is partly autobiographical as the author Donn Pearce was an ex-prisoner who spent a few years in a chain gang in America's deep South.

Best line of dialogue: "Sometimes nothing is a real cool
John Campbell
I wonder if the movie is better. I understand why this was a cultural touchstone. It came out in the Vietnam era and has anti-establishment themes. But for me the story was a bit dull. I have to imagine the charisma of Paul Newman as Luke goes a long way in the film version.
Jonathan Roberts
Jul 07, 2015 Jonathan Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Stuart Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke is perhaps my favourite film, and yet I didn’t know that it was an adaptation until relatively recently, when I was browsing the IMDb forums and came across a user praising Donn Pearce’s unfairly obscured book. Several weeks later, I bought and began to read the novel, and I was immediately hit by the writing style of Pearce. He – perhaps inexplicably or maybe for a reason I simply haven’t fathomed – decides to omit all quotation marks from his book, and so Cool ...more
Buck Ward
Cool Hand Luke

I couldn't read this book without thinking of the great 1967 Paul Newman movie. The screen play was done by Donn Pearce, the author of the book. The movie is very close to the book and while it's usually the case that a book is better than its movie, in this case I can't compare the two. They are both excellent. Strother Martin's famous line in the movie, “What we've got here is failure to communicate.” is not in the book.

Pearce wrote the book in the first person, but it's first pe
May 23, 2013 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those rare book/movie combinations in which I much preferred the film version.
Despite authoring both the book and the film's screenplay, it is Pearce's film version which leaves
an indelible print on the psyche.

What is most distracting about Donn Pearce's work in Cool Hand Luke is his overuse of phonetic dialogue technique. After awhile, "Giv' 'im wat fer.", becomes very irritating.
I get it. These guys are not highly cultured. The point has been made. Move on.
The style just turn
Feb 20, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book (apparently based on Pearce's experience on a Florida chain-gang), but doesn't even hold a candle to the film version.
Loved the movie and now I love the book but still wasnt aas good as getting to watch paul newman walk his pretty self around... . :)
May 24, 2017 Shaun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good reading. Educational from a sociological point of view.
P.S. Winn
Jan 01, 2017 P.S. Winn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book, the characters are amazing and the story a must read. Some say jails have changed since this story, but I think may will find that many things stay the same. Their is a rivalry as well as a camaraderie among prisoners who have been thrown into a system of hardship. I highly recommend reading this book and then grabbing the movie of the same name.
I finished this book after waking up this morning. By the way, book one of 2012 was Shakespeare's Othello, which I read and annotated because I'm teaching it for the first time this year. In order to avoid getting sick of it before my students even start reading the play, I'm holding off on a proper review of it. It is pretty great, though.

For the longest time, I had no idea this book existed because the movie starring Paul Newman has always stood on its own as such a timeless piece of cinema th
Nigel Bird
Having recently read a couple of books which spawned films I love (Rumblefish and The Outsiders, for example), I thought I’d give Cool Hand Luke a go.
My first impressions were very positive, the lean prose telling of the harsh routines and lives of prisoners on the Hard Road (or chain gang). As well as its raw quality, there’s something poetic in the simplicity.
Take this, a description of then the gang are being driven back to their cells after another tough day and are taking in some of the si
Alex Decker
Jan 27, 2015 Alex Decker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Many know "Cool Hand Luke" as a movie that starred Paul Newman and had a famous part "What we have here is a failure to communicate" sampled before a Guns and Roses song "Civil War" (this line is not in the book by the way.) But, before all of that it turns out it was a pretty good book.

To begin Donn Pearce can get scene setting happy. Sometimes tediously so. There are only so many ways to describe a can being kicked or a floor board creaking and you can do it so many times in a book to where i
Apr 23, 2010 Craven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So on a visit back to my old hometown I noticed my old copy of Cool Hand Luke sitting on my buddies shelf. I figured it would be a good idea to give it another go and, yep, it sure was. This is the ultimate anti-authoritarian novel about a chain gang and Cool Hand Luke a guy who resisted the authority of the "bosses" there until the very end. Though written in the style and voice you would expect from a inmate in a Southern chain gang,it still manages to give rich imagery and symbolism without c ...more
Simon Lewis
I've never seen the film. I hear it's overly symbolic, in that 1960s way, but is saved by Paul Newman's blazing star turn as Luke. That's a good description of the book too.
Pearce's short novel begins well, with a sweaty, grimy portrait of life on a Deep South chain gang. It goes on like that for another 30 pages, introducing a number of characters we don't care about because they're not Luke.
When he appears, eats the four dozen eggs, inspires the chain gang with hope and supplies the book's t
Jeff Suwak
Feb 07, 2015 Jeff Suwak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been on one hell of a lucky streak with reading good books. This book is fantastic. This is old school writing, not the homogenized big-box-store style of writing so popular today. Written in a unique, unforgettable voice, it has the dim glow of greatness humming up from its pages, a kind of once-in-a-lifetime act of lightning-catching, mysterious and beautiful and sad and defiant, everything that makes great art.

I've seen the movie at least 20 times. I watch it whenever I start to get the
Ross Cumming
Apr 02, 2012 Ross Cumming rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The not so famous book on which the classic film was based. The author Donn Pearce also wrote the screenplay and had a minor role in the film as 'Sailor',who is the narrator of the book, which is based on Pearce's own experiences on a Florida chain gang.I thoroughly enjoyed the book and although I found it difficult to compare to the film, as its so long since I've seen it, I did recognise some of the scenes that are common to both. While reading the book the only picture I could conjure up in m ...more
Oct 17, 2015 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this has long been one of my favorite movies and I decided i should finally read the book. The movie is very true to the book but after reading it i realized what I love about the movie is Paul Newman and George Kennedy. The story is familiar and the writing is fine, just not great. It does benefit from the fact that the author actually was on a chain gang and there was actually someone on the gang that Luke is based on. That made the story interesting from a historical perspective.

It was also
Martin Clark
Aug 22, 2012 Martin Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Until Amazon included this in one of their book offers, I didn't know there was a book before the film. I've always liked the film and I really enjoyed this book.

Apparently the author also co-wrote the screenplay but didn't like the film in the end. That's interesting because the story in the film is surprisingly close to the book, although subtly different at the end.

The writing is spare and gripping with great characters and a brutally realistic depiction of prison life. This despite the fact
Michelle Casey
May 03, 2015 Michelle Casey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 100 pages or so lulls the reader into a comfortable zone of receptiveness to the tale of life working a chain gang. The so called Freemen were caricatures of guards each with their own tell tale trait that barely set them apart from the next Boss. Lloyd Jackson was interesting. But then somewhere around p 160 JacKSON, OR Luke as he was renamed, gets a visit from his family and the gift of his banjo. ONCE he begins to play the tone of the story becomes darker more urgent and the reader ...more
Jan 03, 2012 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-read, fiction
I wasnt sure what to expect, I havent seen the film, I just knew that it starred Paul Newman, the writing was a different style, the southern US dialogue took a little time to get into but... I love it... and its probably a 4.5. I got into the language and the writing style, remember it was written in the 1960s so is quite different to contemporary novels, and although it took a while I raced through the second half.

The story revolves around one man, and how he influences a gang of convicts doi
Jerry Peace
Jan 11, 2014 Jerry Peace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read the final three paragraphs first. You'll find yourself sucked into the raggedy Wilderness of surrender, endurance, prevailing and embrace. As Jesus says, "The Kingdom of God is within you," but leaving us to discover how messy it is. Intensely spiritual, this book is one of my short list of perfect books (The Power and the Glory and Heart of Darkness as two others). Too large to be a myth and way too dirty to be a parable, Cool Hand Luke nakedly sketches how we spend dollars and souls to ma ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the movie and finally have read the book that inspired it.

This book is gritty and hard-boiled and sweaty. As you read it you feel as if you are on the chain gang with Luke, Dragline, Society Red, Koko and the rest of the men. Luke is prominent in the book but the men and their harsh conditions, the day in and day out sameness, the random brutality, the scorching Florida sun under which they serve their sentences, are the main focus. Sometimes the caretakers seem more criminal than the pr
Christie Washam
Mar 27, 2011 Christie Washam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Other readers have said the movie is actually better than the book. I would have to say that they are companions to one another. The fact that the original script for the movie was also written by Donn Pearce means that he probably saw opportunity to put in the movie what he hadn't in the book. In the book we learn more about Luke's past, which was something I was pretty interested in. The movie deals more with the present, letting you make up (like the bull gang does) your own story about Cool ...more
John J Questore
Apr 27, 2016 John J Questore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cool Hand Luke has always been my favorite movie of all time. I've finally decided to read the book.

And, it was just as good - although now I wish I would have read the book first. As I was reading it, all I kept seeing was Paul Newman. Plus, a lot was left out of the movie. I especially liked Luke's backstory - his military career, and why he turned to crime.

The only thing I didn't like with the book was the "southern slang" used throughout. I understand that's how Dragline spoke, but it was di
Oct 04, 2009 Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I generally avoid reading novels adapted into movies after I've seen the movie (especially when the movie is as good as "Cool Hand Luke") sometimes I just can't resist. Such was the case when I stumbled across "Cool Hand Luke" in the library. All the best scenes are in here (except, sadly, Strother Martin's classic "What we've got here is failure to communicate" monologue) vividly related in prose that is simple yet powerful - poetic even - and distinctly Southern, like a sultry summer ...more
Jun 27, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this movie years before I knew it started as a novel and loved it. When I found it was based on a novel, I knew I had to read it and completely enjoyed it. They complement each other perfectly - this novel is great storytelling and very compelling. It offers more snippets of the Bull gang's daily lives than the film, but with great vividness brings to life the gripping events of the film (like the hard boiled egg eating contest). A really fun read and extremely well written.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Better Book C...: Cool Hand Luke 2 4 Feb 23, 2015 01:18PM  
film compared to novel 2 6 Sep 18, 2014 03:26PM  
  • The Seed and the Sower
  • The Hustler
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • The Americanization of Edward Bok
  • Puppet For A Corpse
  • Chase the Wind (Wind, #1)
  • Sweet Death, Kind Death (A Kate Fansler Mystery #7)
  • The Fu Manchu Omnibus 1
  • Dawn in the Orchard
  • Paths of Glory
  • Sergeant Getúlio
  • Lilies in Moonlight
  • The Unicorn Creed (Argonian #2)
  • The Corpse Who Kills (Fantômas #3)
  • Never Say Die / Whistleblower
  • The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes
  • Cosmopolitan Greetings
  • Skinner's Ghosts (Bob Skinner, #7)

Share This Book

“I wish you'd stop being so good to me, Cap'n.” 0 likes
More quotes…