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Always Coming Home

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  2,141 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
Always Coming Home
Paperback, 542 pages
Published January 1st 1986 by Bantam Books (first published 1985)
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May 29, 2008 Terence rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
It is unfortunate but my “book-reading biorhythms” rarely coincide with the books being read by the various groups I belong to here on GR so I missed out on the reading of Always Coming Home that took place in the Always Coming Home group a few months ago. I originally read the book nearly 20 years ago, probably in my first year or two of graduate school, and it didn’t lodge itself overly much in my conscious but what a difference twenty years makes. My latest nonfiction reading has focused on t ...more
This is ethnology book, the fact that it's ethnology of made up civilization in post-apocalyptic world doesn't make it less so.
Because of that I find it hard to rate this book. On one hand there is evident effort to create culture of one entire civilization with it's unique culture poetry, folktales, myths, plays and songs and all that in world that used to be technically advance before catastrophe. It's something that is extremely hard to do in high quality and thematically consistent but lucki
Mar 13, 2008 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are few books I have read, none of them being fiction until now, that have required such a concerted effort of study on my part to even read through the book.

If it wasn't Ursula... I doubt I would have bothered. But it was, and I did, and of course it was well worth the effort.

The woman has created an entire culture. I don't know when I will have enough time to create an entire culture in my own head and then write a novel about it, but the fact that another woman had the time and did it
Though the introduction describes this as 'an archaeology of the future', it's no such matter. It's an ETHNOLOGY of (part of) the future, after the style of the Bureau of American Ethnology Reports, to which LeGuin has no doubt had access for most of her life. Most people who read LeGuin's works apparently are unaware that she is the daughter of the famous anthropologist AL Kroeber, and of the writer Theodora Kroeber, both of whom specialized in Northern Alta California. AL Kroeber was a friend ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
It's a great mistake to try to read this book as a "novel", since it isn't one. It's purported to be more like an anthropologist's notebook of field work: a collection of cultural facts, legends, poetry and song, writings--and obliquely, the story of one woman raised among the Kesh people who rebels against their close-knit Valley community and seeks something "outside the world." The "coming home" referenced in the title is her journey of discovery from adolescent rebellion to mature choice-mak ...more
Nov 26, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit -- I didn't finish it. I did enjoy what I read. It felt like getting to look through a viewfinder at a future tribalistic society. The trouble is, I always hated seeing Native American museum dioramas and glass cases full of spears and pottery. In some ways, this book gave me that same sense of ennui. Why? Because it takes a mostly anthropological approach to the fictional world she's created. While I believe LeGuin aims to celebrate this culture, she ends up creating something r ...more
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Read for my Ecofem lit class. I don't have a Bible, but if I did, it would be this book. In it, Le Guin explores an "archaeology of the future" through her character/alter ego Pandora, who studies the Kesh people of California. The book, therefore, contains life stories, information on Kesh culture, practices, medicine, etc., recipes, poems, Kesh literature, plays, a glossary, pictures, music (the first edition came with a cassette tape and you can buy the CD from the website), etc.

I read this i
I expected to take a long time over Always Coming Home. In a way, I wish I had: there's a lot in it, and a lot to reward a slower, careful reading -- this time I went plunging through it for the narrative, such as it was, enjoying the layers of understanding that came to me, imagining and figuring out what I didn't know. I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, this time: another time, I think I will. I just wanted to fly through it, this time, total immersion in a culture that does not exi ...more
May 26, 2011 Milla rated it it was amazing
It took me a really long time to finish this book. The first time I tried to read it at the age of 13 the changing styles made it very difficult to follow. However, when I picked the book up again I finished it in a matter of days. The combination of characters, pieces of culture and storytelling create a whole that is difficult to appreciate if you are too eager to know the outcome and jump over sections of the book that seem unrelated to anything else. [return][return]I would definitely recomm ...more
Gülay Cansever
Sep 26, 2016 Gülay Cansever rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-kitap
LeGuin kitapları okumak zordur. Hep Yuvaya Dönmek de bir o kadar zor bir kitaptı. Elimde bu kadar uzaması tamamen benden kaynaklı. 4 yıldız vermem kitaptan değil benim istediğim gibi okuyamamam dan kaynaklı. Siz siz olun vakti gelmeden bazı kitapları okumayın :)
Ben Babcock
Why is it Ursula K. Le Guin always makes my life as a reader and reviewer difficult? Her books can’t be nice, straightforward stories—no, she has to create lyric, moving pieces of experimental literature that transcend our ordinary definitions of form and genre. I have a problem with Always Coming Home, but that problem is entirely independent of the book itself. It is, rather, a result of me and my particular biases and hang-ups.

I can’t help it: I love novels.

I know that, as far as literature g
Pippi Bluestocking
Guys, it's called an ETHNOGRAPHY. This book is written as an ETHNOGRAPHY which is a research method in ANTHROPOLOGY and social sciences. Don't know how you came up with ETHNOLOGY but I hope it is not a combination of ethnography and anthropology.
Nov 22, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California. . . The difficulty of translation from a language that doesn't yet exist is considerable, but there's no need to exaggerate it."

So begins one of my favorite books by Ursula LeGuin, and probably one of her lesser-known works, "Always Coming Home." She calls it "an archaeology of the future," and it's a beautiful example of world-creation. The main narrative of the book is the autobiography of
Oct 22, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Sort of an exercise in building a low-tech society set after our industrial modern age. The people of the Valley live a largely peaceful, non-hierarchical communal life that prioritizes listening and understanding, and considers being generous synonymous with wealth. The poor are those who do not give; giving makes one rich. It's fascinating, and I loved the ways the world building was woven into Stone Telling's story, and how the world building sections (hundreds of pages of an anthropologist's ...more
What a beautiful book. Very slow (because it's not a novel) but really lovely, and I missed it once I was done.

It's the story (or the description, I guess) of a hunter/gatherer society that lives in what was Northern California, in a post-nuclear war future. Written as a collection of anthropological notes by an observer in the present. It's a history of a community that hasn't happened yet. (That doesn't really make sense, but it also doesn't have to.) There are descriptions of their lives; and
Mar 08, 2011 Cass rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cass by: Ceridwen Robot Smash
This book is officially being abandoned by me. I can see someone would try to read this. I mean if this was a book by David Gemmell or Anne McCaffrey (authors that I love) I might see myself pushing on, almost as if I owed the author.

I feel like the author is having a fleet of fancy, writing a book that noone can read in a bizarre 'not really a book' kind of way. I get the idea, it is a textbook written about the future, it is a compilation of anthropological notes and stories. The book has a co
Leonard Pierce
Mar 07, 2016 Leonard Pierce rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Le Guin has long been one of the most interesting of the big wave of social science fiction authors that emerged in the '60s, and I've been wanting to read this one for a long time. It's actually not that compelling just in terms of narrative -- its main story, concerning the native woman Stone Telling and her encounters with the very divergent societies of her mother and father's people, has some very interesting insights into the ways a patriarchal society shapes individual behavior for both m ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Asteinb1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a work of genius. I think Le Guin may have here beaten Tolkien for large-scale, complex, and detailed world-building - and considering that Tolkien recorded some 3,000 years of fictional history and created a handful of fictional languages, that's saying a lot.

It should be noted that this, like Tolkien's denser stuff, is not an easy read. There isn't really much of a plot, and I was often about to put the book down because I was so bored. Even if you like Tolkien's History of Middle
Jul 04, 2015 Elissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ah, what AM I thinking of this book? It's drawing me in, just shy of 50 years old, in a way it didn't when I first read it (or at least Stone Telling's story!) in my 20s.

I'm enjoying the poetry more, and the ethnography, and I've had the good fortune to be part of modern wakwaha thanks to Spiritfire Festival and the Earthspirit Community. I think, more and more, that this is how the post-Apocalyptic future will be - somewhere between Octavia Butler's work and this.

Also interesting to read of no
Napa Valley would be one of the most beautiful places on Earth were it not for its people. Those leave a bitter taste, akin, I'm sure, to the sense of a sideways glance at a designer bag you no longer desire. Ursula K. Le Guin fixes this problem with golden descriptive powers and by removing the ugliest part of the place - its current residents. It's hard to express how much a revelation this is to me, as a current resident and outsider in this place of status and palate and terroir and superflu ...more
Ben Stimpson
Always Coming Home is LeQuin's ethnographic self coming out. It is not a story, in so much as there is a central plot with a cast of characters, but is instead a description of an Earth where nature takes precedence, culture is devised around the natural landscape, and rich culture is showcased through legends and songs. Always Coming Home is a rich work of world building which vividly describes and illustrates diverse cultures within a region of North America. I adored this work, more so becaus ...more
Edward Davies
It’s hard to judge this as a novel as it is more of a fictional anthropological guide to a made-up society. Le Guin does an awesome job of creating a world from the basic elements right up to the most important parts, but it is quite the challenge to wrap your mind around. There are stories interspersed between studies of the Kesh, but these are few and far between and just as hard to read as the rest of the book. It’s worth the effort to some extent, but its inaccessibility makes it more of an ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Jodi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing and deeply affecting book about a once and future America.
Jan 20, 2011 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it's pretty self-indulgent but I love it anyway.
Feb 21, 2015 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scholars
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work, and a monumental reputation
Always Coming Home is an amazing artifact, but if you're going to read it yourself, you need to understand that it is not (despite having these very words on the cover) a novel. You won't find a sustained narrative arc or a single cast of heroic characters here—that's just not the point of Ursula K. LeGuin's landmark 1985 work. It is, however, a incredibly detailed ethnographic treatise of great depth and range, thoroughly documenting a North American culture that never was but someday might com ...more
Jun 17, 2017 Nimbinensis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it was first published and it touched me deeply. Ursula Le Guin creates an entire society for us. Not some vapid utopia or dystopia, but one filled with light and darkness, with all the details fleshed out. The story of Stone Telling knits the whole book together, but it only makes sense of you refer to "the back of the book".

For me this book ranks with "The Dispossessed".
William Leight
Jun 01, 2014 William Leight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utopias have been present in science fiction for almost as long as the genre has existed. After all, if you're going to imagine a future, why not imagine a really good one? The tricky part comes in getting a story out of your utopia. Some authors follow the example of Edward Bellamy in "Looking Backward" and barely even try: the focus is mainly on describing the utopia. While the result may be successful from a political point of view, its literary merit is likely to be somewhat questionable. Un ...more
Nov 25, 2016 Carmen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was hard for me to get into the book an it was even harder to abandon it, usually, I finish books, even of I don't like them very much, but this time I couldn't, I couldn't get into the book, it is just a sequence of events with no logic to me
I typically really enjoy Le Guin's speculative novels but this one was very difficult to get into. My first attempt ended in me shelving the book for 10 years. I picked it up again a while ago determined to make it through this time, and I have. The book contains one short story split into three parts (the life story of Stone Telling), and among those parts poems, charts, and other much shorter stories are interspersed. I often found myself wondering why I was slogging through so much small stuf ...more
Sarah McGill
Apr 14, 2015 Sarah McGill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To give a paragraph hook for this book would most likely be misleading, so I won’t do it. Instead, I’ll tell you what the book is. This book is a collection of folklore for a group of people living in the future – boiling down to a unique, confusing, and startling mixture of Native American traditions, the Industrial Era, and an imagined future of the world of computers. Tying the whole story together is the story of Stone Telling (which amounts to a novella in three parts, scattered throughout ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Page Count - Always Coming Homes 6 17 Sep 27, 2016 03:23PM  
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
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