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Always Coming Home

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,964 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far futur ...more
Paperback with Cassette, 523 pages
Published September 9th 1985 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 07, 2011 Terence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 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
May 14, 2015 Milla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, fantasy
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
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
Jan 09, 2012 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
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
Leonard Pierce
Mar 07, 2016 Leonard Pierce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 18, 2014 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
Mar 15, 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
Dec 19, 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
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
Aug 29, 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
Feb 21, 2015 Alan rated it it was amazing
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
William Crosby
Oct 03, 2015 William Crosby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An anthropological ethnological study of a culture set in a future Northern California (after massive destruction has destroyed much of the prior civilization). Includes a discussion and commentary of the historical past (partly including the 20th century), with particular emphasis on a critique of a warlike and sexist culture. Even with the relatively primitive lifestyle there are also still existing separate Cities of the Mind (computer memory banks) which are accessible, but rarely used.

Feb 14, 2015 Raj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I very definitely admire and appreciate this book. Unfortunately, I didn't really enjoy it very much. This isn't a novel, it's written like a social science notebook, containing fragments of songs, stories, pictures and maps about a small community in California. What makes this different (possibly unique) is that the community doesn't exist. It's all a fragment of Le Guin's mighty imagination. This is something you have to remind yourself of while reading, as it's very easy to forget, in amongs ...more
William Leight
Jun 14, 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
Myra Beatrice

First of all, this is not a novel; it is a compilation of texts and observations of a future society. It doesn’t read as a novel or pretend to be a novel, so don’t start out expecting a nicely flowing story, because you won’t get it. This is a substantial work that gives a lot of food for thought, as it provides a thorough study of a culture both separate from ours as well as somehow reflective of it.

For the majority of the time that I was reading this book, I thought I was going to give it thre
Mar 12, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb stuff. The "future anthropology" text mixed in with the novel proper works very well indeed, showing (apparently) the influence of Le Guin's parents, Alfred L. and Theodora Kroeber, as well as her own first-rate imagination. I love how Le Guin reveals her world slowly, or "mindfully" as a character in the book might put it. The fact that there are robot cities, a computer network, email and spaceships comes as a surprise, but it all emerges quite naturally and never seems at all inappropr ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Jesse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very unlike most of what I read. It is certainly not a novel in the conventional sense. Le Guin has managed to create a detailed, fully realized culture (or, as much of one as will fit in 600 pages), one very different from our own. Though ostensibly science fiction, as it is set in the far future, the book is presented mostly as a series of cultural artifacts, translated and interpreted by a narrator, pandora, from our time.

The writing is beautiful, and the story detailed. By stepp
"Always Coming Home” is a fictional retelling of A. L. Kroeber's “Handbook of the Indians of California” by Ursula K. Le Guin’s father, A. L. Kroeber. It isn’t a novel as such, but rather a fictional ethnographic fieldwork about a cultural group of humans—the Kesh – who live in California many years after pollution, famine and a nuclear disaster destroyed civilization as we know it. The many descriptions of Kesh lives, history, customs, literature, language and art come together as a massive pro ...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.
Sarah McGill
Dec 12, 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
Jul 06, 2012 Evilynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, 2012
I first attempted to read Always Coming Home well over a decade ago, bringing a copy home from the library, not knowing what to expect except that I liked Ursula Le Guin and this was a Le Guin book I had not read. I think I got through the first chapter and then realized there was no way I was going to read it in the three weeks I could have it checked out, and I returned it. 12 years later it took me 2 months to read, and I doubt I could've done it quicker and still really appreciated it.

Dec 25, 2010 Ilya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a novel set in the Napa Valley in the far future. Assuming that the people living there then are descended from the people living there now, more time must have passed between then and now than between now and the breakup of Proto-Indo-European: in the two major languages of California, numbers 2 and 3 are tu and θri and dos and tres, both derived from the Proto-Indo-European dwo and trei; in their language they are hú and íde. Surprisingly, the California condor survives, and so does th ...more
Jul 08, 2013 Krk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An imaginative and comprehensive example of how to world build. Unfortunately I lost interest a little over half way in and had to stop. I think the problem is that Always Coming Home is presented to readers as a collection of translated primary sources, as a result I was unable to connect with any of the recurring characters, or their world in general. While its clear that Le Guin has arranged these "sources" in a way that is intended to slowly reveal information and meaning to readers as they ...more
Oct 28, 2008 Bria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: transhumanists
Although I found the poetry boring and could not really appreciate the format, this book highlighted some of the assumptions of my thinking about the future. I continually forget to examine how to actually live life in my frantic attempts to bring about the singularity. Always Coming Home examines (albeit a little too indirectly for my tastes) what happens to the other half of the human species after the split. I habitually focus on those of us that merge with technology and move forward in evol ...more
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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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