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

We the Living

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  21,476 Ratings  ·  1,114 Reviews
Ayn Rand said of her fist novel, We the Living: "It is as near to an autobiography as I will ever write. The plot is invented, the background is not....The specific events of Kira's life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values, were and are."

First published in 1936, the theme of this classic novel is the struggle of the individual against the state. It portra
Paperback, 60th Anniversary Edition, 464 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Signet (first published 1936)
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 We the Living, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about We the Living

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
169th out of 2,688 books — 20,947 voters
Twilight by Stephenie MeyerBreaking Dawn by Stephenie MeyerNew Moon by Stephenie MeyerEclipse by Stephenie MeyerFifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
The Worst Books of All Time
446th out of 6,416 books — 17,462 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 07, 2007 Oliver rated it it was amazing
Here's the thing: this book is fucking awesome. I'm a big fan of this theme - the whole "individual vs. the state" story. I think most of the books I've read in this vein were descended from "1984", but this is without doubt my favorite execution of the familiar thematic focus. This book was just so evocative for me; it did an incredible job of capturing the crushing force of living under a sociopolitical regime that cares not for the wants or needs of the individual. I found something ...more
Richard Houchin
Mar 10, 2009 Richard Houchin rated it it was amazing
If you ever want to acquire a keen appreciation for food, read any story about the USSR. History or fiction, doesn't matter. Mildewed millet and one loaf of bread a month is enough to break anyone!

We The Living is an illustration of the loneliness that seems the unavoidable consequence of any who possess an Objectivist viewpoint.

One passage in the book made me laugh in appreciation for how true it rang in my life. Kira says,
"Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never un
Kendra Kettelhut
Mar 19, 2008 Kendra Kettelhut rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book. My soul has never been so pained by a novel. Very few books affect me like this one did. I cannot explain other than it was so beautifully horrific. I knew very little about Communism or what the USSR was like. It caused so much anger and frustration in me, but the pain comes from the truths that it enlightens about humanity. We are creatures of pain and suffering and joy and and triumph. And no matter what pain we are dealt...we still have the capacity within ...more
Sep 17, 2013 11 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just be yourself.
Hasn't that been parents' advice to kids since the dawn of time?
Don't try to impress people by putting on a show.
Don't just tell people what you think they want to hear.
Be who you are, and those who appreciate your genuine character will be true friends. I think this is the only book where Ayn Rand is true to herself, without putting on the big überconservative show which makes her later works so irritating.

What's that?
You think maybe Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead rep
Mike (the Paladin)
Ayn Rand is/was an interesting, intelligent woman. This is her first novel. If you're reading it simply for the novel then skip the introduction. If on the other hand you are interested in Ms. Rand's thought processes then by all means read the introduction. This is (of course) a newer edition (as the book was written in 1925. Ms. Rand wants us to understand that this is not a novel about the Soviet Union but a novel (in her words) of "man against the state".

While I am not a "student" or followe
May 05, 2007 Sporkurai rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Playas
Erotica at its best. We the Living is about a young lady with a brilliant mind and a ferocious appetite for sex. The book begins with Kira, a hot little harlot who might have been working at a strip joint (if they weren't so damn bourgeois!), as she seeks to find a nightlife for herself in her newly Soviet city of Petrograd. Posing as a prostitute in a red light district, she quickly forms her first life-long sexual bond with the first guy who comes along. He happens to be a philosopher, and ...more
Lorrie Savoy
Jul 24, 2012 Lorrie Savoy rated it liked it
This book disturbs me and I don't quite know how to respond to it. On the one hand, the reality of Soviet Russia in the 1920's is haunting; the descriptions of food (or the lack of it) stayed with me, making me reflect on and enjoy my own meals while I was reading it and for a few days after. I also feel that it would work as a companion piece for 1984 because the tensions between the sordid details of daily life and the hypocrisy of the political system are clearly seen in both books. Rand's ...more
Oct 28, 2013 Пүрэвбазар rated it it was amazing
Би төвт үзэл буюу эгоизм, либерал үзлийн томоохон төлөөлөгч гэгддэг ширүүн дориун харцтай Еврэй эмэгтэйг дотроо ийм романтик хүн байх юм чинээ төсөөлсөнгүй. Айн Рэндийн анхны удаа хэвлүүлсэн "Бид амьд хүмүүс" гэх энэхүү романы үйл явдал 1922-25 онд тухайн үеийн ЗХУ-ын Петроград одоогийн Санкт-Петербург хотод ээдрээт хувь тавилангаар холбогдсон гурван залуугийн түүхээр өрнөнө.

Кира бол зохиолын гол баатар. Урьд өмнө нь бишгүй л роман уншиж байсан ч зохиолын гол дүрд ингэтлээ татагдаж байсан удаагү
Sep 28, 2014 Chrissie rated it really liked it
Where to start? How to explain why I like it so very much?

I like Ayn Rand's style of writing. Her language is strong, clear and not in the least subtle. I think I could recognize it in the future. The reader observes what the characters do. Very little introspection. The plot fits the language and the behavior of the characters. Strong, determined people - no not people, just one character, but she is the central character. Kira is her name. This book is autobiographical, but only in the sense t
Mar 30, 2016 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Part VIII of a multi-part review series.

Anti-communists in early Soviet Russia very astonishingly come to bad end.

Introduced by Peikoff, who claims that Rand’s first novel was, instead of this one, almost “set in an airship orbiting the earth” (v) which would’ve been kinda cool, except now we have Against the Day, which likely would’ve embarrassed Rand’s hypothetical effort as much as Solzhenitsyn humiliates this one.

Rand’s own forward contains the normal cacogogic posturing. For instance:

Marija Andreeva
Fountainhead was the first book from Ayn Rand that I read. I found it deeply inspirational, book that pushed me to think outside the box. And it talked about one of my favorite subjects, individualism. I thought, Oh my God, what a book. I felt even emotionally exhausted, but in a good way. Then I read Anthem, which I thought was good, but not as Fountainhead. I felt as if Fountainhead was the standard of measuring her work. I didn't think anything can surpass it. But, oh boy I was wrong.

I haven
Oct 07, 2008 Rob rated it liked it
This book helped clear up some of Rand's religious philosophy. At one point, the Heroin asks a friend if he believes in God. When the friend answers no, she says that was the right answer, because if you believe in God then you don't believe in life. She goes on to explain that when people believe in God they believe in something higher than themselves that they can never achieve, and she doesn't want to believe that there is something she can never achieve. I found her reason for being an ...more
Rebecca F.
Oct 27, 2016 Rebecca F. rated it really liked it
Instantly as visceral as her more popular later work, Rand's first novel set in early 20th-century communist Russia can really stir you up -- that is, if you support her views on individualism and passion for life, which I do. Like her other novels, the characters are boldly drawn archetypes, strong and obvious, minus extraneous detail that could be distracting from the philosophical ideal overlaying the plot. While Rand experienced first-hand much of the life in Russia she portrays in We the ...more
Mar 17, 2016 Daniella rated it liked it
It's funny because this book usually only gets 5 stars or a 1 star, and here I am giving it a three star.
I'll come up with a coherent review in the morning. Overall it was a good classic. Exhausting. But good.
Jul 11, 2014 Walter rated it it was ok
In the foreword that she wrote for the 1959 edition of her own novel "We the Living", Ayn Rand wrote, "I had not reread this novel as a whole, since the time of its first publication in 1936, until a few months ago. I had not expected to be as proud of it as I am." Well, I'm glad that Rand is so proud of her own first novel. As for me, I am less than impressed.

The novel takes place between 1922 and 1926, during the turbulent years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Most histories and novels that I
Sep 20, 2011 Lo rated it really liked it
I'm going to kind of branch out here and do a different review and talk just what I felt strongly about in this book. If you would like a brief summary, wikipedia does an excellent job.
Anyways, this book was one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I've ever read. The scene between Irina and Sascha broke my heart - it's one of the moments where, in typical Rand fashion, she weaves her characters into such real but horrendously tragic situations you just weep. I would recommend this book to
The one great benefit of reading We the Living is that it encapsulates pretty exactly what Rand spends many hundreds more pages doing in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead: mainly, hating on the collective, venerating capitalism, and (God help us all) describing how free-thinking women shouldn't be slaves to anyone except their capitalist sexual partners.

I find Rand's philosophy beyond problematic, but to my mind We the Living helps explain just how she arrived at the ideas she entertained and
Shanta Shastri
Apr 02, 2013 Shanta Shastri rated it it was amazing
Mind blowing. Heartbreaking. Uncovers all effects when an impossible and irrational ideal is adapted by a country. The Communism.
Como no quiero alargarme demasiado voy directa al grano, comentando virtudes y problemas de esta novela, y lo que espero en el futuro de otras novelas de Ayn Rand. Una pequeña introducción para conocer qué nos cuenta la autora sería destacar su nacimiento en Rusia y la posterior migración de la familia en el periodo soviético a Estados Unidos, donde Alisa —ya que ese es su nombre real— adquiere la nacionalidad estadounidense. La autora desde muy pequeña muestra ferviente interés por el mundo del ...more
Sep 13, 2016 Uninvited rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most depressing books I've read in my life. It is set in Soviet Russia, right after the revolution, and describes in detail the horror that the people experienced under this regime. It's not the kind of horror of physical torture or death (although those existed as well, as everyone knows), but the horror of everyday life stripped of all freedom and hope, the horror of the human spirit crushed and forced to simply exist in order to toil and serve some grand collective. All ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Jan 07, 2013 Marts (Thinker) rated it it was amazing
First published in 1936, the novel ‘We the Living’ by Ayn Rand is, as stated in the preface, ‘the closest she would ever come to writing an autobiography’. The novel follows three years in the life of a young girl, her family, and acquaintances, all of which must face the varied hardships of a post-revolutionary Russia.
Now Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) was born, raised and educated in Russia. She came from a bourgeois family and in Saint Petersburg (later referred to on separate oc
Jack Gardner
Oct 01, 2009 Jack Gardner rated it it was amazing
I really don't know that there is much I can say about this novel that hasn't already been said. We The Living is the most tragic of Ayn Rand's novels and possibly the most under appreciated.

While it is clearly an early effort for her - her use of English is occasionally off and her style is not consistent throughout the novel - the story line is the most (I hate to use this word, but I can't think of a better way to put it) realistic of all her novels. There are no amazing machines or amazing
Jun 26, 2016 Tasos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Το πρώτο μυθιστόρημα της Ayn Rand (και το πρώτο βιβλίο της που διαβάζω, ελπίζοντας κάποτε να φτάσω και στο magnum opus της, το Atlas Shrugged) είναι μια εν μέρει αυτοβιογραφική καταγραφή των δεινών που πέρασε η τέως αστική τάξη στα πρώτα χρόνια μετά την Οκτωβριανή Επανάσταση, μια πρώτη λογοτεχνική αποκρυστάλλωση της ηθικής και πολιτικής θεωρίας της συγγραφέα-φιλοσόφου για την άκρα εναντίωση στο κράτος και την απόλυτη προτεραιότητα της ατομικής βούλησης, της αυτοδιάθεσης και του αυτοπροσδιορισμού ...more
Charlie Schlangen
Dec 09, 2007 Charlie Schlangen rated it really liked it
My first foray into Ayn Rand (I have chosen to read her four major works in chronological order). The pages drip with her horror at the changes wrought by the Russian Revolution, and you cannot blame her for feeling the way she does. To watch as talented, successful, intelligent people were marginalized from society and education and the government and commerce in a sick and destructive pattern of retribution, only to find themselves replaced with people as callow and impecunious as they were ...more
Jun 05, 2011 Carole rated it it was amazing
This is the most interesting and heartbreaking novel I've read in a very long time. I have thoroughly enjoyed anything I've ever read by Ayn Rand. Not because of her life philosophy, but because of her strong characters. This book is no different. However, it is set in 1920's communist Russia rather than 1940's United States like the others I've read. I have about 100 pages left to read, and I can barely bring myself to finish. I know it is all going to end badly. For everyone. And, unbeknownst ...more
Jul 24, 2010 Ani rated it it was amazing
WOW...that's all that comes to mind! A book about life, death, love, struggle and hope when you have NOTHING to live for, to hope just can't stop reading until the very last word and once you're done, you can't wrap your head around it. A must read so you can appreciate how lucky you are...
Oct 31, 2007 Emily rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NOBODY
Ugh, the heroines in Rand's books are always beautiful, strong, dark women who resemble the author (except that she was not beautiful). It makes you never want to think about yourself for fear you'll begin to fancy yourself beautiful, strong, and dark and write a repulsive book about how independent you are even though you are pursued by several suitors.
Lindsey Sparks
Jun 10, 2016 Lindsey Sparks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-and-read
I know a lot of people do not like Rand or stay away from her books because they seem too hard or too philosophical. We the Living is really just an amazing novel - you can hate Rand and like this novel. Although it did manage to make me even more terrified of our upcoming presidential election and want to evangelize on Gary Johnson's behalf even more. I really wish this more widely read and hope you give it a shot.

I was really surprised by this novel. I agree with many of Ayn Rand's ideas and l
".......My heart is a tractor raking the soil,
My soul is smoke from the factory oil..." = page 163

I just 're-found" this old paperback in my old backpack stashed under my parents house. I never finished it. I originally found it in the back seat pocket hold-it-all on a Garuda flight from Indonesia...wondering if we'd ever make it through the electrical storm- the plane kept suddenly dropping and the lights flickering & I was frantically searching for the map/plan of the planes exit doors (th
Debbie Petersen
Jun 28, 2011 Debbie Petersen rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Please add/correct details 3 11 Mar 05, 2016 06:08AM  
The Life of a Boo...: We the Living by Ayn Rand 1 12 Feb 07, 2014 10:02AM  
book review 2 43 Oct 26, 2012 11:38AM  
  • Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
  • One Lonely Night
  • The Passion of Ayn Rand
  • My Years with Ayn Rand
  • Fear
  • Ayn Rand Answers: the Best of Her Q & A
  • Trustee from the Toolroom
  • Mulengro
  • Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government
  • The Cunning Man (Toronto Trilogy, #2)
  • Ayn Rand and the World She Made
  • Living Proof
  • Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto
  • Depths of Glory: A Biographical Novel of Camille Pissarro
  • The Mirage of Social Justice
  • The God of the Machine
Alisa Rosenbaum was born in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg to a prosperous Jewish family. When the Bolsheviks requisitioned the pharmacy owned by her father, Fronz, the Rosenbaums fled to the Crimea. Alisa returned to the city (renamed Leningrad) to attend the university, but in 1926 relatives who had already settled in America offered her the chance of joining them there. With money from the ...more
More about Ayn Rand...

Share This Book

“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want--you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don't know. I've forgotten the difference long ago, because it really doesn't matter, so long as you move.” 100 likes
“She smiled. She knew she was dying. But it did not matter any longer. She had known something which no human words could ever tell and she knew it now. She had been awaiting it and she felt it, as if it had been, as if she had lived it. Life had been, if only because she had known it could be, and she felt it now as a hymn without sound, deep under the little whole that dripped red drops into the snow, deeper than that from which the red drops came. A moment or an eternity- did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist. She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible.” 75 likes
More quotes…