Noah's Compass
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Noah's Compass

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  6,826 ratings  ·  1,388 reviews
BONUS: This edition contains a Noah's Compass discussion guide and an excerpt from Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye.

Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn’t bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first n...more
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Clif Hostetler
Anybody can write an interesting story about interesting people. But how about a good story about uninteresting people? That's a more difficult challenge. This novel meets that challenge.

This is a novel that features a normal person with ordinary abilities and no particular passion for life. Unmotivated readers (aging with nothing in particular to look forward to in life) will be able to identify with this story. It starts out a bit slow, but for the reader who makes it through to the end of the...more
As I read this book, I was often reminded of the television show, Seinfeld , which was purportedly about nothing, but beneath the surface there was usually more. I have read and enjoyed many of Anne Tyler's novels. They all seem to share the trend of family disharmony and often are similar in style, if not content.

Noah's Compass is a low-key, meandering story. While sleeping, Liam Pennywell sustained a head injury as a result of an attack by an assailant who broke into his room. This concus...more
Dave Peterson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
(Melinda) The most compelling concept to me was actually the title. The story of the biblical Noah refers to a man chosen by God to survive the coming flood because "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Consequently, Noah survived and actually was led on to high and dry ground... And all of this without "steering" the ark! No compass, no map. Liam's grandson actually brings up the idea. Somehow,this theme is threaded into the fabric of this story making me wonder if Liam knew that if he ju...more
Dale Harcombe
It is easy to write about larger than life, exciting characters. Not so easy to write about the everyday and ordinary. There is probably not a writer around who can handle small moments and the lives of ordinary people as well as Anne Tyler. Retrenched from his job as a teacher, 60 year old Liam decides he needs a new start and moves into a new and smaller apartment. After going to sleep the first night in his bed in the new place, he wakes up in hospital. He cannot remember what happened. That...more
I started reading Anne Tyler in 1988. And though I've always loved her, there were times when I thought some of her characters were a bit too quirky. As I've gotten older, I've thought that less and less -- whether because I've met 'quirkier' people through the years, or because I'm now quirkier myself, I don't know. In any case, the characters in this novel are absolutely real. It is amazing how real they are. I don't know when I've seen a more real depiction of a 'normal' 17-year-old girl, for...more
I think I've read all of Anne Tyler's books and this is probably the weakest. In other books her characters tend to live on the fringes of society, outwardly losers, but through Tyler's eyes we get to like them and understand their often odd behaviour. Liam Pennywell, the main protagonist of Noah's Compass, provokes none of this sympathy. With his grumpy disconnection from the modern world, deliberate obtuseness in conversation and total lack of concern for his family he is a weak, unlikeable an...more
Anne Tyler's 18th novel "Noah's Compass" is more twee than Zooey Dechanel wrapped in the orange and brown tones of a home-knit afghan.

It starts in a good place: 60-year-old Liam Pennywise, once widowed, once divorced, a philosopher-turned-elementary-school teacher has been laid off from his job at a mediocre school. He begins downsizing an already modest life by moving into an apartment complex off the highway near the mall. He goes to bed his first night in his new home, and wakes up the next...more
The characters were well developed but I never really got to the POINT of the book until Liam's grandson was so ticked off at Noah for letting so many animals die and Liam was telling his grandson about Noah and the ark. These few paragraphs made the book make sense, albeit a little late. Maybe worth a re-read. Not a waste of time, I just didn't get it until the last few chapters.
Lolly LKH
Normally I enjoy Tyler's novels, but with Noah's Compass I failed to see the point. I suppose if you look at it in a simple manner, just your average person living a mediocre life then it makes sense. There were certainly quirky moments, and Eunice started out as an interesting character but I kept expecting to be taken somewhere fun only to be returned home, and early. Kitty fed the novel a little but his other daughters didn't really give much to the storyline. The elder daughters were flat an...more
Lori Kelley
Some may find Anne Tyler too formulaic.... "quirky character muddles through life and suddenly has epiphany"...however I personally find reading her books as comforting as a warm blanket on a cold night or a nice chat with a good friend. Noah's Compass doesn't disappoint as the main character, Liam, is a retiree who has stripped down his life to the bare bones, moving into a small, gloomy condo with a few books, a couple chairs, and some canned soup. He has almost no friends and is disconnected...more
It had been a long time since I'd read an Anne Tyler novel and I'd almost forgotten how much I like them. I'm always able to identify with her quietly quirky characters (say that ten times fast), but maybe that says more about me than them!

This time it's Liam Pennywell, a sixty-one year old who has just lost his job as a fifth grade teacher. Educated as a philosopher, he never cared all that much for teaching anyway and is coming to terms with his forced retirement. He moves into a smaller apart...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Like most of Anne Tyler's books, Noah's Compass was gently written and uncomplicated. No postmodern literary gimmicks for her, thank goodness. Just a straightforward story with a few surprises, and with eccentric characters who probably live down the street.

I love the way Tyler takes everyday happenings and makes the reader realize that nothing is really insignificant, that everything has meaning or value.While reading the book, you hardly realize the layers of character development that she ha...more
There are certain things you can count on with Ann Tyler - the book will be well written, for one, the characters well sketched with the detail of a perceptive thinker. And I found this to be an easy and enjoyable read just about the whole way through.
Interestingly, Tyler attempted a sort of mysterious beginning which, as far as I know, is unlike her - a sixty year old man goes to sleep one night and wakes up in the hospital. But the noir-ness ends there, which is fine since I don't think it sui...more
Leigh Haber
I could never give an Anne Tyler book fewer than three stars. She is one of my all-time favorites, though, like many of her main characters, I think Anne Tyler herself is getting stuck in the same old formula. In this novel, she creates two characters, the male and female protagonists, who are somewhat cliched. The guy, a sixty-year-old, recently laid off teacher, is a disconnected, almost bumbling man who, on the night he moves into a new, smaller apartment, is attacked by a burglar, which in t...more
This is a very short novel, really more of a novella - I read the whole thing on a two-hour train journey, and I'm not someone who whizzes through books. But not a word is wasted and I think Anne Tyler still manages to create compelling characters and the sort of moral dilemmas which will leave you going round and round in circles. The central character, a reserved teacher called Liam who has just been made redundant, rather reminds me of the hero of 'The Accidental Tourist', and I think perhaps...more
Noah’s Compass is the eighteenth adult novel by American author, Anne Tyler. When sixty-year-old Liam Pennywell is retrenched from his job as a fifth-grade teacher, he decides to downsize his life, moving to a smaller apartment with less possessions; he even considers retiring altogether. But after going to sleep in his new bedroom, he wakens in a hospital bed with no memory of intervening events. His capable ex-wife Barbara and his three daughters (the rather bossy Xanthe, the born-again Christ...more
I romanzi della Tyler hanno tutti più o meno la caratteristica di farsi leggere piacevolmente. Senza punte d'eccellenza, senza cadere nello scontato, coinvolgendo sufficientemente il lettore senza peraltro entusiasmarlo. Poi devo aggiungere che a distanza di qualche mese cade totalmente nell'oblio e rimane nulla...
I have heard some pretty harsh reviews of this new offering from Anne Tyler, but I liked it. Keep in mind though, I don't need much plot, I am a lover of character studies.
Liam is an unremarkable 61 year old man who has been fired from his teaching job and forced to retire, although he rationalizes that it doesn't really matter because he wasn't particularly good at teaching fifth graders, and his real passion is philosophy. He is a man who is aware that he didn't make much of himself; he is lonely, and passively defeated. On the first night of his moving into a small apartment, he is attacked by a burglar, and the next day he finds himself in a hospital with brui...more
A rather lovely elegy writ small, about a lonely man stumbling towards what might almost be called happiness. Liam at the age of sixty-one is uprooted - he loses his job at a second-tier Baltimore private school, and moves into a drab apartment in a community of loners, in the nether suburbs. On his very first night, he is attacked in his apartment, and wakes up in the hospital. He's been cut in the head and bitten in the hand; what's more alarming to Liam, he can recall none of the event.

This m...more
Liam lives a quiet life. He’s been a teacher for most of his life at private schools though he’s been heading down the status scale from his first teaching job to his second. His first wife commits suicide when their daughter is a toddler. He never quite understands why she died; she just seemed to fade away. His second wife is a practical, no nonsense kind of woman who seems to be exactly what he and his daughter need. She gives him two more daughters and for awhile they hobble along together....more
Gail Cooke

Following a Pulitzer Prize for BREATHING LESSONS and accolades from every newspaper, journal, and reviewer imaginable for other works what further praise could be heaped upon the unparalleled Anne Tyler? She has captured readers once again with a story of ordinary people, their hopes, joys, regrets, and fears. Ordinary people, yes, but intriguing to us because Tyler presents them with such discernment, kindness, wisdom and humor.

At 61 years of age Liam Pennywell lost his job. For him it wasn't m...more
Apr 10, 2012 Doreen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a quick read
Recommended to Doreen by: meriden library book club selection
I liked this book well enough. The story moves along easily from Liam's 'forced' retirement at the book's beginning, to his profession as a 'zayda' at the book's conclusion.

Here is a man who has lived his life passively. He never is truly engaged in his relationships with family/friends, nor in his circumstances. Everything in his life simply 'happens', lacking any activity or thought from him. The book is a snippet in time, a window of only a few months from his life. This reminded me of Stewa...more
Anne Tyler's novels all take place in Baltimore, and to a former Baltimorean ("Baltimoron"...) who has a real fondness for the city, reading one of her books is the next best thing to being there, Hon. I've read most of her books and think her real strength is in her writing - it just goes down so easily and effortlessly. A weak plot makes no difference - they're still fun and so authentically Baltimore, or rather a certain Baltimore locale, happily where I lived so it's all very familiar.

Joy H.
April 2010 - I have finished reading Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler, a story about a widower named Liam who is trying to adjust to retirement. It was a good read and I would recommend it.

The title is a reference to Noah in the Bible.* Liam tells his grandson about Noah. As he talks, the reader sees parallels between Noah's circumstance and Liam's life. On p. 219, Liam says: "There was nowhere to go. He was just trying to stay afloat. ... So he didn't need a compass, or a rudder, or a sextant..."

I liked this book a lot. It is very simply written, about a man who is very ordinary. I liked that. It’s nice to sometimes read about someone who is not a superhuman being, who knows how to parachute out a plane with just an umbrella or some such. The main character, Liam, at age 61, has just lost his job, not that he liked it much anyway, and has moved to a small apartment, and seemingly has no-one in his life and little to do. But suddenly and then in growing numbers, people begin to populate...more
I looked forward to reading this because I love Anne Tyler, but it was a bit of a disappointment. I love the way she can make the ordinary interesting and the way she develops characters. Yet there was something lacking here. The protagonist, Liam Pennywell, has just retired from his teaching job at age 60 and moves into a new apartment. The very first night he is there, an intruder breaks in and attacks him. He wakes up in the hospital remembering nothing of the incident. This disturbs him, as...more
I guess I am missing something here. I don't know the relevance of the book title considering the story. Liam is in his 60s, losses his job, was married twice, once divorced and once widowed. He has three daughters but never really was a part of thier short he is a sad sack! Whe he loses his job he considers retirement and scales back on living expenses, not that he had much to scal back on. During his first night he is assualted in his new place and has no memory of the incident. He...more
« 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 »
  • Robin and Ruby
  • Commuters
  • Seeing Stars
  • Delta Girls: A Novel
  • Bone Fire
  • Perfect Reader
  • Bill Warrington's Last Chance
  • Border Songs
  • Getting In
  • The Family Man
  • Raising Jake
  • Real Life & Liars
  • The Lake Shore Limited
  • The Lovers
  • Kings of the Earth
  • Finny
  • The Year That Follows
  • Home Safe
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. The Beginner's Goodbye is Anne Tyler's nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and...more
More about Anne Tyler...
The Accidental Tourist Breathing Lessons Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant Digging to America Saint Maybe

Share This Book

“Liam really enjoyed a good movie. He found it restful to watch people's conversations without being expected to join in. But he always felt sort of lonesome if he didn't have someone next to him to nudge in the ribs at the good parts.” 13 likes
“Either she was admirably at ease anywhere or she suffered from a total lack of discrimination; Liam couldn't decide which.” 5 likes
More quotes…