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A Canticle for Leibowitz

(St. Leibowitz #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  98,311 ratings  ·  4,995 reviews
In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infant rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From here the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, sat ...more
Paperback, 334 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by HarperCollins EOS (first published October 1959)
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Marcia Canticle can certainly stand on its own. I read the sequel may years ago, but I don't remember it well, and critical commentary is not kind to the pos…moreCanticle can certainly stand on its own. I read the sequel may years ago, but I don't remember it well, and critical commentary is not kind to the posthumous work. I read Canticle often as part of a course I teach, and I never, ever get tired of it. (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Charles He is the "Wandering Jew" , a character from midieval legend who was cursed with immortality when he actually wanted to die. Most likely he stayed beh…moreHe is the "Wandering Jew" , a character from midieval legend who was cursed with immortality when he actually wanted to die. Most likely he stayed behind on Earth, surviving into the next cycle of history. (less)

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Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I'm not a Christian, but I live in a Christian society, and it's all around me. Reviewing on Goodreads brings home how many authors can be classified as some kind of Christian apologist. I have very different reactions to them. At one end, I can't stand most of C.S. Lewis - I feel he's there with his foot in the door trying to sell me something, and I'm just hoping that I can get him to take his foot away without being openly rude. At the opposite end, I think Dante is a genius, and that The Div ...more
Odd as it sounds, this is hot toddy, warm blanket comfort food for me. Admittedly, that’s not the typical description of this cynical, bleak-themed, post-apocalyptic SF classic. However, the easy, breezy style with which Miller explores his melancholy material manages to pluck smiles from me whenever I pick it up. This go around, I listened to the audio version which was recently released it was as mood brightening an experience as my previous read through.

Despite dealing with dark, somber subje
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A centuries old story following the evolving world after an apocalypse and centered on the monks of St. Leibowitz, somewhere in the American southwest.

The monks keep ancient artifacts of science and technology. Funny, sad, brutal, irreverent at times, but doggedly hopeful in its underlying themes, this is a science fiction gem but really transcends the genre to make a greater statement.

Scholars and critics have explored the many themes encompassed in the novel, frequently focusing o
Kevin Kuhn
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Quid enim mirabilius quam monachi in Apocalypse! I don’t know why, but there is something way cool about Monks in the Apocalypse. “A Canticle for Leibowitz” was published in 1959 and Walter M. Miller Jr. won the Hugo in 1961. It was a mainstream bestseller and, I believe, has remain continuously in print ever since. It’s not only considered a science-fiction classic, but also a literary masterpiece.

In 1959 the Cold War was heating up as Russia and the U.S. maneuvered for influence in Southeast A
Glenn Russell

Captivating post-apocalyptic tale set in the Southwestern United States centuries following massive nuclear war that plunged the civilized world into a new dark age comparable to Europe's Early Middle Ages where nearly the entire population is illiterate and scattered in rustic tribes. And similar to those chaotic medieval years, Christian monks keep the flame of learning alive by copying and memorizing the contents of books.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is counted among the classic works of science
May 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: big fans of pap sci-fi
I read this immediately following another well-known 1950s apocalyptic / nuclear holocaust novel "Alas, Babylon." That book, which I gave 4 stars to, was an excellent story and made no pretensions to literature; its prose was plain and transparent. The novel in question, "A Canticle for Leibowitz," turned out to be one of the most irritating kinds of genre sci-fi: one with ambitions to beauty and importance that falls far short of the mark.

Now, I hate to put it that way, because I would never cr
Susan Budd
What did the buzzards of Eden eat? If there even were buzzards in Eden. At least there will be no buzzards in Alpha Centauri. Unless the colonists bring buzzards with them ~ as Memento Mori. But it probably wouldn’t make a difference. After all, it didn’t the first time and it didn’t the second time. Should we be so naive as to think that there won’t be a third? That the colonists to other worlds will not repeat the mistakes of, not one past, but two?

Hope is a virtue whose meaning confounds me,
J.L.   Sutton
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz is imaginative and thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading it and enjoyed it even more during a second go. While this work has very little in common with Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (in terms of setting or character or even plot), I kept being reminded of Asimov's classic. Miller presents a primitive post apocalyptic world in which knowledge has been stowed away in a monastery (in what used to be Utah). This monastery might not be the far end of the uni ...more
Megan Baxter
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
A Canticle for Leibowitz is Catholic science fiction, clearly written in the aftermath of Hiroshima and the shadow of the Cold War. It is mesmerizing, drawing on history and speculating on the future, focused around a small monastery in the American Southwest. It is also profoundly pessimistic about the fate of man and the inevitability of nuclear war.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this d
A Canticle for Leibowitz: Are we doomed to destroy ourselves time after time?
(Listened to the audiobook since so many readers disagreed with my view. Lengthy comments at Fantasy Literature)

This 1959 Hugo-winning SF classic is certainly an odd fish in the genre. It’s central character is the Order of Saint Leibowitz that survives after the nuclear holocaust (the Flame Deluge), and the story spans over a thousand years as humanity seems determined to repeat its mistakes and destroy itself over and
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, pre-80s-sf
“Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall?
Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing?”

Looks like we are, at least according to Walter M. Miller Jr.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a bona fide sci-fi classic, you'd be hard pressed to find a list of “all-time great sci-fi novels” without it. I remember being given a copy of this book in my teens when I was starting to become a serious sci-fi fan. I wa
This is a story about humanity. It was born of the author's experiences taking part in the destruction of the monastery of Monte Cassino during WWII and the reasonable fear of nuclear annihilation that haunted many people for many years.

If in The Day of the Triffids there is a certain gladness on the part of the author that a society they didn't much like has been destroyed by a bright comet and wandering killer plants and now they can get on with rebuilding a new order much more to their own t
mark monday
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
bleak themes with a light touch. although not an easy book to get into, once i realized the effort was a worthy one, it became an increasingly absorbing read. the structure in particular was interesting, challenging - and distancing. novels with religion at their core are often absorbing to me personally, and this novel is all about the impact of religion on the building and rebuilding of society. i appreciated the humanist values and found myself agreeing with the at times progressive, other ti ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
ETA 09/03/13: Cloud Atlas to the reading path, below.


I was conceived somewhere late summer/early fall of 1963, roundabout the time the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the US, UK and Soviet Union; close to a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and about two months before JFK's assassination. There had been an earlier miscarriage, a child who would have been a year or so older than me.

I may have picked up, in the womb, an interest in the politics of that time. My father, in particular,
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is essentially a book about knowledge.

What happens to the human life that survives beyond the destruction of the world?

In the ruins of what was once the United States of America, the Order of Saint Leibowitz works relentlessly to discover and preserve bits and pieces of knowledge from the time prior to the Flame Deluge. And when Brother Francis of Utah stumbles across a series of ancient writings by the holy Leibowitz himself, the discovery starts a chain of events that spans centuries of t
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
“When mass murder's been answered with mass murder, rape with rape, hate with hate, there's no longer much meaning in asking whose ax is bloodier. Evil, on evil, piled on evil. Was there any justification for what they did—or was there?”

I first read A Canticle for Leibowitz in high school and may have read it again soon after finishing it. It was my way then with books I had heard were “deep” and that I didn’t fully understand. Like Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse, which I read maybe three times m
Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!
I am very cross. This is yet another book that I rated and reviewed and has disappeared from my shelves. I wonder if it happened when some librarian decided to add series information to it and thereby change the title? If it is no. 1 in a series there has to be a no. 2. There isn't. It isn't a series. According to Wikipedia,

"A Canticle for Leibowitz is based on three short stories Miller contributed to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.[1][2] It is the only novel published by the author
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017

... for in those days, the Lord God had suffered the wise men to know the means by which the world itself might be destroyed ...
He also suffered them to know how it might be saved, and, as always, let them chose for themselves...

Walter M Miller published a single novel in his lifetime, so I guess he wanted to pour into it everything that was important in his life: his scientific training as an engineer, the trauma of destroying the ancient abbey of Monte Cassino from a bomber aircraft in
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Crazy complex, a meditation on humanity and civilization. Divided into three parts, the first after what seems to have been a nuclear war, the second partway into a time of political consolidation and the rise of nation-states, but also the rebirth of scholarship, and the third at a toe-to-toe arms face-off. There are threads that connect the three very disparate sections; the canticle for Leibowitz standing in for the concept of knowledge, the monastery devoted to knowledge preservation, a wild ...more
Dec 07, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dof-didnotfinish
I'd heard about this book for years. Finally decided now was the time. Turned out it wasn't. The beginning held my interest, although I did think the writing was a little self conscious. That got me through about 1/3 of the book. Then of a sudden, things shifted, and so did my attitude. Yawn. Skim. Skip. That got me through the 2nd 3rd. At that point I got wise. I am 75 years old. If I'm going to read even a portion of everything I want to read before I conk off, I can't afford to waste my time ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Canticle for Leibowitz is set in a post apocalyptic world where a nuclear holocaust has laid waste to the earth. In the aftermath, people burned books and renounced all scientific knowledge, which they saw as the root cause of the massive destruction they had to live through. The novel starts about 600 years after this incident, and follows the monks of a monastery in the Utah desert, as they strive to preserve what little scraps of writing that has survived from before the world was burned to ...more
Nick Borrelli
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Along with Hyperion, one of my all-time favorite SF books. It's a total crime that it wasn't included in Goodreads Top 50 Science-Fiction novels. ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
One of the best sci-fi that I've read so far.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is composed of three parts. In between each part is a period of 6 centuries. This reminded me of Roberto Bolano's 2666 (5 stars) that I recently read and found amazing. I am not sure whether Bolano got the idea from here but if it was a coincidence then there must be something happening around that time. Creepy. This first part, Fiat Homo or "Let There Be Man" happens 6 centuries from the 20th century. This book, the only one
Veronica Belmont
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are some books that are called "classics," but you don't really understand why until you read it and feel that you've been changed. You know, for certain, that even though the themes have been played again and again, that the story is as everlasting as the bricks in an ancient abbey.

I'll save the rest of my thoughts for the Sword & Laser recap, but I'm glad that we've also read The Sparrow as an interesting comparison on the themes in both. Fantastic book, even if you don't speak a lick o
Joy D
“Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall?” – Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

This book is a trio of interrelated episodes, set hundreds of years apart. All are set in the Leibowitz Abbey, a monastery in the southwestern desert of what was formerly America. The first episode opens in the 26th century, 600 years after the Flame Deluge has wiped out most of civilizati
An early classic in the post-nuclear holocaust genre. I have read the book two or three times in the last 50 years.

Miller was the prototypical one-hit wonder. Though he did write a lot of SF short stories before he published Canticle, he never wrote another novel.

But hey, if you only publish one novel, and it's like this one? Not bad at all.

I suppose I need to read it again, I can't really remember how it ends. Or maybe it doesn't really end, just fades away? Or returns endlessly.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Bill H
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan Rice
This was an intriguing book to read but the review was complicated by the fact I kept pursuing various trails....

The story consists of three consecutive post-apocalyptic periods subsequent to a nuclear catastrophe, separated from that and from each other by centuries. Central to the plot is a monastery dedicated to the preservation of knowledge from our lost civilization during the dark ages that follow and to the memory of its founder, Isaac Edward Liebowitz, who, although apparently a Jew (bas
Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was because my copy of the book was in an advanced stage of acidification with the pages cracking and the glue failing so I feared taking this book with me on the subway (images of high school moments when a dropped binder in a busy hallway could destroy a years worth of work in about three seconds). Maybe I read this too slowly, taking too many days off in between each sitting. Maybe it was the stress and anxiety of working retail, yet again, for another ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF at 39%.

It’s a book that left me absolutely indifferent. I picked it up as a classic sci-fi about a post-apocalyptical world, expecting something more like Fallout, The Road, Mad Max or something like that. Instead, what I’ve got was a boring and uninspiring post-apocalyptic version of “Name of the Rose”. It’s all about churches, monks, saints, religion and prayers, and those aren’t my favorite topics by a long shot.

It might, I emphasize - MIGHT, have been a different experience had I read
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From the Wikipedia article, "Walter M. Miller, Jr.":

Miller was born in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Educated at the University of Tennessee and the University of Texas, he worked as an engineer. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radioman and tail gunner, flying more than fifty bombing missions over Italy. He took part in the bombing of the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino,

Other books in the series

St. Leibowitz (5 books)
  • Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman
  • Um Cântico Para Leibowitz, 3
  • Coffret leibowitz 3vl
  • Um Cântico Para Leibowitz - volume 2

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