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

By the Waters of Babylon

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  652 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Do your students enjoy a good laugh? Do they like to be scared? Or do they just like a book with a happy ending? No matter what their taste, our Creative Short Stories series has the answer.

We've taken some of the world's best stories from dark, musty anthologies and brought them into the light, giving them the individual attention they deserve. Each book in the series has
Hardcover, Creative Short Stories, 32 pages
Published August 1st 1990 by Creative Education (first published July 31st 1937)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  652 ratings  ·  59 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of By the Waters of Babylon
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think I read this story in 8th grade, or that was at least the first time I heard about it. What I love about this story is how well Benet convinces you in the beginning that you are reading a story from an ancient time, as opposed to what the story really is: a story set in the future in which an asteroid or nuclear attack has destroyed our cities, infrastructure, and population. Benet’s word choice gives us the sense of a primitive people, and in a sense they are because human history has be ...more
Juan Antonio
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good job Benét, good job. I find it very hard to believe that someone that lived over 100 years ago could go into so much detail describing something that hasn't happened today. At first, I thought this was a simple children's tale, warning us that curiosity sometimes gets the best of us. After reading it a few times, I finally got just how powerful and poetic this short tale is.

Benét tells the tale of John, a young man living in what seems to be a primitive society. They follow arbitrary rules
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
By the Waters of Babylon is a post-apocalyptic short story written in 1937. That's right, a post-apocalyptic story made before the A-bombs were dropped and even before World War II even started. The book is very much ahead of its time, and I respect it for that. However, judging it purely on entertainment value the book fails. It follows a young man as he enters the forbidden "Place of the Gods" which we soon discover is a bombed city. It seems that finding out that it takes place in the future ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this in the morning of the day people are to gather all over the world to move world leadership to stop the destruction of the world's climate and at the end of a week in which Congress voted again to go to war. Stephen Vincent Benet was a prophet and this is his lamentation. Let us pray with it. ...more
Christopher Brehm
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, dystopian, own
Great first person descriptions of a post apocalyptic world where our everyday world is described from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with it.

The human quest for knowledge is sometimes dangerous but cannot be extinguished.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Most irrelevant title there has ever been.
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
"By the Waters of Babylon" is a post-apocalyptic short story by American writer Stephen Vincent Benét. It takes place in the territory of the USA and New York City.

The narrator of the story is a young man who explores the world around him. People live in tribes and they do for a living what ancient people did in the distant past (hunting, gathering plants, etc.). The main character also sees the signs of the apocalypse that mankind will face in the future.

This mixture of past and future is what
Kirtida Gautam
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
"Perhaps, in the old days, they ate knowledge too fast."
Pg. 25

It is a wise tale told in the first-person. The narrative is refreshingly simple.
Bill S.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Thanks to my 9th and 11th grade English teacher, Mr. Bob Schevchik, for having us read brilliant science fiction. He had us read a ton of short stories. If you haven't read any SS since high school or college, run to the library! When well done, they are priceless. ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
What else can be said about this amazing story by Stephen Vincent Benet. Even though at the start it may be hard to understand, and you might often get confused by what it happening, this story is one of the best you will ever read as it perfectly portrays what a post-apocalyptic world would look like and it will always have you wanting to find out more and more as the story develops.

This story focuses on the main character, and narrator, John, who goes on an journey to finally fulfill what he
Stephen Brooke
'Mainstream' author Benet visits a theme — a post-apocalyptic world — already commonplace in the speculative fiction genres. Of course, the critics raved and it was put into high school English anthologies. But it was no better written and no more imaginative than many stories that had already been published.

The author was, admittedly, a more accomplished stylist than most of his contemporary science fiction writers and, not having to write for mass-market publication, could allow himself more f
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookshelf
By the Water of Babylon was a great book to read. I liked how the author made the story seem ominous and suspenseful.

One writing technique or literary element that the author used well is description of setting. Stephen Vincent Benét makes the setting seem clear so the reader can easily imagine where the narrator is and what the narrator sees.
Jake McMaster
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
He said, "Truth is a hard deer to hunt. If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth. It was not idly that our fathers forbade the Dead Places." He was right—it is better the truth should come little by little. I have learned that, being a priest. Perhaps, in the old days, they ate knowledge too fast. ...more
Maurita Kling
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in high school, 57 years+ ago, & it STILL RESONATES, especially with Today's Situation! Can't recommend it highly enough especially for young folks who are unfamiliar with just how close the world can get to this state of affairs in the Past & could even more easily arrive at in the Near Future! ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
"I knew that I was seeing the city as it had been when the gods were alive."
I'll be honest, throughout most of this story I was confused and borderline bored, but the ending was really affecting and I especially loved the scene in which the narrator describes the city.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story, far ahead of its time.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Post apocalyptic. Not my thing.
K. Dexter
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought it was really interesting and thought provoking. The way it was written kind of bugged me, but I understand why it was done that way and it suited the story well.
Thet Thinzar
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Now I carry out Term Paper that about this title dealing with setting and background.
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: science fiction fans
Recommended to Skjam! by: best of lists
Reviewed this in a collected edition here: ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very surprising, it was confusing at first but afterwards you started to understand everything and it all ends weirdly happy or sad I do not know.
Ren (They/them)
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
for school. it was eh
This was one of my favorite stories we read in middle school, and upon re-reading it I still like it as much as the first time.
Dec 07, 2020 added it
read for my english course
In Stephan Vincent Benet’s classic post-apocalyptic story “By the Waters of Babylon”, a young tribesman comes to his father to ask if he may go on a journey in search of knowledge. His father, knowing that this journey will be quite perilous as the son ventures to forbidden lands where laws must be obeyed, still assents, and lets his son pursue his quest.

What I think is most striking about this story is the multilayered aspect to it. The author employs a good deal of literary elements to enrich
John Cates
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Good post apocalyptic story for the days of covid
Nicole Clarkson
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
This story disappointed me only because it had so much untapped potential that it didn’t exploit. Novel length potential? Maybe with the right author. It at least could’ve been a heck of a lot longer than it was and left me in awe of what humanity had become. I wanted to know so much more than I was given. Not to mention, the hidden gems weren’t always inherently visible. I didn’t notice half of them until the professor that assigned this pointed them out.
Nick Watson
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • There Will Come Soft Rains
  • A Sound of Thunder
  • Harrison Bergeron
  • To Build a Fire
  • The Lady or the Tiger?
  • Searching for Summer
  • A&P: Lust in the Aisles
  • The Story of an Hour
  • The Pedestrian: A Fantasy in One Act
  • All Summer in a Day
  • A Rose for Emily
  • The Veldt
  • The Cask of Amontillado
  • The Tell-Tale Heart
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • 2BR02B
  • The Library of Babel
See similar books…
Stephen Vincent Benét was born July 22, 1898, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, into a military family. His father had a wide appreciation for literature, and Benét's siblings, William Rose and Laura, also became writers. Benét attended Yale University where he published two collections of poetry, Five Men and Pompey (1915), The Drug-Shop (1917). His studies were interrupted by a year of civilian milita ...more

News & Interviews

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
96 likes · 16 comments
“Truth is a hard dear to hunt. If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth.” 5 likes
More quotes…