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


really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  14,762 ratings  ·  911 reviews
From the author of White Noise (winner of the National Book Award) and Zero K

In this powerful, eerily convincing fictional speculation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Don DeLillo chronicles Lee Harvey Oswald's odyssey from troubled teenager to a man of precarious stability who imagines himself an agent of history. When "history" presents itself in the form of two
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 1st 1991 by Penguin (first published 1988)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,762 ratings  ·  911 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Libra
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Dead president’s corpse in the driver’s car. The engine runs on glue and tar…
Let’s devote our lives to understanding this moment, separating the elements of each crowded second. We will build theories that gleam like jade idols, intriguing systems of assumption, four-faced, graceful. We will follow the bullet trajectories backwards to the lives that occupy the shadows, actual men who moan in their dreams.

There is the system and there are those who serve the system. There are tomcats and there ar
Paul Bryant
Oct 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I'm told that the Don DeLillo who wrote this masterpiece is the same guy who wrote Underworld and White Noise, but as far as I'm concerned that's a plainly ridiculous theory and I'm not buying it at all and I've hired a private investigator to get to the bottom of why there are two Don DeLillos and why this one hasn't sued the other idiot for giving him a bad name. It's a mystery.

Libra is entirely great. Its vocals, its backing, the bass, the drums, man alive the drums, the harmonies - celestia
Steven Godin

Oh yes - this one hit the spot alright.

I've always regarded DeLillo as a bit of a hit and miss writer, who can be sloppy in one novel and quite brilliant in another. When he does hit top form though: which I believe he absolutely does here, it's such a rewarding reading experience.

Apart from knowing that Oswald shot JFK then got whacked two days later by Jack Ruby, my knowledge on the whole history leading up to, arguably, the mother of all assassinations, was practically zilch. So, taking that
Intuition is a funny thing. I'd been meaning to read Don DeLillo for years now, but was avoiding him. He appeared everywhere (usually accompanied by stellar praise), including my own bookshelf, where Libra sat and sat and sat. See, I've been intimidated by DeLillo. For no good reason, other than this intuitive idea I had that he would be difficult.

I was right, too. It took me weeks to read this book. Not because I didn't understand what was happening - but because I struggled, on a page-by-page
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A friend of mine once sat me down and made me watch the documentary Loose Change. For those that don't know Loose Change is a detailed documentary positing the idea that 9/11 was a false flag operation. Its modus operandi is to follow the money. Without question, it's a disturbingly convincing film on many levels but at a certain point I began to think about the urgency with which my friend needed to believe he now possessed secret inside information. I could sense how he felt it empowered him. ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This book of DeLillo was a brilliant dive into the background of Kennedy's presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (with a cameo of his killer Jack Ruby). It is well-written and well-paced and a great read. I would put it on the level with Mao II and White Noise but below Underworld. So an essential DeLillo as long as you have UW under your belt already. ...more
mark monday
a work of bright and ruthless genius, the jfk assassination as recounted by some alien being from the far future. well actually, not really, not at all. well actually, at times it felt like it. is delillo less than human or more than human? the novel makes no attempt to be historically factual. actually, the facts presented are reasonable and sound. the novel is historically factual, as much as anything can be. the narrative is, of course, almost too complex to be detailed. although it is, in it ...more
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy, 2013, reviewed

One can read Libra as a political thriller or a voice in the discussion about who actually stood behind one of the most notorious political assassinations of the twentieth century. Shots in Dallas proved that this an event can not be easily interpreted, it melts in the mist of conjectures and hypotheses and still is a breeding ground for more and more daring conspiracy theories. (I’m not a huge fan of conspiracy theories, neither in books nor in real life. In fact we, in Poland, have enough th
Brian Michels
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So, I like to read, and I want to fancy myself as a writer. After finishing Don DeLillo's Libra, I can honestly say that I am still a reader. If anything has changed in that department, maybe, I'd say I'm now a flabbergasted reader. As far as me being a writer, this here book has certainly made me question that, at least as far as whether I am a great writer or not. Don DeLillo certainly is an excellent writer. His book is a weird and suspenseful folding of fiction and reality surrounding the Ke ...more
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews

DeLillo and I are friends now!!
We had started off on the wrong foot, but Libra has patched things up. I too share Paul's suspicions about Libra and White Noise having been written by the same person. Had I been handed these two books without the cover, I wouldn't have known those words had flown out of the same figurative pen.

Libra is a terrific piece of work. It has a huge cast of characters and a very complex web of events, all handled neatly and elegantly. While DeLillo's characters never rea
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it

As the young Lee Harvey Oswald was speeding through the underground railways of New York, my plane-ride was speeding down the line and leaping off the ground, with its final destination being the beautiful city of Wroclaw, Poland. Both of these acts happening simultaneously, reflected the enormous speeding forces of history that I was about to witness in this novel, moving toward its endpoint. It would of course be much more poetic if the plane also landed at the same time as this n
Ian "Marvin" Graye
I Believe All That I Read Now

"I believe all that I read now
Night has come off the corners
Shadows flicker sweet and tame
Dancing like crazy mourners."

Howard Devoto, "Motorcade"

Plots That Move Toward Death

"Libra" has one of those plots that, in the words of Don DeLillo himself (from “White Noise"), “tends to move deathwards”.

Here, DeLillo repeats and elaborates on his aphorism:

“Plots carry their own logic. There is a tendency of plots to move toward death. He believed that the idea of death i
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Libra is a conspiratorial thriller in which Lee Harvey Oswald is hired by a bunch of ex-CIA spooks with business interests in Cuba to botch up the Kennedy assassination. They hope that the assassination attempt would lead to the US declaring war on Cuba. It is not just any ordinary spy thriller. It is a thriller by a great writer who has interesting views on technology and media and their impact on human nature. I was constantly thinking about Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost while reading Libra. ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
" There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of things they aren't telling us. "

The novel is a tragic, speculative account of the people, places and things leading to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Delillo uses many of the actual words of Oswald and his mom Marguerite, as well as numerous documented facts surrounding the life and times of Lee Harvey Oswald, so that I had difficulty discerning where the public records stop and the fict
Lee Klein
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This one took about a month to read so I should respect that time turning its pages and write a few commemorative words. All I can really say is that on every page the writing reeks of literature, but rarely is it literary. What I mean is that DeLillo's sentences always seem to have an eye on a subtextual prize, that is, they always seem like an updated, abstract response to that question posed long ago by some cavedweller about the meaning of life, as opposed to turns of phrase for the sake of ...more
Sean Blake
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, politics
“Facts are lonely things.”

American history is profoundly dark in its timeline. From the slaughtering and near genocidal extermination of the Native Americans to the 9/11 attacks, American history presents itself as an almost constant struggle for survival. History has not been so kind when it comes to America. Inevitably, and understandably, it is so very interesting, and the American people are also equally interesting. Their history is internationally relatable due to the ancestral voyages
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first foray into the JFK Assassination was the superb Oliver Stone film. I watched it without any prior knowledge of the conspiracy and became fascinated. After this i read Plausible Denial by Mark Lane, which at the time i was in awe of but i’ve since realised is probably a bit fanatical. Plus Mark Lane went way down in my opinion since i’ve read of his involvement in Jonestown.

Libra is a speculative fiction/non-fiction novel that follows Lee Harvey Oswald during his short life from his scho
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are a number of reasons I chose this one to occupy a couple of weeks of reading time in my life. First, I wanted an introduction to DeLillo since I understand he can be difficult to read, yet I wanted to be entertained. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart, as the Kennedy assassination spawned perhaps the greatest assortment of conspiracy theories in our nation’s history. Most of the story occurred during the period of history in which I was born (1960) and marks and colors a su ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
This fucking book, man, it just leaves me at a complete loss for words. I've heard people discredit the terrific work DeLillo did to make Oswald a compelling and complex character - maybe DeLillo's most compelling and most complex character - because Don was working with a real person and therefore had plenty of raw material to go with, but I insist that it takes just as much talent to sculpt what is known of Oswald (his upbringing, his politics, his time in the war) into a real and weirdly rela ...more
"Facts all come with points of view."
--Talking Heads

I became reasonably convinced that Libra is Don DeLillo's masterpiece about halfway through. After slogging through the first quarter of the novel -- you're introduced to dozens of characters, and they're all revealed to you in that customarily opaque way that any reader of DeLillo will instantly recognize, and the dialogue only takes you so far because DeLillo characters don't talk to each other so much as around each other, and it takes a wh
Paul Haspel
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jfk
Libra was Lee Harvey Oswald’s astrological sign, and it is from this biographical fact that Don DeLillo’s 1988 novel Libra takes its title. Among all the vast body of work that has been written over the years regarding the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Libra stands out for a couple of reasons. First, by choosing the novelistic format, rather than publishing a “nonfiction” book that claims to uncover a hitherto undiscovered “truth” regarding the JFK assassination, DeLillo untet ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
UPDATE: Now read for a third time as part of a publication-order re-read of all DeLillo's books. Well, I say all, but I did skip Ratner's Star because I really didn't like it when I re-read it a couple of years ago. Libra, however, is now confirmed, again, as my favourite DeLillo book. Hopefully, the review below from last time I read it will explain why...


"Think of two parallel lines," he said. "One is the life of Lee H. Oswald. One is the conspiracy to kill the President. What
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it

A few days after finishing Libra, I went out for drinks with a good friend/DeLillo-aficionado and naturally a heated discussion ensued. What follows is largely the result of this conversation.


In her (or his) first-ever interview, the artist generally known as "Elena Ferrante" attempted to articulate the literary relationship between truth and style:
Literary truth is not the truth of the biographer or the reports, it's not a police report or a sentence handed down by a court. It's
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Spoilers -- kind of....

This is a really great book -- for most of it, I really loved this -- partially because I'm an assassination buff, but also because there's a taut intelligence and poetry in much of the writing, and also (I thought, at least) some really sublime characterization and lots of Plot MoMo. The treatment of David Ferrie -- for example when he meets with Carmine .... just great writing...

This is my first DeLillo - and I know a lot of people here think he's way overrated -- so I
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Somewhere along the line I got this notion in my head that DeLillo wasn't for me. I have no idea how that got lodged in my head, but it could not be more wrong. This is only my second of his works (after being quite delighted with White Noise), but between his subject matter (the American zeitgeist) and his writing style (dark, funny, smart, biting, while somehow being lyrical), I think I might be hooked. Some of his passages are simply enjoyable on their own:
The faintly musty smell, the coolnes
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 4-stars
The best Delillo work I have read to date (White Noise, Zero K). Conspiracy theories are fun, but the JFK assasination is in a league of its own and Delillo brings it to life beautifully.

In his other novels I have noticed that Delillo spends an unusual amount of time inside his characters’ minds, and this is again the case in Libra. This approach might not work for most writers, but it is Dellilo’s calling card and I love it. Nobody can pry open the mind of his characters quite like Delillo. I f
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Felt like I tore through this with the inability to put it down for more than a few minutes before wanting to get back to it. An engaging re-telling of a well worn tale, located somewhere between Ellroy's American Tabloid and Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49. Like bubble gum with vitamins and antioxidants; healthy but with a whopping good time attached. Riding along on narrative momentum with occasional rest stops of brilliant social analysis.

Libra was on my "to read" list for a long time.
So happy t
Nutshell: soporific account of JFK assassination, intermixed with bildungsroman of assassin, with implied subtitle The Sorrows of Young Lee Harvey.

Narrative is bifurcated into alternating sections. First set are designated by locus: New Orleans, Moscow, Dallas—these follow Oswald. Second set are designated by tempus: 20 May, 25 September, 22 November—these follow CIA losers, anti-castroites, other unsavories.

Text ties tempus and locus together explicitly in Oswald: “from early childhood he liked
Justin Evans
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I unintentionally finished this days before the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, which made the whole thing even more enjoyable, if that's the right word. Aside from a bit of the good ole American prose (and its general fear of syntax more complex than subject-verb-object), and brief moments of postmodern angst (can we know anything???), this is an excellent, excellent book. It's easy to read but doesn't ignore the possibility that writing may (I'd go as far as 'should') be noticeable. But most ...more
The facet DeLillo investigates in this historical crime (the murder of President Kennedy) is the power of plot. Lee Oswald did not work alone. There is a whole facet of the crime that keeps jabbing at the ‘lonesome’ aspect of the murder. Lee did not work alone. He is one piece of the puzzle which was shut down to paralyze investigation.
This novel does not only concentrate on the crime. We are introduced to his family, to the CIA, to Lee’s mistakes and to twists of all sorts. DeLillo wants the r
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Libra - Don Delillo 4 18 Mar 27, 2021 02:41PM  
Oakville Reads: Libra - Don DeLillo 1 10 Mar 06, 2019 11:00AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Vineland
  • The Crying of Lot 49
  • Bleeding Edge
  • JR
  • V.
  • Mason & Dixon
  • Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put it in the White House & What Their Influence Means for America
  • Gravity's Rainbow
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government
  • The Recognitions
  • The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World
  • Lost in the Funhouse
  • The Pale King
  • The Broom of the System
  • American Tabloid (Underworld USA #1)
  • American Pastoral (The American Trilogy, #1)
  • Dog Soldiers
See similar books…
Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American

Articles featuring this book

  Summer Reading is sponsored by Lifetime’s Book to Screen Movies. Who better to suggest a perfect summer read than some of the biggest...
179 likes · 126 comments
“Facts are lonely things” 84 likes
“That which we fear to touch is often the very fabric of our salvation. ” 33 likes
More quotes…