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

All the King's Men

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  56,979 ratings  ·  2,569 reviews
More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the one time Lou ...more
Paperback, 439 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Harcourt Brace (first published 1946)
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 All the King's Men, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  56,979 ratings  ·  2,569 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of All the King's Men
Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Shelves: southern
"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud."

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren is the only person to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction as well as poetry. He won the prize for fiction in 1946 for this very book. If you are lucky enough to have a great aunt who reads, and bought a lot of books in the 1940s, you might take a gander at her books some time and see if she has a first edition, first printing of this book
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-novels
Compelling, overstuffed, overplotted, sexist, labyrinthine, poetic, atmospheric. To me this book's status as The Great American Political Novel seems like a terrific bitter joke, because the author's vision of "politics" is comprised entirely of blackmail, physical intimidation, pork-barreling, rabble-rousing, nepotism, bribery, rigged elections, and hilariously contrived "family values" photo shoots. (I love the scene where a photographer and two aides attempt to wrestle a comatose, foul-smelli ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

All the King's Men is a novel by Robert Penn Warren first published in 1946. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. In 1947, Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men. It was adapted for a film in 1949 and 2006; the 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is rated as the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels.

All the King's Men portra
Michael Finocchiaro
This was a wonderful book. I listened to it on Audible, but it was so well-written that I have ordered hard-copy as well. The story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden (which are the same story as the narrator says) is both poignant and realistic. Seen through the cynical and poetic eyes of Burden, the Southern cronyism of Huey Long is parodied here (and honestly reminds me of recent and current American political history). The writing is absolutely spectacular - Penn Warren is the only person ever ...more
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
All the King’s Men is one of my favorite books, and I find it hard to write about my favorite books. When you are swept away by something – a book, a movie, a girl – all objectivity tends to disappear. Instead of pointed analysis, cold-eyed criticism, and thoughtful chin-stroking, there is gushing and platitudes and hyperbole.

In fact, instead of writing a review, I prefer to strip naked and run around the block screaming Robert Penn Warren’s many virtues.

Okay, I’m back.

There are a lot of grea
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Freshman serendipity at a college bookstore
All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren's Spider Web

This Novel was chosen as a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for July 2012 and again in October,2014.

"It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) "There is always something."
And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge."
And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Robert Penn Warren's, All the Kings Men won the 1947 Pulitzer prize, and could also have won that prize in the next three years. 

Is this 400 pages of poetic prose or a great epic prosaic poem? This work would make a great primer for college English lit majors, I think Warren used every literary device and may have made up some more. 

And like so many master performances of art or sport, he makes it look effortless, he makes it look easy. This was like watching Joe DiMaggio glide across the outf
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
At first glance, Willie Stark seems like he would have been the perfect Tea Party candidate. He uses fiery rhetoric to stir up crowds by claiming to be just like them and that he’s going to bust the heads of those evil ole politicians at the state house to force them the straighten up and do things the right way. But on the other hand, Willie actually knows something about government and uses his tactics to improve the lives of poor people by taxing the wealthy and using that money to do things ...more
King of Pain

Storytelling and copulation are the two chief forms of amusement in the South. They're inexpensive and easy to procure.
Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren had been teaching at LSU for about a year prior to the 1935 assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (La.), nicknamed "Kingfish," the populist and crooked 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, on whom his novel is loosely based. The title comes from Long's motto, "Every Man a King," and a "Humpty Dumpty" verse.

The story
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it

Meaning to do good, Willie Stark rises from self-educated lawyer to political bigwig and eventually governor. Along the way he loses his moral compass and develops a taste for power, resorting to bullying, bribery, blackmail - whatever it takes - to get what he wants.

Willie does manage to help some of his constituents, taxing the wealthy to provide schools and hospitals for the poor. But he also betrays his wife; raises a selfish, self-absorbed son; corrupts good people; and eventually reaps the
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First off, I would nominate this book as one highly in need of a much improved cover design. That being said, it perfectly fits the old adage about judging a book by it's ( mundane) cover. I love it when a book surprises me and the dread of reading it ( club choice) turns into excitement. The back-page blurb praises it as a Pulitzer Prize winner following the political career of Willie Stark, a fictional character loosely based on that of Huey "Kingfish" Long a post Depression Era Louisiana gove ...more
The image I got in my head that day was the image of her face lying in the water, very smooth, with the eyes closed, under the dark greenish-purple sky, with the white gull passing over.

This is probably the first fairly good review I ever wrote on Goodreads (or anywhere, of course). Seems hardly anyone has ever seen it. Ran across it tonight in an old Word doc and thought I'd repost it. The book is a classic.

I first read it about 40 years ago. Having just finished my second reading (I think only
Lewis Weinstein
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-general
ATKM’s "dead on" characterizations of political behavior are as relevant today as they were when it won a Pulitzer in 1947. Often described as the story of Willie Stark, a thinly disguised fictional stand-in for fabled Louisiana Governor Huey Long, it is really much more that of Jack Burden, Stark’s aide and friend, from whose first person POV the story is told.

Alternately attracted and repulsed by the tangy smells of commitment and corruption, Jack engages our sympathy and intellect as he perso
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Weinz by: Bernie
Shelves: favorites
I finished this book on a plane. I was on a plane coming home from somewhere that I didn't belong and as we coasted onto the tarmac I felt a little like Jack Burden. He was never really comfortable in the shoes that he wore but was constantly striving to find the truth in things. He was looking for the truth while consistently doing the right even when it was hardest. Not to say that I am this all knowing altruistic seeker of truth in all things, quite the opposite, but coming from somewhere I d ...more
Jesse Ramshaw
Very conflicted between 4 and 5 stars. Terrific story, memorable characters, smooth writing. Poetic, dark, meaningful. Reminds me (oddly enough) of D.H. Lawrence and Hermann Hesse.
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok......What did i think?? I wish I had read this book a loooooooooooongggggg time ago....... but maybe it was time to read it now. I think every American , whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or I don't give a shit party, should read it..... It's a very modern topical novel to read now about how corruption can ruin a person,because we have to be right about everything........ instead of trying to work together for the better welfare of

"everyone" in this country.

It's a book that makes yo
Sep 02, 2007 added it
All the King’s Men is often promoted as a novel about politics, occasionally even the quintessential novel of American politics. While I did enjoy the portrait of Willie Stark as an archetype political boss, more interesting, to me, is the struggle of the narrator, Jack Burden, to overcome his nihilistic doubts in the face of a world governed by power. Jack claims to overcome his nihilism (“the Great Twitch”) by coming to an understanding of the morality of his own life (the personal and inter-p ...more
Larry Bassett
I like politics. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have been involved with politics for a long time at a lot of different levels. Mostly my heart is with third party politics. This book has a special interest to me although I have never read it. The title is very familiar to me but I can’t say exactly why that is.

I have come to believe that anyone who is successful in politics and has been elected is probably someone who is intellectually dishonest. After all, can you imagine some
Mike Hart
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read this passage:

A woman only laughs that way a few times in her life. A woman only laughs that way when something has touched her way down in the very quick of her being and the happiness just wells out as natural as breath and the first jonquils and mountain brooks. When a woman laughs that way it always does something to you. It does not matter what kind of a face she has got either. You hear that laugh and feel that you have grasped a clean and beautiful truth. You feel that way because tha
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Warren wrote an impressive, engaging piece of southern fiction, one that evokes storytellers like James Clavell and James Michener, however, rather than William Faulkner and Saul Bellow; it falls short of its reputation as a great work with lasting cultural significance and consequence. This book is really the tale of one Jack Burden, his adolescence, educational experience, love interests, family history and ultimately, his role as aide to a sly, ambitious governor, told through a nonlinear ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit
"Red" Warren was a friend of my doctoral advisor Leonard Unger, I think from the Vanderbilt connection before they were U Minnesota colleagues in the 50's, along with Saul Bellow and Allen Tate. Of course, Warren was known for the most famous poetry introduction ever written, Brooks and Warren, and Leonard's reading of poems built on it with an added soupçon of Catskill wit. After B&W came Brower's fine Fields of Light, which lay behind my Amherst College lit intro. The Amherst approach contrast ...more
David Eppenstein
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction
If you have read this book already then I feel safe in saying that we probably haven't read the same book. In my attempt to fill voids in my literary history I picked this book up. It is one that I have always meant to read but just never got around to it. Inadvertently, I picked up a copy of the "Restored Edition" which is the book that the author actually wrote and submitted to his publisher for publication. The original 1946 edition of this book is 464 pages long while the book I just finishe ...more
Mister Jones
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mister Jones by: My Southern Literature Teacher
For my money, I think this is the greatest book in Southern Literature exceeding Faulkner. All the King's Men is much more than the usual purported centrality of Willie Stark's political motives and final demise, and the usual shallow analogies to Huey Long; if anything, the novel's narrator, Jack Bundren, is a cynical person whose life has unraveled. I think the one scene with Jack's father will always stay vivid as the epitome of Southern Grotesque. It is a multi-layer novel--with clarity and ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and I doubt I will read many of its caliber ever again. It is an epic, biblical, human yet quintessentially American saga, disguised in the bizarre circumstances surrounding a particular brand of local Southern politics. In Willie Stark, Penn Warren has created the ultimate American antihero -- describing to the tee the populist circus the campaign trail becomes, with Willie playing off the parasitic needs of potential voters and staffers and ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jack Burden is one of my favorite characters. He hovers as a reflection of what could've been, yet his finality terrifies me. The scenes detailing Burden smoking in the dark and the winds arriving from the Canadian north are amazing. Warren eyes both Faulkner and Gibbon. His study of power echoes the Bard, though his poetic flourishes are native-born. He eyes his betters and replicates to placate Carson and Marsa Bill. All The Kings Men is regarded as the best example of the political novel. I'm ...more
Conor Ahern
I have had this book lying around forever and only just now got to it, owing to my 2019 resolution. It started off pretty electric--the dialogue is taut and the foreshadowing is masterful. This book is very much in the sweet spot of influence, where its pungency and style are clearly echoed in the many other great and influential books that followed in its wake and emulated its affects. The writing is both belletristic and masterful--RPW is the only person to have won the Pulitzer in writing and ...more
Sep 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
I go through a lot of anxiety when I decide to quit a book in the middle of it. I really did give this one a chance. I really like the leader of my book club, who chose this book, however, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never read such a bunch of babble before in my life. If all the babble was pulled out of this book, it would probably be 100 pages. As opposed to it’s 437. This quote is an example… “If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is wha ...more
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gloria by: book club
Well written.
...but like I needed another reason to be cynical and depressed over politics right now.
Ivana Books Are Magic
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All the King’s Men opens sharply, throwing the reader into the midst of things. Jack Burden, a young ex-reporter/ writer, a guy who walked out on his PhD, finds himself in the service of Willie, a raising political force. Willie, whose background doesn’t promise a successful politician, but who is ready to fight against the odds. Jack is there by Willie’s side, not because of the money, not because of the power, not because of anything like that. Why is Jack there? Jack isn’t sure himself. It is ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who believe what politicians tell them
This one guy starts as a champion of the people and turns into a corrupt demagogue. It's a gripping story and a terrific book - sortof a political noir - but you're like come on, that would never really happen.

"Listen here, there ain't anything worth doing a man can do and keep his dignity."
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Arrowsmith
  • The Moviegoer
  • A Bell for Adano
  • The Ides of March
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner
  • Advise and Consent (Advise and Consent, #1)
  • Light in August
  • A Death in the Family
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • Appointment in Samarra
  • The Store
  • His Family
  • Native Son
  • In This Our Life
  • Ragtime
  • Invisible Man
See similar books…
Robert Penn Warren was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic, and was one of the founders of New Criticism. He was also a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. He won the Pulitzer in 1947 for his novel All the King's Men (1946) and won his subsequent Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in 1957 and then ...more

Related Articles

Thirty-four years after the publication of her dystopian classic, The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood returns to continue the story of Offred. We talked...
367 likes · 59 comments
“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him.” 1190 likes
“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar's gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.” 252 likes
More quotes…