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

Read Excerpt* *Different edition


4.16  ·  Rating details ·  68,511 ratings  ·  5,121 reviews
Anathem, the latest invention by the New York Times bestselling author of Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle, is a magnificent creation: a work of great scope, intelligence, and imagination that ushers readers into a recognizable -- yet strangely inverted -- world.

Fraa Erasmas is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientist

Kindle Edition, 1010 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by HarperCollins e-books
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 Anathem, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
David Peterson As mentioned below, there is a glossary to help, and even a wiki (google anathem wiki) if you don't mind some spoilers. That said, the way this one wa…moreAs mentioned below, there is a glossary to help, and even a wiki (google anathem wiki) if you don't mind some spoilers. That said, the way this one was written, I'd recommend starting over - this may be the first book I've ever done this with, but when I finished I went right back and re-read it to pick up things that I'd missed the significance of on the first read. Coming at those first couple hundred pages with fresh eyes, and the spoilers of the future makes them even better.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  68,511 ratings  ·  5,121 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Anathem
Sep 21, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think that Neal Stephenson is very intelligent and a terrific writer. That said, I found all the made-up googlies in this snarfle, really boinged my thnoode. Surely there is a slankier way of telling us that we are reading about another zoof than to make up every other googly. It made it very difficult to forkle the snarfle and I put it down after only 80 ziffies. This will not stop me from attempting the next Neal Stephenson snarfle, however.
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for something completely unique.
One of the most challenging books I've read, and one that I got a lot of satisfaction out finishing. Stephenson's got a wildly inventive mind and reading him is like jumping onto a high speed bullet train at full speed.

It took about 70 pages to get used to the new 'language' that he invented for this story, and I had to refer to the glossary repeatedly, but suddenly it just clicked, and I was completly caught up in the world Stephenson created.

Not for casual reading, but fans of sci fi, physics
After digesting Stephenson's latest 937 page tome, my response basically boils down to "Meh."

Ok, maybe not, "Meh." exactly. Maybe more like, "Hmmm." I wish I could say something more elegant about it, but the problem is that there isn't a lot to say about the book as a whole because the book as a whole isn't really that good or that interesting. The book as a whole is difficult to describe, because so much of the book seems like a digression from even itself that instead of a book, it's more lik
Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became
Oh my lord, this is still one of my top ten favorite works of literature. Like. Ever.

Not only has this seminal masterwork of fiction withstood a second read with flying colors, but it continues to define and defy both Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction categories. Heck, I think we can say it belongs on any Philosophy shelf, too, and I defy anyone to not laugh their heads off at the haircuts or Rakes or so many beautiful easter-eggs of ideas studded through the opening couple hundred pages.

Mayim de Vries
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the most popular review of this book shows clearly: this is not a novel for everyone. You cannot run a marathon if you didn't go through a proper training. Sitting on the couch all year round is not the necessary regimen. This book is very similar: it requires an intellectual gym, so to speak. Knowledge of Latin, history, and philosophy, a wide frame of civilisational reference, linguistic sensitivity, attention to detail, engagement and patience. If you are not equipped with the above, save ...more
Sean Gibson
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewing a 1,000-page book that’s part alternate history, part close encounters of the third kind, part futuristic sci-fi utopian fantasy, and part philosophical treatise is like trying to milk a camel while sitting in quicksand.

Incidentally, if you’ve never tried that, I don’t recommend it—you end up getting both milk and sand in some pretty weird places. Also, it’s worth noting that, as a general rule, male camels don’t particularly enjoy being milked and have a tendency to make their disple
Simeon Berry
There are a number of technical problems to writing sci-fi and fantasy. Chief among them is the tremendous amount of work required to set up a cultural matrix: a language, a history, an iconography, etc. that makes the world fully realized and engaging. In this new 900-page doorstop, Stephenson tries to solve this problem with approximately 200 pages of exposition, setting up the mindset of a post-apocalyptic monastery where you have religious scholarship without the religion (mostly). So you ha ...more
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I have been reading this book for 17 days, when you have lived with a single book this long there is inevitably separation pain, now that I have finished it I feel like I just woke up from a long weird dream. I had a lot of trepidation about reading this book, the reviews and comments from fellow sf readers (hello PrintSF dudes!) are generally positive but I gathered from them that this is a long hard one (ooh-er!) which is bit intimidating given my very average intelligence. Still, I am intrigu ...more
Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciencefiction
Anathem is an astonishing, enormous, intimidating, and intensely enjoyable book. However, it is also the most "science fiction-y" of any book he's written so far, and that may turn some people off. Also, I'm given to understand that some people would prefer not to have to think about polar coordinates, geometric proofs, bubble universes, string theory, or relativity in their pleasure reading. That is, of course, their prerogative. Also, it's long. And at times there are scenes that go on for pag ...more
Anathem is a very odd book, and one whose appeal I do not understand.

I don't think it would be unfair to call it an piece of expository nonfiction disguised as a novel. Virtues like plot momentum, characterization, drama, verisimilitude, and the like are subordinated to exposition. The book intends to do one thing, and one thing only -- it intends to expose the reader to a set of concepts and arguments Stephenson finds interesting. Stephenson is pretty explicit about this in his acknowledgements
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Do your neighbors burn one another alive?” was how Fraa Orolo began his conversation with Artisan Flec ...
“Do your shamans walk around on stilts? ...
“Do you fancy you will see your dead dogs and cats in some sort of afterlife?” (c)
Orolo had asked me along to serve as amanuensis. It was an impressive word, so I’d said yes. (c)
My talent for envisioning things, and spinning yarns in my head, failed me that evening, as if it had gone on vacation. I could make no sense of my interview with Spe
Scott  Hitchcock
Oct 27, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, sci-fi
DNF 33%

To like this book you will have had to have been a philosophy major who likes a book about monks debating non sequiturs in a fictitious version of earth where there's no plot and because of your heart condition you never achieve a heart rate of over 43 in your cryogenic chamber.

To be fair some of the comparisons to the ridiculous issues of modern society did make smile at how the author spun it but the ratio of reading to a smile or a that's an interesting point moment were too few and f
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
"You can get a lot done in ten millennia if you put your mind to it..."
- Neal Stephenson, Anathem


I float now between 4 and 5 stars. Drift. Bounce. Return. I need to sleep, dream, and return to this later. Perhaps, my response will solidify in my sleep. Perhaps, later I'll find words, emotions, and rational responses to this big, ambitious, knot of a novel. Later.


There are two reviews I want to write. The first follows the path which measures this novel by the volume of its output, the
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, neal-s, audio, sci-fic
One of the greatest science fiction (or speculative fiction) novels of the 21st century, and I mean it. Neal Stephenson's Anathem is both an epic thought project, and surprisingly readable for a thousand-page novel with a whole glossary in the back.

The glossary puts people off, I know, but it's only tough at the beginning. After a few hundred pages you get used to all the Orth terminology and it flows just fine. The descriptions of theorics and takes on human consciousness and the many worlds i
Mario the lone bookwolf
Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

The evolution of thinking and philosophy in conjunction with technology thought further.

Stephensons novel contains a plethora of plots, allusions, and concepts. Arbitrarily, some that caught my eye.
Societal implications are caricaturing the sober reflections of previous models of politics, economics, and religion. Or spin it into the future to a fictional, renewed collapse.

And how the splin
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Is Neal Stephenson the most brilliant living author currently in the United States of America? Oh, wait, I can answer that for you right away: Yes. Yes he is. And that's because Stephenson can do something almost no other American writer currently putting out work can; he can take a healthy dose of t
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
On the one hand this is a cross between a history of philosophy, a Jules Verne story, the films Independence Day and Close Encounters of the Third Kind with elements of Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, aspects of physics and mathematics that works as a lively, readable (well once or twice, it palls after that) and entertaining novel. The pacing of the novel is exponential which means that its average pace is slow and the first third e x t r e m e l y s l o w.

On the other hand if science-fiction can
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I may end up giving this 5 stars, depending on how it stays with me. I loved it, but it should be noted Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. THis book is a lot less verbose than his last trilogy and even Cryptomonicon. But it's also a slower, harder read - there's hard science in here, and not just science but quantum physics, the hardest of all!

The story takes place on a planet in a different cosmos. The society here has a long, involved history with many different words to learn that are
Anathem: This book could be anathema to some readers…
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
At one point do you admit defeat and give up on a book? Especially one that you really WANT to like, by an author whose work you respect, and has been lauded by critics and readers alike. I’ve put off tacking Anathem for many years because: 1) it’s a massive door-stopper about an order of monks millennia in the future devoted to philosophy, science, and mathematic theorems; 2) it’s got an entirely new le
Violet wells
I’m amazed this was a bestseller – not because it’s bad but because it’s so difficult. “A brilliant playful tour of the terrain where logic, mathematics, philosophy and quantum physics intersects, a novel melding wordplay and mathematical theory with a gripping human adventure,” says the blurb and the only part of that assessment I’d take issue with is the “gripping” part!

I don’t really do (or get) science fiction and often this felt like reading a novel in a language I had only studied for six
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Anathem isn't an easy book, and it's not a quick read. Anathem, however, is very rewarding. A book I will definitely read a second time in a few years and then hopefully a third time, several years later. Neal Stephenson is obviously bursting with knowledge, and I had to look up the meaning of unknown words more than once. Cheers for expanding my vocabulary.

The plot of Anathem takes place on a different planet than ours and Stephenson invented quite a few words to go with it. As a non native spe
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m only three into Neal Stephenson’s back catalog and i already have this apprehension before starting one of his books of ‘will i understand what the hell he’s talking about!’. For the first 150 odd pages of Anathem this was semi-true; as a reader of fantasy i can adapt to made up worlds pretty easily but a made up dictionary with silly sounding words did take a while to adjust to and unless you have a decent amount of patience you could quite easily laugh this book off after 50 pages. Fortuna ...more
Jack Tripper
My first time reading Anathem was one of the most engrossing reading experiences I've ever had, in any genre. As a long-time Stepehenson fan, one could say I'm slightly biased. But, considering that I've now read this three times since it's been out, even though it's a 900+ page monstrosity, should tell you something. And I'm not one who normally rereads books.

First off, I should mention that it definitely helps to have even a slight interest in the 'big questions,' such as the nature of reality
Jul 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some novelists pander to their audience. Others challenge them. Neal Stephenson might be determined to make his audience feel stupid, in the nicest possible way.

The American novelist has long been considered one of the great madmen of science fiction, a towering intellect who synthesizes technical mumbo-jumbo and a Monty-Pythonesque capacity for silliness into daunting tomes as entertaining as they are impenetrable. Stephenson mashes up genres with the flair of Thomas Pynchon and the intellect o
There is an amusing review here on Goodreads that mocks the language of Anathem. The reviewer has a point, there is a silliness to some of the common words that Stephenson decides should be changed to kind of nonsensical words, just to show that this is a world that is like ours but not ours. I feel a little sad for the reviewer that he stopped reading at about page 80 though. Those first hundred pages or a little less, of the book were kind of tough going with the language, but it gets easier a ...more
4.5 stars. Another original, robust effort by Stephenson who is one of the best SF writers working today. Highly recommended.

Winner: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: Britsh Science Fiction Award for Best Novel (2009)
Eye of Sauron
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eye of Sauron by: Bradley

Farewell, YA Fantasy; I don't believe I'm ever coming back.

This is one fantastic book. Stephenson combines philosophy, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, anthropology, satire, and a lot more in what is probably one of my new favorite books of all time. Certainly the best novel I've read that was written post-2000.

Anathem's worldbuilding (physical, cultural, historical, philosophical, etc.) is brilliant. The concent of the avout idea is pretty much my idea of a utopia: it's a massive, comple
Kon R.
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book started off promising with a new world and language to explore, but fell flat on it's face. With such a large book it really needed sections to renew the reader's interest to keep going. Sadly there were none and around the 75% mark when the action finally picked up I couldn't care less about it.

I really wanted to love the world and be invested in what happens, but with the non-stop rambling about life, science, and religion of a make believe world it made it next to impossible. In th
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Adult Science Fiction. Post-apocalyptic monastics. [s] 4 29 Nov 26, 2020 06:15AM  
Fantasy Buddy Reads: Anathem [Feb 26, 2018] 54 72 Mar 27, 2018 02:10AM  
Dystopian Society: Anathem by Neal Stephenson 1 13 Jul 01, 2016 12:08PM  
Sci-fi and Heroic...: Anathem by Neal Stephenson 16 145 Feb 14, 2016 03:40AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Diamond Age, or, Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson Summary & Study Guide
  • Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson | Summary & Analysis
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson | Summary & Study Guide
  • Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)
  • Blindsight (Firefall, #1)
  • A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought, #1)
  • Master of the Revels (D.O.D.O. #2)
  • The Algebraist
  • Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (St. Leibowitz, #1)
  • Pattern Recognition (Blue Ant, #1)
  • The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1)
  • The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #2)
  • Children of Time (Children of Time, #1)
  • Red Mars (Mars Trilogy, #1)
  • Spin (Spin, #1)
  • The Peripheral
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Articles featuring this book

I see this as more and more of a social class issue. I'm remembering the advent of late '60s/early '70s drug culture when I was a kid. Authority...
16 likes · 4 comments
“Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor.” 142 likes
“Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways.” 119 likes
More quotes…