Invisible Man

A Novel
Narrated by: Joe Morton
Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (7,502 ratings)

Audible Premium Plus

$14.95 a month

1 audiobook of your choice.
Stream or download thousands of included titles.
$14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $33.60

Buy for $33.60

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Ralph Elllison's Invisible Man is a monumental novel, one that can well be called an epic of 20th-century African-American life. It is a strange story, in which many extraordinary things happen, some of them shocking and brutal, some of them pitiful and touching - yet always with elements of comedy and irony and burlesque that appear in unexpected places. 

After a brief prologue, the story begins with a terrifying experience from the hero's high-school days; it then moves quickly to the campus of a "Southern Negro college" and then to New York's Harlem, where most of the action takes place. 

The many people that the hero meets in the course of his wanderings are remarkably various, complex and significant. With them he becomes involved in an amazing series of adventures, in which he is sometimes befriended but more often deceived and betrayed - as much by himself and his own illusions as by the duplicity and the blindness of others. 

Invisible Man is not only a great triumph of storytelling and characterization; it is a profound and uncompromising interpretation of the anomalous position of Blacks in American society. 

Ralph Ellison was the teacher and mentor of Don Katz, Audible's founder and CEO. Get the full story here.
©1952 Ralph Ellison (P)2010 Random House

Featured Article: 20 Best Classic Audiobooks to Listen to Again and Again


Classics are known for their timeless quality, their ability to endure through generations and still hold something significant for the modern listener—whether it’s commentary on a long-gone era or an ageless tale of adventure. In this roundup, each story is paired with an exceptional, show-stopping narrator who takes the tale to new heights. While you may have read some of the stories below, you’ve certainly never heard them quite like this.

What listeners say about Invisible Man

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    4,325
  • 4 Stars
    1,526
  • 3 Stars
    716
  • 2 Stars
    365
  • 1 Stars
    570
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5,135
  • 4 Stars
    752
  • 3 Stars
    377
  • 2 Stars
    180
  • 1 Stars
    306
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,660
  • 4 Stars
    1,457
  • 3 Stars
    745
  • 2 Stars
    349
  • 1 Stars
    538

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Masterfully written; perfectly narrated

What made the experience of listening to Invisible Man the most enjoyable?

It is a compelling story, full of the suspense and uncertainty that could plague any invisible man. It is also a fascinating guided tour of the main character's feelings: how invisibility feels to him, and how he feels about the fact that he is invisible.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Invisible Man?

The moment when the main character experiences his second major surprise; when he realizes that he had still been running.

What about Joe Morton’s performance did you like?

It was perfect. At no point did I notice that the book was being narrated. I felt all through that the voice I was hearing was that of the main character.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I did not have an "extreme" reaction to the book, but I feel that it is one of the most memorable books that I will ever read.

Any additional comments?

This book is more than a mere good story or complex opinion piece. I feel that to fully appreciate this work, one must be ready to openly contemplate the themes therein.

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

How Did This Escape Me?

I've never been one to deplore my lack of quality education in public school. I figured that whatever I missed was likely due to inattentiveness and lack of inquisitiveness on my part; but after reading INVISIBLE MAN, I finally come away insensed! Angry and insensed that this book was not assigned to me as part of my upbringing. Even if I can forgive my public schools, then I must blame my private / public university and well-heeled graduate educations for not at least trying to make me aware that this great literature exploring MY American background exists. While I was raised in the most caucasion of caucasion communities, I feel I should still have been made aware--by somebody!--that I needed to read INVISIBLE MAN!

Well . .. now that I've raved a bit, I must admit that even in grad school I wasn't always the most attentive of students. I was deeply involved in whatever topics were discussed at hand, and I wrote stellar essays, I suppose . . . but I might have been daydreaming the day(s) that Ellison's profound influence on modern literature and social and racial issues was discussed . . . perhaps. What a masterpiece. I will read and study it again, and do all I can to influence persons whose education I hope for to read it and read it well.

By the way, if a reader orders this after reading my rant here, please make sure you listen to the introduction. It helps. The book is exquisitely performed and masterfully written. Not only does it provide an essential piece in one's education, but it's also a great, entertaining, riveting, and even humorous in many ways, read.

71 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant!

I remember seeing this book on my parents' bookshelf when I was a kid. I don't know what made me finally decide to check it out, but I am SO glad that I did! First of all, Ellison's writing is phenomenal. So vivid and bursting with rich, poetic detail. Second, actor Joe Morton's narration was so stunning and passionate, I felt like I was listening to a stage play. His performance was genius! Another reviewer mentioned that this was well worth getting and I couldn't agree more. It's a masterpiece.

Ellison's social commentary is sadly, still applicable today in some ways. But this story is told in a way that doesn't preach to the reader. Just enlightens. It is a fantastic listen--bravo to both Ellison and Morton.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

My volume control had a work-out!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend reading, rather than listening to this book. Joe Morton had a variety of wonderful voices; however, the volume of characters other than the narrator were quite loud. I had to keep turning the volume up and down - if I adjusted for the narrator, then many characters sounded extremely loud. Especially when in the car, I had to continually adjust the volume so not to destroy my ears. This was too long of a book to have that problem.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Overwhelming

This is a difficult book. On the one hand, this is a young man's story and it should be read by young people. The lessons in it are invaluable especially to those who might not have yet become aware of how power works; especially in the United States. I wish I read this just after getting out of high school.

On the other hand, reading The Invisible Man and grasping what it is about is, I think, nearly impossible for a young person. To a young person (like a younger me) Ellison's wisdom would sound, I presume, like the rantings of an old drunk in a dive bar. It's a rollercoaster of things that sound embellished. If such a drunk starts to tell you of the terrible things he's seen and done you look for the exit. And so you put away the book.

Sadly, if we could pay attention to the drunk we would learn things that change our lives--not that Ellison is a drunk in a dive bar; far from it. The world might start appearing in it's true and terrifying colors. But we're too damn young and arrogant to pay attention.

The Invisible Man is a life-changing book in the same way. Reading it when young is impossible, and reading when old excruciating. Brilliantly, this is precisely the dilemma of the protagonist, who doesn't see 'it' until it is too late.

I can't think of a comperable American novel. Gore Vidal was absolutely right in saying that the 'Battle Royale' section in a different novel would make it excellent. In The Invisible Man, it's just one of a series of equally eye-opening vignettes about America and Americans.

And this is not a book just about being black in America. To say so is an injustice to its brilliance. Ellison's insights can and should be generalized to all the relationships between the haves and the have-nots. Most of all, to the power dynamics between the young hungry masses and the old satiated elites. The protagonist's journey is a story of any young person's confrontation with real power. This is Kafka with an AK-47.

49 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

You've been waiting, buy it, you won't be sorry...

Ralph Ellison's masterpiece comes to life in the hands and voices of Joe Morton. The author's prose is alive, urgent, commanding of your attention.

This is a reading which perfectly matches narrator to subject matter. Mr. Morton is to be commended for his dazzling ability to traverse generation, race, nationality, gender and regional dialects with ease, often in the same sentence. Many passages which deal with multiple voices, the narrator along with other speakers, are confronted with natural ease and pacing. I found, on several occasions, I had to pleasantly remind myself there was only one person responsible for the many clearly identifiable characters.

Invisible Man's absence from the Audible catalog has finally been rectified, and thankfully it has been given the reading and treatment it deserves.

47 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Wow. Yes, there's anger but also great truth

Wow. This book is over 60 years old and an award winner, and I can't believe I'd never even heard of it. Well, I'm glad I found it, and in a great format read fabulously by Joe Morton.

This is about personal identity, not just about race.....though make no bones about it, it's also about being Black in America, at least at the time Ellison wrote it (1953). Maybe it still applies, though I'm not in any position to say.

The book starts and ends with the protagonist (never referred to by name) saying he is an invisible man living homeless in a cellar, but the bulk of the book is about his experiences going to school in the south, then moving to Harlem, becoming an unexpected orator on the street and being recruited by a supposed colour-blind group known as The Brotherhood (loosely but pretty obviously based on the Communist Party). Those experiences all lead him to realize that he had been trying to gain an identity from everyone else (neighbours, family, school, bosses, compatriots, lovers, acolytes, clergy, even passers by on the street -- when he really needed to stop doing and acting as others wanted and determine his own idea of who he was.

"And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man."

"“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”"

There are some sobering thoughts and powerful ideas in this book, and it probably is worth a second listening, or reading, down the road. I'm sure I missed a few things.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes it is best not to awaken them...

“I remember that I'm invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man I can't believe I waited so long to read this. But part of me thinks I needed to wait to read this. Maybe, and this is hard to admit, maybe I wasn't ready for Ralph Ellison's masterpiece in my twenties or thirties. It was a fever dream. A jazz narrative. A hallucination of pain, beauty, struggle, and life. It was a Hegelian dialectic. It was a black whale just as real as Melville's Moby Dick. It still has me firmly in its grip. There are scenes in this book that are burnt into my mind and tattooed on my soul.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This Great American Novel

Joe Morton lives and breathes this wonderful look into the life of an exceptional American who tells a story of life in this country. We couldn't have had a better, more passionate narrator.

Ellison delivers to us a rare glimpse into the lives of those who truly depict the soul of America and the state of the country in all its savage complexity and psychopathic depravity. The man with no name is all of us. Ellison says, in one book, what many great novelists take their entire careers to say. This is America at the crossroads and at the beginning of modern American civil rights.

It's a great book and a superb production.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Difficult to Listen to

What didn’t you like about Joe Morton’s performance?

His range from loud to quiet made it difficult to listen to. I had to constantly turn the volume up and down in order to avoid deafness, then in order to hear what he was saying.

8 people found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jon Porter
  • Jon Porter
  • 05-22-20

Mindblowing

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and my favourite narrators are Frank Muller, Richard Poe and Samuel West, but as an individual all-round performance I think this is the greatest I've ever heard, including Frank Muller's Moby Dick and Richard Poe's Blood Meridian. Of course it helps that, like them, Mr Morton is working with a masterpiece too

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Susan Lynch
  • Susan Lynch
  • 10-18-20

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I had to read this book as part of my university module, I had not heard of it before. I found it excellent, interesting and riveting.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alv
  • Alv
  • 08-02-20

A Seminal Work-Joe Morton's performance is flawles

Ive already read this brilliant work - a must. The reading is immaculate and has heightened my enjoyment of one of the most brilliant books of the 20th century on the human condition.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for R
  • R
  • 11-10-19

This book won't leave you happy.

Exceptionally good performance. A painful story. I wouldn't want to hear it again. Very good literature.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Freddie Anyaegbunam
  • Freddie Anyaegbunam
  • 09-20-19

Brilliant

I absolutely adore this book! I'm so glad that it's finally available on audiobook, as I enjoy and understand better when reading via hearing. Always recommended!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Mr Image
  • Mr Image
  • 09-03-19

Outstanding narration!

“Read this book! Read this book!” That’s what my colleague had been nagging me to do for a few years now..... Not my type of book, too similar to others! Closed my eyes to select a book and I chose this!! Why why why? Had I left this for so long. An excellent book which took me on such a journey. Stephen Fry is the best at narrating for me however this has equalled him. Joe Morton has excelled in making me put this in my all time top 20! Bravo!

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Hayley Hibberd
  • Hayley Hibberd
  • 08-12-19

Very wordy

Perhaps just too highbrow for me. I constantly felt the author was just trying to tell me how many clever words and phrases he knew. I think at best there was a 5hr story in there. I know many have loved it, so I bow to their greater intellect. It just wasn’t for me.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-17-19

overated

performance was great. story was broken, lacked direction very overrated book. the story touches upon issues but minutely. nothing is resolved, no sense of empowerment and the failures of the main character were more self inflicted rather than a result of being restricted by white america. the main character remaining nameless to the reader also seemed like a pointless thing as he was not nameless to the other characters in the story.