Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The Thirty-Nine Steps (original 1915; edition 2007)

by John Buchan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5211311,502 (3.54)418
Title:The Thirty-Nine Steps
Authors:John Buchan
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (UK) (2007), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, espionage, Canadiana, great cover

Work details

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 418 mentions

English (129)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
Drawn into the dark and gruesome world of international espionage-retired army officer Richard Hannay must solve a murder mystery and unlock the code hidden inside a black diary-in order to save the world from another world war. The Thirty-Nine Steps was also made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. ( )
  anandj | Sep 10, 2016 |
John Buchan knew how to write a rollicking adventure - Christopher Hitchens described him as the bridge between Kipling and Fleming. Perhaps because of the political situation (the novel was first published in 1915, and is set in May and June 1914), spy thrillers were hugely popular at the time - Arthur Conan Doyle's "His Last Bow" is much more a spy story than it is a detective one, as were some of Agatha Christie's earlier books (The Secret Adversary, The Man in the Brown Suit) - but it's the pace and charm of Buchan's that leaves his as the icon of the genre.

Hitchcock made his own version of The Thirty-Nine Steps in the 1930s, of course, but you can see how it informed so much more of his work: the (extremely capable) Everyman dragged into a plot with international ramifications, put on the run across picturesque landscapes, relying on luck, skill and a large amount of authorial intervention. It's a terrific formula, giving someone almost exactly like the reader a reason to be chased by biplanes and blown up - it's informed just about any male-orientated YA novel you've read.

I can ignore the plot holes and contrivances; it gives me a warm feeling to read a story that's informed so many others I've loved. ( )
  m_k_m | May 20, 2016 |
very hard going when trying to understand dialect. it made it a chore for me, but its still a good book, just not dyslexia friendly. ( )
  troyka | May 5, 2016 |
Six-word review: Preposterous spy story furnishes lightweight diversion.

Extended review:

I'd call this very short novel a goofy romp, secret codes and murders and conspiracies and all. The wonder of it is that after a century it still has an audience. And it has.

My only prior acquaintance with this yarn was the 1935 Hitchcock movie, which turns out not to have much in common with the novel. I recently read the author's first, Prester John, and this does have a lot in common with that, not surprisingly. In his dedication he affectionately likens it to the then-familiar American genre "the dime novel," what we would probably now call pulp fiction: sensational thrillers without much meat to them that deliver easy escapist entertainment.

Published early in the second year of the first World War, the story takes place in the months leading up to it, when suspicion, fear, and paranoia on an international scale must have been very high indeed. The hero, Richard Hannay, is a daring adventurer who takes up the challenge of a spy mission after an agent is killed in his apartment. His escapades across the English countryside are as boldly executed as they are reliant on surpassingly mad coincidence and what must be an entire pantheon of friendly, or at least highly amused, deities.

There is something of substance here, though, and it may be in part the hero's frank appetite for action, in part the sustained theme of imposture and disguise. There is also the better-than-competent prose, ensuring that despite the laughable improbabilities of plot, it remains exciting and absorbing. If you're in the right mood for it, it'll give you a few cheerful hours. ( )
5 vote Meredy | Apr 28, 2016 |
A fun adventure story full of the close encounters and unlikely coincidences that make great fiction ( )
  SashaM | Apr 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buchan, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ardizzone, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvie, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hynynen, AnssiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praetzellis, AdrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorn, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To Thomas Arthur Nelson
(Lothian and Border Horse)

My Dear Tommy,
You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the 'dime novel' and which we know as the 'shocker' - the romance where the incidents defy the possibilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myself. This little volume is the result, and I should like to put your name on it in memory of our long friendship, in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than the facts.
First words
Richard Hannay is not, on the face of it, the most exciting of adventurers, yet more than any other hero he has come to embody the man of action pitted against the forces of misrule.
I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the original novel, there exist a number of adapted and abridged versions for english learners that should NOT be combined into it.
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141441178, Paperback)

A gripping tale of adventure that has enthralled readers since it was first published, John Buchan's "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is edited with an introduction and notes by Sir John Keegan in "Penguin Classics". Adventurer Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his London life - until a spy is murdered in his flat, just days after having warned Hannay of an assassination plot that could plunge Britain into a war with Germany. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay picks up the trail left by the assassins, fleeing to Scotland, where he must use all his wits to stay one step ahead of the game - and warn the government before it is too late. One of the most popular adventure stories ever written, "The Thirty-Nine Steps" established John Buchan as the original thriller writer and inspired many other novelists and filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock. In his introduction to this edition, historian Sir John Keegan compares Buchan's life - his experiences in South Africa, his love of Scotland and his moral integrity - with his fictional hero. This edition also includes notes, a chronology and further reading. John Buchan (1875-1940) was born in Perth, and first began writing at Oxford University, producing two volumes of essays, four novels and two collections of stories and poems before the age of twenty-five. During the First World War he worked both as a journalist and at Britain's War Propaganda Bureau, eventually becoming Director of Information. He published his most popular novel, "The Thirty-Nine Steps", in 1915 - and it has never since been out of print. If you enjoyed "The Thirty-Nine Steps", you might like G.K. Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday", also available in "Penguin Classics". "Richard Hannay is...a modern knight-errant". ("Observer"). "Once you've started, you can't put the book down". (Stella Rimington).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:01 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Richard Hannay, a mining engineer, 'retires' at the age of 37, having made his fortune in Africa. He finds London dull, until he becomes caught up in a sensational plot to precipitate a pan-European war. Hannay is at first disinclined to believe the young American, with his incredible tales of international intrigue, and hints of a terrible secret. But when the American turns up dead in Hannay's flat, Hannay is forced to flee the attentions of both the conspirators and the law. Hannay is hunted across the Scottish moors by police and spy-ring alike, and must outwit his intelligent and pitiless enemy in the corridors of Whitehall and, finally, at the site of the mysterious thirty-nine steps.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 21 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.54)
0.5 4
1 12
1.5 2
2 55
2.5 34
3 250
3.5 82
4 276
4.5 27
5 105


14 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182857, 0141441178, 0141031263, 0141194723

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 109,744,746 books! | Top bar: Always visible