Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Tough-o-Meter

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Tough-o-Meter

(5) Tree Line

This one's a toughie. We were thinking, "Maybe it deserves a four. Or perhaps a six. It really depends on you, dear reader."

Miller's writing has some complex sentences that run a little long, and there are a few words in there that you'll likely need a handy-dandy dictionary to interpret. (We're looking at you, bicephalous.) But his images are clear, and you won't wonder who's who or what's going on in the story more globally.

The difficulty enters when all those Latin phrases come a-knocking. True, you can skip over them if you'd like, and you'll still understand most of the story. Most. Not all.

If you want to wrap your head around all of the work's themes and its moral and political nuances, then you'll need to translate that Latin. So unless you're fluent in this dead tongue, the book will prove a little more challenging for you.

We recommend you boot up your favorite online translator—or even crack open a Latin phrase book, gasp—grab a pencil, and pour yourself an extra cup of your favorite beverage. But don't worry, there's not that much Latin. And there are a lot of cool mutant-children.