I became aware of this book when I was in my teens, finally read it when I was 30. My life would have been better if I had read it sooner. Buy this for your kids, make sure they read it, then make sure they learn the right things from it.
As literature, this book is just OK, hence the four stars. Rand was not a native English speaker. That she managed to write this well in a second language is amazing. I would have written this book differently, but I didn't write it. Everything after The Big Long Speech is necessary, I suppose, but kind of sophomoric, definitely a B movie. As science fiction, the book is laughable, but I suggest you cut the author some slack and go with it. As an exposition of important ideas, this book has no equal. If you want to know what's wrong with the world, you can start here. It is important that you not *end* here. Think of this book as a laxative. Once you have ingested this, you can work on restocking your mental gut with better food than our culture has given you.
Speaking of speeches, this book has lots of them. I have a friend who says this is her favorite book, but she also says she has never read the speeches. Here's news for you: if you haven't read the speeches, you haven't read the book. Knowing her, I suspect that if she read the speeches, it would no longer be her favorite book. Atlas Shrugged is an assault upon your morals. Some people are surprised to learn that their morals deserved to be assaulted. Some never get over the fact of the assault, assuming the problem lies with the author and her infernal book. No. The problem lies with some very old and pervasive ideas that turn out to be senseless, destructive, murderous, and just plain wrong. Some of us sort of knew that all along, but thought we were the only ones who thought so. It's a relief to see this out in the light of day.
I believe the author's strategy is to make you tired. The main character tries way too hard before capitulating, allowing the author to write yet more episodes illustrating the corrupt and coercive muck we wallow in, the stuff you've encountered all your life, perhaps wondering if life really had to be this way. No, it doesn't. The aforementioned Big Long Speech is one of the greatest things ever written. But the author has to soften you up first.
Some people read this and get strange. This is probably to be expected after somebody hits the reset button on their morality. It takes a while to figure out what to do next. A few people never recover, becoming something like Jesus Freaks. Most readers eventually resettle their minds, but in a different place than it would have been if they hadn't read this book.
Still need a reason to read this book? It will help you say No when No needs to be said. It might even save your life. Really.