Kindred is Butler’s bestseller, with Beacon Press advertising it as “the classic novel that has sold more than 450,000 copies.”
Among Butler’s peers, the novel has been well received. Speculative writer Harlan Ellison has praised Kindred as “that rare magical artifact… the novel one returns it to again and again” while writer Walter Mosley placed the novel to be “everything the literature of science fiction can be.”
Book reviewers have been similarly enthusiastic. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner writer Sam Frank described the novel as “[a] shattering work of art with much to say about love, hate, slavery, and racial dilemmas, then and now.” Reviewer Sherley Anne Williams from Ms. defined the novel to be “a startling and engrossing commentary on the complex actuality and continuing heritage of american slavery. Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer John Marshall claimed that Kindred is “the perfect introduction to Butler’s work and perspectives for those not usually enamored of science fiction.” The Austin Chronicle writer Barbara Strickland declared Kindred to be “a novel of psychological horror as it is a novel of science fiction.”
Kindred has been a consistent text choice for high school and college courses throughout the years. Linell Smith of The Baltimore Sun describes it as “a celebrated mainstay of college courses in women's studies and black literature and culture.” Speaking at the occasion of the reissue of Kindred for its 25th Anniversary by Beacon Press, African-American literature professor Roland L. Williams conjectured that the novel has remained popular over the years because of its crossover appeal, which “continues to find a variety of audiences--fantasy, literary and historical” and because “it is an exceedingly well-written and compelling story… that asks you to look back in time and at the present simultaneously.”
Kindred is often chosen as a common reading by communities and organizations. In 2003, the town Rochester, NY selected Kindred as the novel to be read during the third annual event of “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book.” Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people participated by reading Kindred and joining panel discussions, lectures, film viewings, visual arts exhibitions, poetry readings, and other events from February 2003 until March 2003. The town discussed the book in local groups and from March 4–7 met Octavia Butler during her appearances at colleges, community centers, libraries, and bookstores. In the spring of 2012, Kindred was chosen as one of thirty books to be given away as part of World Book Night, a worldwide event that aims to spread the love for books and reading by giving away hundreds of thousand of free paperbacks in one night.