Critic Orville Prescott of The New York Times called the novel "the most impressive work of fiction by an American Negro which I have ever read," and felt it marked "the appearance of a richly talented writer."  Novelist Saul Bellow in his review found it "a book of the very first order, a superb book...it is tragi-comic, poetic, the tone of the very strongest sort of creative intelligence." George Mayberry of The New Republic said Ellison "is a master at catching the shape, flavor and sound of the common vagaries of human character and experience."
Literary critic Harold Bloom ranked Invisible Man, alongside Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, as one of the best African American twentieth century novels.
Anthony Burgess described the novel as "a masterpiece".