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Thoughts Without Cigarettes

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  158 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
The beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist turns his pen to the real people and places that have influenced his life and, in turn, his literature. Growing up in 1950's working-class New York City to Cuban immigrants, Hijuelos journey to literary acclaim is the evolution of an unlikely writer.

Oscar Hijuelos has enchanted readers with vibrant characters who hunger for su
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Gotham (first published April 21st 2011)
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Jun 07, 2011 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
I'm very fond of Oscar Hijuelos' writing. First and foremost it is evocative for me in a way much writing isn't. When I read Mr. Hijuelos I hear Celia Cruz in my head, smell smoky bars, and visualize a fantasy New York city in black-and-white tones full of noise, shadows, and smells of black beans, rice, and plantains riding on the breezes (mixing with all the other food smells one can imagine). I love the musical rhythm of his work and the intimacy of his long stream-of-consciousness sentences ...more
Mar 24, 2015 Zeek rated it it was ok
My interest in reading Oscar Hijuelos’s memoir, began because of the title- oh and a mention on NPR. So I picked it up. Then I realized, an early 90’s movie starring a young Antonio Banderas and the smoldering Armand Asante was based on his Pulitzer prize winning book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Even better. I loved The Mambo Kings movie for the sexy actors, but also for the 50’s mambo atmosphere. You could almost smell the biting cigarette smoke, cheap cologne and rum tainted sweat on A ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Doreen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Linda, Adele
I just loved reading this book. Unfortunately, I wrote a review, then succeeded in 'losing' it, so here's the shortened version. Hijuelos' writing is masterful. He writes a true memoir, engaging the reader in all his worries, confusion, triumphs, and fears, as he tells his life's story as he perceives it.
His parents are from Cuba, although he was born in the U.S. On a visit to Cuba, he contracts a disease and has to spend a year of his life at a medical facility in Connecticut. He is only four
Mar 24, 2015 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, memoir
Although Oscar Hijuelos is known for his fiction - his second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, made him the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction - this memoir was the first book of his that I'd read, and I went into it not knowing anything about him. He has an unusual story; the American-born son of Cuban immigrants, he was hospitalized for a year at age four and, during that time, surrounded by the English language, he lost his ability to speak Spanish and returned home t ...more
Jul 02, 2011 Amber rated it did not like it
**I won this book through Good Reads First Reads**

This was B-O-R-I-N-G. Are his other novels (mainly The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love) this bad? Cuz tell me how did he win a Pulitzer? Maybe that it is mandatory for the award....

Anyway, the writing is so incredibly dry I could only read a few pages at a time, and I can read a book in a few hours if I enjoy it. And the name dropping throughout the ENTIRE book? I don't really care if you ate dinner with Sigorney Weaver or jammed with Duane Allman
Jul 29, 2015 Jim rated it liked it
I have read and enjoyed his fiction, and there was a lot in this story that reflects my experience and knowledge of Cuban Americans, having myself been raised and with long-lasting friendships with them from my many years in Tampa, as well as my research and reading in history, but overall I felt this memoir plodded a bit, it didn't really have much of an edge. Not that it is bad, but it just didn't grab me like I was hoping it would. The early years seemed to drag on, and I kept wanting to get ...more
Feb 21, 2015 Lovett.nicholas rated it liked it
I read the first twenty pages of this and skipped ahead three chapters. I'm a big Hijuelos' fan, but I could really care less about someone's life through childhood and teenage years. But that's what a memoir is...

As far as a rating, I gave "Thoughts Without Cigarettes" three stars. Can you rate someone's life story? Are the events of someone's formative years to be reviewed and graded? I don't think so, and it would be pretty gutless to hang one or two stars on a memoir.

I enjoyed reading the st
Aug 09, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Getting bored with it. I WANT to be interested, but it's dragging.
Jun 09, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Angela's Ashes + Cuban spice
Nov 17, 2011 VJ rated it it was ok
Finally, I am finished with this book. What I perceived as self-loathing and shame about his family, Hijuelos describes as identity problems that caused him to be "reticent and self-doubting." Reading this book was enervating.

The pace picks up briefly when Hijuelos recounts bits of his 2-year stay in Italy. His contentedness and joy in living swoop off the page and I imagine a smile on his face, but the moroseness returns.

I'll be placing this book in the swap, and right soon.


What happen
Jun 12, 2011 Nina rated it really liked it
Reading Thoughts Without Cigarettes is like sitting in a bar listening to people tell stories. Hijuelos takes us from his childhood through winning the Pulitzer for Mambo Kings. He shares his sense of always being an outsider-he doesn't physically resemble the Cuban prototype, he loses touch with the Spanish language- which impacted his development as a writer. After reading Hijuelos' fiction, it is difficult to imagine that he wasn't driven, wasn't determined to capture the Cuban immigrant expe ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, first-reads
I won this book through the goodreads first-reads contest. I entered because I enjoy memoirs. I like seeing the world from another point of view. A book by someone about my age has a particular draw. A memoir by a Pulitzer prize winner who grew up in a Cuban immigrant family in New York City promised a well written look into a world very different from the one I grew up in. I'd not read any of Hijuelos's fiction so was just looking for a peek into his world, not the story behind a novel.

Jul 24, 2011 Alicia rated it liked it
Shelves: cuba
Interesting book and I did relate to the immigrant from Cuba experience, but I found Oscar a bit too whinny for my taste. Yes, he was traumatized by his year in a hospital at 4 to 5 yrs old, yes he had to learn English fast, yes he identified his illness with Cuba since he caught the infection there (somebody should have stopped him from drinking water from ditches!), but really? He seemed to drift through his life in NYC without a clue and with a big chip on his shoulder about "not looking like ...more
Jun 24, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
What Thoughts Without Cigarettes genuinely reminded me of was my childhood. Oscar Hijuelos has a very easy writing style that borders on conversation. I was taken back to the days where my grandfather used to sit around and tell stories about when he was young. Always interesting, sometimes a bit confusing, and maybe a little rambling, the stories were a part of who he was. While reading this I felt like I was transported back to that time. Except this time it was Oscar Hijuelos sitting there an ...more
Amy L. Campbell
Perhaps in an attempt to make this seem more conversational or poignant, this book was overly peppered with a plague of commas, parentheses, and emdashes. The sentence structure was so fractured as to make reading this otherwise sturdy memoir almost unbearable, but then Hijuelos himself admits that he didn't want to write it and perhaps there is a genius in writing such a work in a way that makes it almost as torturous for the reader as it must have been for the writer. I'll give you an example ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Sophia rated it it was amazing
I have a few things to say about this book.

#1: So many incredibly moving moments.

#2: So many unexpected hilarious moments. I particularly liked the anecdote where a dude tried to mug him while he was going to City College and he told the guy to take the subway or just walk down to Columbia where the students were way richer, and the mugger was like, "Hey, thanks, man!"

#3: I really respect Oscar Hijuelos for baring his soul in book form, especially since--as he detailed in the book--this was inc
Nov 10, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Oscar Hijuelos was four years old when he contracted nephritis during a visit with family in Cuba. The resulting hospital stay would alter his life forever. He went into the hospital as a Spanish-speaking first-generation Cuban-American. After a year of being insulted and treated badly by English-speaking nurses solely because he did not understand what they said to him, he came out of the hospital as an English-speaking "former" Cuban. I was appalled at the way the nurses treated a small child ...more
May 25, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
I liked this book. It was an interesting story of a writer, of a cubano, of a young man growing up in the fifties and sixties. His picture of his life was one that revealed a world to me that I would otherwise not know a lot about (if anything). To me it is mainly the story about his writing life - though the first half of the book touches mainly on growing up in his family, in New York, in that period - when it comes to his interior life, I felt at the end, like he had left more out - than he h ...more
Eliza Fayle
Jan 06, 2013 Eliza Fayle rated it it was ok
Thoughts Without Cigarettes is a memoir presented in a very interesting fashion. Most memoirs take full advantage of literary licence and fill in blanks stating them as facts. The reader then takes the story with a grain of salt, simply by virtue of the fact that it is a memoir.

Hijuelos, however, is very honest about guessing at the blanks in his memory based on what would have made sense at the time. Some people might find this disconcerting, or unnecessary, but I actually appreciated it.

It als
Apr 13, 2013 Cynthia rated it really liked it
What a wonderful read! This was a random pick of mine, I'd never heard of Oscar Hijuelos before. Although The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love seemed vaguely familiar. His memoir was delightful, his writing style flows easily. For most of the book I was engrossed and didn't want to put it down. There was a brief bit toward the end where I found myself wanting to have his thoughts out of my head. Seeing how his internal struggles continued to consume him throughout his life was saddening. For no ma ...more
May 08, 2014 Amy rated it did not like it
Oscar Hijuelos memoir was tough for me. I was intrigued by such an acclaimed writer's memoir, to see his foundation, his youth, his inspiration, however I was disappointed, not by his experience but the overall tone of the book. For me it was so drab, tedious and monotone. I felt such compassion for him as a child, yet an arrogance seeping through his words coming from him as an adult writing this book that really put me off. It's extremely hard for me to criticize a work like this especially si ...more
Robin Martin
May 17, 2012 Robin Martin rated it liked it
A well-crafted memoir portraying the last decade when Writers (capital intentional) were fueled by goblets of scotch and cigarette after cigarette. Reveals a self-absorbtion and has a tendency to sound a bit whiny at times, like in his description of his experience at a Writers Colony with John Gardner, John Irving, etc.; but overall an interesting writers' book. Made special for me by references to Wesley Brown, who was, when I was an undergrad at Rutgers, hands down my favorite professor; refe ...more
Nov 23, 2013 Ridie rated it it was ok
I love Hijuelos' book, "A Simple Habana Melody" and, after the author died several weeks ago I saw he had a memoir and was eager to read it. So disappointed. His life is actually very rich and interesting on several levels, but it is told so poorly and with such banality and in a monotone voice I was bored to tears. He turned what could have been so interesting into a "then I went to the corner store to buy a quart of milk" kind of story. Maybe some wonderful writers just weren't meant to try to ...more
Kathleen O'Nan
Jan 17, 2015 Kathleen O'Nan rated it it was ok
Enjoy his fiction much more. Something was off about this memoir; it never quite came together for me.
Oct 13, 2011 Ishanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I just won this book on first reads goodreads giveaways! I can't wait to get started on it! An update to follow upon receipt! Thank you!


I am highly disappointed with this selection. It had so much potential. Of course, Mr. Hijuelos is a great writer, but I found that this book could've been so much shorter and so much better had it not been for all of the asides and lengthy parenthesized descriptions! He lost me after the death of his father (sorry). After that the story became whiny a
Feb 03, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
After starting this memoir again and rereading it, I really enjoyed it. I felt like I could easily blend in as one of the family members or a friend in the neighborhood as Hijuelos’ style is that easy to read and appreciate! The conversations peppered with the many anecdotes from his youth paired nicely with the colorful descriptions of his family members, especially his mother and father. This was a memoir I did not want to leave in many cases because I felt so comfortable; I just wanted to hea ...more
Tami Montano
Jun 19, 2011 Tami Montano rated it really liked it
Thank you First Reader's Giveaway for bringing this memoir to my attention. I found Hijuelos' narrative like talking about his personal history in the light of listening to a friend share their family stories. I related to his loss of his Spanish language relate-able and touching, as well as the relationship that he has with his father. I also found it enlightening in the history of 50-60's immigrant New York and Cuba with its struggles. The author is modest about his achievements and his career ...more
Carla Herbert
Jun 27, 2011 Carla Herbert rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book in a GoodReads contest.
The authors commitment to detail was at times overwhelming. I feel as if I was transporter to the situation each time a story was discussed in minute detail. This made for sometimes tedious reads that frequently left me feeling overwhelmed with information. I truly enjoyed reading about his life but at times it felt as if it were an information dump. I recommend this book for anyone who is willing to commit a bit of time and energy to reading
Laurie B-W
Oct 08, 2011 Laurie B-W rated it really liked it
I saw an interview with Oscar Hijuelos about this book on the NewsHour. I thought he came across really dear and charming in the interview and decided to get this book. I found him just as dear in print. I really like reading memoirs from writers about why/how they became writers. Hijuelos' writing style was also a nice change from the last book I read ("The Hunger Games"). His sentences are long and complex and require a bit of time to digest.
Dec 02, 2014 Lmcelebre rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book; really, I did, but I just didn't despite how endearing the author is. I felt like the book was too long with superfluous and disjointed anecdotes that didn't add much to Hijuelos' life story. Sorry,
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Oscar Hijuelos (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist. He is the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Hijuelos was born in New York City, in Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to Cuban immigrant parents. He attended the Corpus Christi School, public schools, and later attended Bronx Community College, Lehman College, and Manhattan Community College before matriculating into and
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