Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Brief History of the Dead” as Want to Read:
The Brief History of the Dead
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Brief History of the Dead

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  8,841 Ratings  ·  1,553 Reviews
From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between. The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents cl ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Vintage (first published February 14th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Brief History of the Dead, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Brief History of the Dead

Hush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickTwilight by Stephenie MeyerThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane SetterfieldFallen by Lauren KateNew Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Best Book Cover Art
63rd out of 5,896 books — 5,452 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
169th out of 2,646 books — 20,809 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Richard Derus
Aug 24, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.9* of five

The Book Description: From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between. The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten.

But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only news
Oct 19, 2009 karen rated it really liked it
i always want more. even when i enjoy a book - especially when i enjoy a book... i love the concept of this book, and while its true there are some implausibilities here, and while it gets a little thin in places, it is easy to overlook because it is such a delight to read. yes, a delight.

i am tacking on a little more to this sad and short excuse for a review because i was thinking about this book today, after i finished reading "on the beach". if anyone needs a dissertation topic or just has th
Saucy Kate
Oct 16, 2007 Saucy Kate rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 22, 2012 Eric rated it it was ok
I dearly wanted to love this book. The first chapter--establishing a vast city of the recently dead, an afterlife for everyone still remembered by the living--is amazing and beautiful. The second chapter flies off in another direction entirely, and plants us firmly in the ice and snow of antarctica. From there the novel alternates: each odd-numbered chapter explores the city of the dead from a new character's perspective, while the even-numbered chapters follow the adventures of the woman in Ant ...more
Mar 01, 2008 Oceana2602 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Here's the story how I came by the best book I read in 2007:

So I'm standing at King's Cross station, waiting for a friend of mine to arrive by train. Oh, look, there's a Waterstones! They are having a 3 for the price of 2 sale, and there are two books that I wanted to buy anyway. Now, let's find a third one! This one looks pretty, and it isn't too heavy, gotta fly back tomorrow.
*buys books*

Great, my friend's train is an hour late. Let's read a book. That third one isn't too long.
Ann M
Aug 25, 2007 Ann M rated it it was ok
There should be a particular damp shelf in book hell for science fiction books that start off with an interesting premise and then go absolutely NOWHERE. I mean, nowhere. I'm used to sci fi that starts off well, then is okay in the middle, then fizzles out. This one fizzled right away. I mean, who cares what the city of the still-remembered is like if nothing happens there? Who cares about all the dull crossing stories, and really, WHO CARES about the idiot street preacher as the last human on e ...more
Dec 13, 2012 Alan rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, read-in-2012
Could have been briefer.

Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I loved the concept of this story line.
Ghosts/spirits or what ever you want to call it, still roaming around in our everyday life. But they hang round until the very last person who remembers them passes away them selves. It just didn't match up to all the hype. Still it was okay.
Sezín Koehler
This was an incredibly profound book, and I have a feeling that it will shape the way I see the world and death from now on. I really wasn't expecting it to affect me this way, and it completely came out of nowhere. Can't recommend this one enough. Absolutely gorgeous in every way.
Nov 03, 2015 Ameriie added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the dreamers
fantastic world-building + ongoing sense of wonder = a novel that is very hard to put down
Dec 06, 2008 Daniel rated it it was amazing
One of the few comforts we can draw on when facing up to our own mortality is the fact that we will live on in the memories of those we leave behind. Kevin Brockmeier takes this sentiment and envisions a world in which it is literally true. As such, The Brief History of the Dead makes for a unique take on the idea of life and death, as well as a poignant testimony to the power of memory.

For the dearly departed, there is no heaven or hell in this world of Brockmeier's imagination. Although the c
Sep 01, 2007 Res rated it it was ok
Shelves: sff, locus_poll
The one where when people die, they go to live in "the city" until no living person remembers them. Meanwhile, on earth, things are turning out very badly.

I loved the short story that became the first chapter. And there are so many beautifully observed moments that I found the book quite enjoyable while I was reading it. It was only afterwards that doubts began to creep up.

The real-world part of the story has two major implausibilities in it: why the company would consolidate its production into
Nov 06, 2008 Ken-ichi rated it it was ok
Shelves: escape
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book started out brilliantly with a wonderfully unique premise. The writing is e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t, but somehow the story loses its momentum at the end and speaking of endings, I found this one to be very unsatisfying. However, I enjoyed this book enough to try something else by Kevin Brockmeier.
Feb 06, 2008 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book after listening to an episode of KCRW's To The Best Of Our Knowledge entitled "Apocalyptic Fiction" (mp3).

I had just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," and felt myself compelled to read a bit more "apocalyptic fiction." Unfortunately, the brutal grandeur of "The Road" set the bar too high. It seems unfair to compare the two books, but because I read them in succession I feel I must.

Where "The Road" was almost liberatingly sparse and hopeless, "The Brief History
A.W. Wilson
Aug 05, 2013 A.W. Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read my reviews then you'll probably think I just wax lyrical about everything I read. the reason for this is that if I don't enjoy a book I tend to stop reading it and also don't think it's my place to criticise something that happened not to be 'for me'. And it's much more fun writing about stuff I've enjoyed anyway, so there!

Guess what? That's right, I loved this book! I normally employ a know-nothing-in-advance technique in which I ensure I've not read any reviews or even read the blu
Mar 16, 2009 Kelly rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 09, 2009 Marvin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A moving story that explores the power of memory, the significance of loss, and the meaning of our existence. While reading this novel I was constantly reminded of Berkeley's "If a tree falls in the forest" question. Certainly many of us want to know that our life have meaning, perhaps even remembered beyond our existence. I think these are the ideas Brockmeier is playing with and of course he has no real answer but the route he takes is one mesmerizing journey. Two separate stories are revealed ...more
Aug 01, 2007 liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The story is based on an African belief that the dead remain in a limbo world until the last person who remembers them also dies. Only then will they pass on to whatever afterlife awaits them. In a world that has killed itself with pollution, war, and finally disease, this is the tale of the last survivor and what ultimately happens to those whom she holds in her memory.

I liked the premise much more than the execution. I wish there was more to the ending but maybe that's what the authors intend
Jul 09, 2015 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm so glad I found this book! The story is that I was trying to find something else and ran across this book in perfect condition that I do not remember purchasing. Inside was even a postcard of the cover from Pantheon Books. So I started reading and couldn't stop. Original and fascinating, so different from other apocalyptic stories. I might even read it again. Definitely recommending it to my friends.
Ana-Maria Petre
Sep 23, 2016 Ana-Maria Petre rated it really liked it
“Many African societies divide humans into 3 categories: those still alive on the earth, the sasha, and the zamani. The recently departed whose time on earth overlapped with people still here are the sasha, the living-dead. They are not wholly dead, for they still live in the memories of the living, who can call them to mind, create their likeness in art, and bring them to life in anecdote. When the last person to know an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the sasha for the zamani, the dead. As ...more
Matthew Hunter
Speechless... that's a good description of my state during my reading of Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead. Brockmeier gives us Coca-Cola as unintentional doom-bringer. The mega-corp manages to spring a lethal virus on humanity, killing off the entire planet in no time. Their attempts to spin the catastrophe bring a dark, cynical humor into the mix.

Brockmeier paints a very imaginitive picture of the city of the dead, a limbo-like place where souls go after death and stay until eve
Gijs Grob
'The Brief History of the Dead' is partly an apocalyptic future novel, akin to 'War With the Newts' or 'On the Beach'. Like in those two books, human existence is wiped out by a destruction force of its own design.

Brockmeier, however, is not interested in the process of destruction itself, but focuses on the last survivor, biologist Laura Byrd, who's utterly alone on the Antarctic. Curiously, though, her adventures are altered with the description of a city where people go to after they die. The
Caleb Liu
Apr 17, 2007 Caleb Liu rated it liked it
The book certainly has an intriguing premise. Brockheimer's idea of the afterlife is a strange metaphysical situation whereby people end up in a large city seemingly doing precisely what they had been doing in their previous lives. If this is purgatory, it certainly is a strange one. This is where the story begins to intertwine with the "real world" which is embodied by the story of a young woman on an Antarctic expedition.

The book was certainly captivating at the beginning, but I began to grow
Apr 18, 2008 Alb rated it it was ok
I just finished this book and now I need to go to and stare at pictures of puppies before I wander drained of all hope into on-coming traffic. Phew somebody please buy Kevin Brockmeir a balloon bouquet or give him a hug because this guy needs cheering up. I mean don't get me wrong, I like lots of sad, bleak books and I actually think the fatalistic ending was logical and necessary but throw me an interesting charater or a meaningful, complicated relationship every couple of hund ...more
Jul 17, 2008 Kev rated it liked it
This book brngs to mind a professor I had in college. He was a New York Jew with a withering wit. It was a graphic design class and he took no prisoners. He'd do a crit this way. One grade for the idea and another for the execution and he'd say thinges like this: "You had a great ideer here, A+ ideer, but LOUSY execution. I gotta give ya a D- for execution, so you getta C+."

Well, in the style of this prof, Kev: "GREAT execution, A+ execution; beautifully written. But I gotta give ya a D- for the
Jan 22, 2016 Robin rated it it was amazing
This was my first choice when a patron asked for something "different" and/or "mind-bending." I still think about this book.
Aug 03, 2016 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: postal-book-club
I adored this book. Review to come!
Feb 17, 2010 Whitney rated it it was ok
Mr. Brockmeier completely engages the reader right from the start with a very striking concept: The dead have a city of their own in which they don't age, just so long as they're remembered by someone alive on Earth. Without spoiling, something astonishing happens that brings great change to the City, and the reader is thoroughly engaged in what is going to happen next...

What happens next is a good bout of reminiscing by random and vaguely related characters. No character takes the spotlight,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Half Life
  • The Children's Hospital
  • Eutopia
  • Meet Me in the Moon Room
  • Death of an Ordinary Man
  • Pandemonium
  • The Stolen Child
  • The Lost Books of the Bible
  • The Necessary Beggar
  • Trash, Sex, Magic
  • Mary Modern
  • 9Tail Fox
  • The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank
  • Far North
  • By George
  • The Haunting of L
  • The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John, #2)
  • The Unit
Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Brockmeier received his MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1997. His stories have been featured in The New Yorker, McSweeny's, Crazyhorse, and The Georgia Review. He is the recipient of an O. Henry Award, the Nelson Algren Award, and a National Endowment of the Arts grant.
More about Kevin Brockmeier...

Share This Book

“Dreaming was easier than screaming, and screaming was easier than worrying, and worrying was easier than crying, which was what she knew she would be reduced to if she didn’t keep a hard eye on herself.” 32 likes
“Anyone who has ever experienced love knows that you can have too much or too little. You can have love that parches, love that defeats. You can have love measured out in the wrong proportions. It's like your sunlight and water - the wrong kind of love is just as likely to stifle hope as it is to nourish it.” 30 likes
More quotes…