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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  125,089 ratings  ·  7,631 reviews
Dave Eggers is a terrifically talented writer; don't hold his cleverness against him. What to make of a book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Based on a True Story? For starters, there's a good bit of staggering genius before you even get to the true story, including a preface, a list of "Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book," and a 20-page ack ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Tara
One of my least favorite books of all time. I think it's a lot of b.s., to be honest. I cringed with frustration as I turned every page, and I only wanted to finish it so that I could say I found nothing redeeming. Oh sure, he was flashy and could draw a cheap laugh, but it was like admiration for bubbles: it went nowhere and said nothing. Henry James this is not (I don't love HJ, but I know talent when I see it and this is self-examination for voyeuristic purposes). I was disgusted with the tit ...more
Polly
look. it's cool to hate on dave eggers.

it's *so cool* to be post-dave-eggers, and talk about how you didn't really like this book all that much, and it's even cooler to totally hate this book. it's like a coolness interview question. "did you like his book?" "yeah, I really did." "well, we can't be friends with *you*..."

this is just like those hipsters who don't like justin timberlake. fuck you, hipsters. that new album is solid gold.

I loved this book. I loved it, and I still love it. I wish to
...more
Karina
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. I was reading this book and around page 237 (or was it 327? fuck), I figured it out- he's talking to ME. He wrote this book for me. Dave Eggers looked into the future and saw that I would want to read a self-referential, self-satisfying memoir. He knew that I would be trying to figure stuff, being in my twenties and all, and while not dealing with the enormity of losing both parents and having to rear a young sibling, I would have my own shit to work through. He. fucki ...more
Matt
Jan 15, 2008 Matt rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: wannabe hipsters
as a huge douglas coupland fan, i thought i might enjoy 'a heartbreaking work...' i should've known better. i tried to read 'you shall know our velocity' last year and found it entirely unreadable. i gave up after 200 pages of nonsense. several friends raved about 'ahwoasg,' so i thought, 'ok, i'll give eggars another try.' again, i was horribly disappointed.

the pros: yes, it's funny at times and very *honest* (though can we take eggars at his word? never trust an autobiography). i laughed out
...more
Clare
I disliked so very much about this book. The grating self-awareness, the oh-I'm-so-clever stream of consciousness asides, the indescribably tedious discussion of his magazine work. But the heart of the book, the story of Eggers and his young brother trying to be each other's whole family after the death of their parents, is genuinely sad and funny all at once, a difficult feat to accomplish. I wish he'd stuck to telling that story instead of trying so hard to make me think he's a staggering geni ...more
Bryon
Mar 21, 2008 Bryon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
I had problems with Dave Eggers for a long time. Having never read a word he'd written, I immaturely thought I had every right to hate him. He was young, successful, and adored by critics. That was enough right there. When it first came out, I would see AHWOSG in the bookstore and grimace at it (more than once, I even gave it the evil eye). My loathing was out of sheer jealousy. I recognized it as such back then, but still carried on. It's hard to let go of things sometimes.

OK. Fast forward thre
...more
Jeff
Aug 26, 2007 Jeff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who are nearsighted... I mean metaphorically speaking.
Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. What can I say? I can sort of remember picking up this book in a bookstore somewhere and reading the first few pages… now, not the first few pages of the story, but I’m talking about the copyright page. Freaking Dave Eggers is writing his novel starting with the copyright page? Wild man, wild man!
So, I read it. I liked it. It was this nonstop stream of consciousness kind of thing, which I found a bit comforting, cause that’s how I think. I mean, of course that’s how I th
...more
Kelly
Before I picked up this book I had heard endless tales of how wonderfully smart and funny this book was, how terrific the writing was and how the originality would slap me in the face like a cool wind on a summer's day. They were wrong. I hated this book like The Cure hates happiness.

I understand writer's have their own style, and that is what, in and of itself, separates them from all the others. But, seriously, we learn paragraph breaks for a reason. It gives the mind's eye a break, a breathe
...more
Rob
Jul 14, 2012 Rob rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rob by: John
Shelves: 2012
I hated loved was totally frustrated by was sucked into couldn't stand couldn't put down dreaded picking up wanted to like was attacked by wanted to burn finished this book.

Alternative title: A Self-Indulgent Work of Festering Genius

The worst book I couldn't put down; the best book I've ever wanted to set on fire.

Updated: Found in my bedside reading journal:

- it's self-conscious & pretentious, but pretentious in the way that smart kids are when they're trying to be cool but are still riled u
...more
Amanda
Clearly, this is a polarizing book. All I'll add is that the first time I read it, sometime in the middle of college, I had all of the negative reactions I've read here. It was sometimes funny, and sad and beautiful and all that, but mostly it was an autobiography by an asshole who was full of himself and I just didn't see why I should care, why I should keep reading.

And then I read it again a few years later. And I don't really know what happened in between exactly. Maybe I became friends with
...more
Diane
This book has not aged well.

I read it when it first came out, somewhere around 2000, and I remember loving its high-energy sentences and how Eggers shared his emotions about losing both his parents to cancer and taking guardianship of his youngest brother, Toph (short for Christopher). I was in my 20s back then, and I could relate to the author's angst about life, his career, his relationships, blah blah blah.

Fourteen years later, I picked it up again as a book club assignment. My reaction this
...more
Eric C
I was sick of Eggers'
self-absorbed schtick after three pages of the preface. But, the cover read
"pulitzer prize finalist" (among other superlatives), so I forged on. I'd made
it to page 33 of the actual text (without laughing once) when I noticed Eggers'
picture on the back cover. He reminded me of some people I'd met when I was
working at a startup company during the early internet boom. They were so full
of themselves with their free-wheeling style, their stock options, and their
flat-front banana-
...more
Erin
Oct 14, 2008 Erin added it
omg OMG! which one of you was it?!?!? which one of you snekay little emo kids managed to pull this off!?

you know, wilcan's level 400 creative writing class? last semester of my senior year of college? we had the classroom in Times Hall that didn't get air conditioning! i passed out in the middle of class right before spring break? that one time, when the health center prescribed me the wrong medication for my bronchitis!!!! don't you remember!?

well i do. don't think i didn't catch this. i've na
...more
Meredith
Feb 04, 2008 Meredith rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Meredith by: Olga
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David
May 16, 2007 David rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: non geniuses
Mr. Eggers has a genius for two things: finding and publishing some of the more exciting writers working today; turning "Weeee! Weeee! Look at me!! I am beautiful and so good to my little brother!!! Weeeee! Don't you want to touch me?" into 496 pages.
MJ Nicholls
It's taken me two years to get around to reading this much-hyped modern classic. In that time, I have put up four shelves, had intercourse over twenty times, eaten nine scones, and met one Scottish celeb. His name will not be published here, as he was rude about my purple-brown shirt. Fool.

Dave Eggers is preoccupied with heart-rending human dramas of Promethean magnitude, as his follow-up books What is the What and Zeitoun attest: he is that long arterial cord thingie linking the heart with the
...more
Rebecca
I've been reading this book for about three months now and I just can't bring myself to finish it (and I only have 17 pages left). This is the first book I've read by Dave Eggers, and I've been told not to judge his other works based on this memoir. Memoirs can be tricky beasts after all.

In the beginning I really enjoyed this book. Eggers actually did have an interesting life and he tells his story in stream-of-consciousness (sp?), which I found to be really interesting...at first. It was the fi
...more
Steve
Plenty of clever people have written about A.H.W.O.S.G., but Eggers himself may have done it best with the preface, acknowledgements, and even the title of his book. It all portends a memoir that is sad, funny, smart, and honest. He shrewdly pre-empts criticism about his self-obsession by professing to be self-conscious about it – a kind of meta-awareness that’s somehow more appealing. It’s clear before the book begins that he’s got that Gen X hipster axe to wield for sarcastic, irreverent purpo ...more
Shannon
The book isn't simple- it's complex, and powerful, beautiful, hilarious, and above all: is feels utterly sincere.

Obviously the title is hyperbolic.. but it's not completely ironic/innacurate either..

Eggers has a great little thing about Irony/the title being ironic/the book being ironic.. in the added section of the book "Mistakes we knew we were making". In which he's like,"you fuckers don't know what irony means; let me explain"*. It's all true. *This isn't an actual quote from him.

He uses pro
...more
jeremy
anyone that employs the phrase "a bird the color of feces" in their writing should be, for evermore, prohibited from publishing anything. i once heard someone say that dave eggers is the most important writer of his generation, and, thus, lingeringly, i tasted said bird. as atrociously destitute as his works are, and oh god make it stop, his dedication to 826 is quite commendable, and nearly offsets the damage he's effected by writing books in the first place.

see also kerouac, jack on the roa
...more
Punk
Non-fiction(ish). Dave Eggers' parents are dead, and now he's got to take care of his little brother. This is their sort-of-true story.

Because I'm a geek, Dave Eggers endears himself to me just by his modifications to the verso, which include his placement on a sexual-orientation scale of 1 to 10 and the reminder that the military-industrial-entertainment complex really has little power over us as individuals. The book suffers from all the weaknesses Eggers warns us about in the notes: it's self
...more
mary
i never finished this book, and i don't particularly plan to.

i mean sure, it's funny, it's sad, it has its moments. i got involved with the graphic and emotionally staggering descriptions of his parents. and this guy has had a pretty intense life if this is his memoir. recognition must be given for that. fine. but the preface? the rules? dear lord. the last thing i need to read is the self-indulgent self-obsessed tale of a self-centric and self-aggrandizing smart kid. i have enough of those aro
...more
Jimmy
"I should punch you in the face."
Maureen
i had seen dave eggers on dinner for five before i read this book and i liked him: he seemed really smart and sincere about the charity work he was doing. my friends really liked his first book, this book, and i decided to read it even after i had read his story in the mcsweeney anthology mammoth tales, and was stultified by it. a pseudo memoir would be different, i reasoned, and i was predisposed to like him. probably for the first thirty pages i was very engaged but gradually i realized that i ...more
Philip
Aug 07, 2011 Philip rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Philip by: Rossa
I've been writing a paper on student accountability for the past three days. All I've been able to think about is writing the review for this book. I'm at my stalling breaking point. Also, it's 12:11 AM, so my brain's about fried.

Which is to say, if you're still reading this review, you may want to stop now. It could get a little crazy. How crazy? I'm sure we're probably talking Fear Dot Com crazy. What a web-review you've stumbled across. (And I don't mean "fear dot com" crazy like this review
...more
Z
I remember reading this book in Biology 11 -- either reading it before class started, or having it out on my desk, or something -- and my teacher, who was this sort of delightfully insane man who was retiring at the end of that year and so knew he could get away with anything, and once spent twenty minutes at the start of class telling us about the ABBA cover band he'd been to see last night, and how the music of ABBA uplifted the soul, and so on -- seeing the title and telling me never to be br ...more
Kim
I know everyone hates Eggers and calls him a douchebag but, two things:

I saw him do a reading a few years ago at the Lisner and he was sort of slowly thrusting his pelvic area at the podium as he read. Almost absentmindedly. In the same way that fellow dorkus Travis Morrison dances to impregnate the audience, he read to impregnate the audience. I can't help but find that endearing. Because I am a perv.

Oh, the book: Yeah. It really speaks to me. 'Cause I'm an orphan too. And I've felt the same na
...more
Christina Wilder
I once heard George Carlin describe being a fan of jazz as "not just hearing the notes that are played, but know WHY they are being played".

Okay, so why THESE notes? Why not others?

Here's the thing: I love self-realization, self-awareness, particularly from those in the public spotlight. I love bizarro fiction, unusual uses of typography, etc. It's great.

So what I've found myself saying a lot with this book is that I enjoyed how Eggers was telling his story, but no so much the story itself.

It's
...more
Anne
Aug 22, 2007 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: loved-it
When I first read this book, I remember thinking that if I was ever going to write a book, it would probably sounds a whole lot like this. It was a pleasant tingle of recognition -- Eggers' internal monologue (at least, the one he writes with) is very similar to mine (at least, the one I write with).

The endless self-reflectiveness and self-awareness (and awareness of the self-awareness, in that I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know-that-you-know-etc.-ad-nauseum kind of way) thing can be a little much
...more
Jean
A very sad story told in Eggers' hyperconscious, cynical, and hilarious voice. As any high self-monitor knows, humans are capable of living entirely in their own heads. Eggers, who tells his own story, inhabits and analyzes his own thoughts to ridiculous degrees; the result is a really funny and honest look at tradgedy and his family. It was pretty heartbreaking alright, but for me the saddest part wasn't the death of the author's parents or the many difficulties that follow. Rather, it was the ...more
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Don't bear with it. 52 393 Dec 11, 2013 02:44PM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 8532513859 3 18 May 21, 2013 09:59AM  
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Dave Eggers is the author of seven previous books, including his most recent, The Circle, a captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism that soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco th
...more
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“I like the dark part of the night, after midnight and before four-thirty, when it's hollow, when ceilings are harder and farther away. Then I can breathe, and can think while others are sleeping, in a way can stop time, can have it so – this has always been my dream – so that while everyone else is frozen, I can work busily about them, doing whatever it is that needs to be done, like the elves who make the shoes while children sleep.” 302 likes
“We have advantages. We have a cushion to fall back on. This is abundance. A luxury of place and time. Something rare and wonderful. It's almost historically unprecedented. We must do extraordinary things. We have to. It would be absurd not to.” 183 likes
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