Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Little Life” as Want to Read:
A Little Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Little Life

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  370,739 ratings  ·  57,189 reviews
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, b ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 720 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Doubleday
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 A Little Life, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Demis I feel the author deliberately kept the years ambiguous, wiping each chapter clean of all traces of any defining cultural / technological landmarks th…moreI feel the author deliberately kept the years ambiguous, wiping each chapter clean of all traces of any defining cultural / technological landmarks that would place a scene in a particular year. The entire story exists in a time that feels a lot like now (or now-ish) as a result - felt like a very deliberate ambiguity, and another of the things that gave the book a rather unique vibe. Perhaps the point is the time isn't important - keeps the focus on the characters, and the idea that the issues dealt with were timeless.(less)
Tawny Tayor, there were a couple of times I had to put the book down and pick up something else because of the horror of what was happening. But I always ca…moreTayor, there were a couple of times I had to put the book down and pick up something else because of the horror of what was happening. But I always came back to it and saw it through to the end. If you don't want graphic, this is not the book for you. Having said that, I don't think the book would have been nearly as touching, nor would I have cared so deeply about the characters, without every detail.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  370,739 ratings  ·  57,189 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Little Life
Glenn Sumi
Oct 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Flick
Jun 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: worst
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fuck this book.

And it started out so well! The writing is actually gorgeous. I can see why many, many people like this book. Really, Hanya Yanagihara knows how to use language. Unfortunately, the story she told was not worthy of it. The longer I read this book, the more I dreaded reading it, the worse my feelings got as I read, and the more I hated it for existing. Then I read a bunch of interviews by her and hated the book even more.

The long and short of it is that this book is nothing but mise
Emily May
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, contemporary
A Little Life is a strong contender for the award for the most depressing book I've ever read. I swear I'm not even exaggerating.

At this point, I'm not certain whether this is a positive or negative review. There's no doubt that this book is beautifully-written and contains some of the most raw and honest prose I've ever had the pleasure or misfortune of reading, but it's a long very long character study - over 700 pages of misery, substance abuse, self-harm, sexual and psychological abuse (and
I slept with this book after I read it. I kid you not: I held its bulking, hardcover bound 700 pages in my arms as I fell asleep amid a raging storm. I refused to let A Little Life leave me. Its brilliant writing, its broken characters, and its bleak, unforgiving story dug into my heart, into the very pores of my skin. As a twenty-year-old, I felt both so young and so old upon finishing this novel, as if its sheer humanity aged my soul while making me appreciate all the years I still have left.

Jessica Woodbury
It may sound presumptuous to say in January that I've read the best book I've read all year, but reading is a lot like love. Sometimes you just know.

A LITTLE LIFE is a title with 3 meanings. First, it refers to its protagonist, Jude, a man who cannot ever accept that his life is worthwhile. Second, it refers to the act of reading it, spending time in this book is really like living a version of life.

There is a third meaning, one that you don't discover until around halfway through the book when
Gin Jenny (Reading the End)
Mar 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Note: I received an ebook copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.

Around page 150 of Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel, A Little Life, which follows four friends from their college years into their fifties, I wrote the following in my notes:

I am more excited about Hanya Yanagihara and her work and her career than I have been about any author in a really long time.

Around page 200 I wrote this:

Is Jude’s suffering perhaps a tad overwrought? It is starting to seem like everything
Kai Spellmeier
“Wasn’t friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely?”

Two months. Books usually don't take me this long to be read. Even long books don't. So what's the reason I was stuck with this book for so long?

Let's see. The never ending suffering and pain. The exaggerated and gross cruelty. The sadistic hopelessness. That's why.

I had such high expectations. And it would have been so easy to meet them. All I longed for while reading thi
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I can't, with a clear conscience, give this book anything less than 5 stars. It's a book that kept me reading long into the night, made me turn each page with vigor and curiosity, gave me chills and shivers over the joys and sorrows of each character, and ultimately left me feeling a bit older and tortured and yet at peace with the deeply complicated nature of humanity.

What Hanya Yanagihara does with A Little Life is nothing nearly as pretentious as that paragraph above. Somehow in 720 pages, s
This is an excellent, maybe perfect book, and I will never recommend it to anyone.

(It's also one of my favorites of the year...find it here: https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co...)

The edition I read is 951 pages long, and I read it in 24 hours. My sister calculated that I read a page every waking minute, even as it was a workday. I have never in my life lived inside a story like I did this one.

I slept little. I couldn't focus on anything. When I tried to pick up books after this one they were
Mar 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hate-list
Brace yourself for the most melodramatic, pretentious, dull, dumb, overwritten, repetitive, laughable, cringe-inducing, self-indulgent, unbelievable, stereotypical, voyeuristic, contrived piece of fiction.

After pushing through and trying to motivate myself to finish this book just to see if there's more to it or some kind of message there... I'm putting this book down for good.
90% in. Normally, I would have kept going just to find out what happens to the characters, but honestly I care so litt
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
OMG my poor heart... I can't...

If you want to find yourself sobbing late at night for characters you grow so attached to and have to put down the book for a while… this is it.

It’s been a very long time since a book utterly broke me.

Beautifully written character driven book (see I like them sometimes!) about our friends meeting in university in New York. It’s about their lives, their careers, their friendships, their high points but mostly their low ones.

Trigger warnings for… everything.
Alexander Patino
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You get a first read only once. I don't know what to say. It's the book of my life. Not that it mirrors my life, but that it's the literary love of my life. I know I get hyperbolic about this kind of stuff, but it is what it is. The most cathartic reading experience I've ever had. I'm shaking and crying writing this. How to move on after this one - hard to imagine I will. ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
i have died a hundred deaths and shed a thousand tears whilst reading this book. it feels as if i have never truly known grief until this moment. how does one recover from such heartbreak?

i am at a complete loss, in a devastatingly beautiful way; but how comforting it is to know that a story about a little life has become such a significant part of mine.

5 stars
Hannah Azerang
Aug 28, 2021 rated it did not like it
edit: after months of sitting on this and finally collecting my thoughts, I can firmly say that I despise this book and I still wish i'd never read it

august 2021: I can’t give this a rating. I don’t even know what I think about it. I just wish I’d never read it.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, devastating, heartbreaking. Fucking hatefully sad at times. There are places that are overwrought and overwritten but this is an amazing, engrossing novel. Just wow.
Victoria Schwab
Jesus Christ.
I cried for an HOUR last night.
This freaking book.
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
did i finish this book, or did this book finish me?
ELLIAS (elliasreads)
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best and ultimately, the worst book I've ever read in my entire life.

Video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vmat...

Twitter | Bookstagram | Youtube |
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm having really bad luck with long novels these days. There's just so much about this book I didn't like, and very little I did like, that I don't really want to talk about it very much. Everything was supremely unbelievable, especially the fact that Jude's life could be so perfect and his past and demons could be so traumatic. Did anyone ever just meet this guy and think, "meh, what a sad sack"? Did he ever take an exam and make a B? Did he ever just want to go to the movies or watch Netflix? ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Please visit my blog www.readrantrockandroll.com to see this review and others.

I decided to spend some of my weekend, which turned out to be all day today, catching up on some reading. I started A Little Life sometime in January, but had to put it down a few times due to time restrictions on other books. Plus, this book is colossal. It's a smidge over 700 pages.

I'll start by saying that I can't recollect the last time I felt so connected to characters in a story. I was so consumed with the fou
Nick Pageant
A Little Life is a powerful, disturbing novel. It's full of pain, desperation, and a sense of isolating sadness that sucks the reader into some very dark places. It's also the best book I've read in years.

Reading the blurb, you'll get the idea that this work is about 4 college friends and their lives, but that's not entirely true. While each of the 4 main characters, and in fact all the characters in the book, are fully realized with extraordinary character development, the book is really about
Mar 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly....
It should be thrown with great force.
Dorothy Parker

Proudly Manipulating Readers into nth Degree of Misery and Sorrow

I hated this book. I cannot recall another that so raised my ire. An über liberal pre-meditated wah-wah, going so far into the wimper-sphere that it might be seen as an ironic harbinger of middle America’s 2016 backlash against paternalistic elitism which delivered us the worst leader in U.S. history.

In this [Vulture piece] the au
Maggie Stiefvater
Gave it a shot; not for me, although it may work well for others as the prose is quite inviting and the world dense and inhabited. Felt as if it possibly veered a little too far towards voyeurism and far from truth-telling, which, with the subject matter, wasn't an equation that worked for me. ...more
Andrew Smith
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Heed my warning: do not pick this book up if you're having a bad day! On the other hand, if you're in a good space and fancy something challenging and absorbing that might take over your life for a while (it's over 700 pages long) - this is the one.

There are many excellent reviews out there should you wish to delve into the micro details of the plot. But it's not my style to give so much away so I'll limit myself to a few lines on this. Ostensibly it's the tale of four students (Jude, Willem, M
chan ☆
May 06, 2021 added it
Shelves: 2021, dnf
and award for quickest DNF of this book goes to yours truly, at 1%

i thought i'd be tapping out around the 50% mark but for the life of me i can't get past the writing. i know it's lauded as being gorgeous and like... i can see it. but it was a leeeettle impersonal and a touch pretentious to me.

i know what this story is about and i don't think it's going to have it's intended impact on me so i think i am going to stop while i'm ahead. happy for those of y'all that connect with this one, but real
Althea ☾
I don’t want to read a book written by an able-bodied person on the suffering of a disabled person without the research and nuance. You are allowed to love this book (I don’t though) but don’t close your eyes to the fact that this is an able-bodied person writing about how a gay disabled character “never gets better”…. I don’t like what that says.

Everyone keeps saying “books don’t need to have a happy ending” and that’s why people dislike this book. But it’s not the reason? Atleast not for me.
Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)
DNF @ 50%

(Keep in mind 50% of this behemoth is around 370 pages)

I give up. I can't do it anymore. I can't pick this book up and continue reading when every page is so painful. I can handle angst and drama-- and enjoy it most of the time! But this was ridiculous.

I strongly caution those with chronic illness, mental illness or disability be very wary of this book

Because it's not angst. It's torture porn at the disabled character's expense.

This is the story of three incredibly selfish "friends" wh
Mar 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robin by: Ann
Sigh. How to even begin talking about this book?? How to put a rating on it?

First of all, it was Brutal, with a capital B. Huge disclaimer to anyone looking to read this - anything painful, anything unfair that you can think of, this book has it: sexual abuse, child abuse, physical abuse, drug addiction, rape, self mutilation, suicide, horrific violence, abduction, amputation, devastating trust violations, I could go on. So if you are sensitive to any of these topics, or even if you aren't - be
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Secret History
  • The Song of Achilles
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation
  • Normal People
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
  • Conversations with Friends
  • The Bell Jar
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You
  • Norwegian Wood
  • Call Me By Your Name (Call Me By Your Name, #1)
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
  • If We Were Villains
  • They Both Die at the End
  • The Goldfinch
  • My Dark Vanessa
  • My Policeman
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Before the Coffee Gets Cold, #1)
  • It Ends with Us
See similar books…
See top shelves…

Articles featuring this book

Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s time to check in on the 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge, our rigorous annual initiative for book...
227 likes · 50 comments
“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.” 2893 likes
“...things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.” 1862 likes
More quotes…