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The World's Largest Man

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,055 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Harrison Scott Key was born in Memphis, but he grew up in Mississippi, among pious Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant. At the center of his world was his larger-than-life father—a hunter, a fighter, a football coach, "a man better suited to living in a remote frontier wilderness of the nineteenth century than contemporary America, with ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by Harper
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,055 ratings  ·  195 reviews


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Laura McNeal
You should only read this book if you have ever:

had a father,
visited and/or lived in, and/or seen movies set in the South,
felt that you were unlike the other members of your family,
played a sport your father loved and were bad at it,
feared that one of your parents was racist or in some other way socially horrifying,
been expected to act bravely on a camping or hunting trip,
felt like a disappointment to a parent,
wished you were otherwise,
and wished that all of the above experiences could som
...more
Laura
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I haven't even finished yet & I'm already confirming this is a 5 star book. Hilarious & tender in equal measure. I love it. Any book that attempts to make me laugh has to live up to the Dave Barry test: Does it make me laugh out loud against my will? This one passes with flying colors: I will admit to reading this while my four kids ran wild in a McDonald's Playplace (Don't judge me. It was our 5th snow day in 3 weeks) and laughing out loud to myself. If you, too, want to laugh to yourse ...more
Jonathan Hiskes
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Harrison Scott Key combines David Sedaris's manic 10-jokes-a-minute hilarity, Lewis Nordan's ear for the strange music of Mississippi, and the Drive-By Truckers' raucous Southern storytelling into an excellent memoir. The theme is his larger-than-life father, a man of outsize stature and appetites, who taught his sons to hunt, fish and fight. The theme is also fathers in general, and the way they shape us, whether or not we run from their influence. And the theme is also the ordinary contours of ...more
Joy Jackson
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with this book. Just like in real life, first it made me laugh and then it made me cry. Having said that still doesn't come close to the emotions this book evokes. When I say laugh, I mean the kind of laughter that's more of a scream, like maybe you could hurt yourself or your furniture. Like you can't catch your breath laughter. So rare. And there's a lot of that in the book but dropped in at ever so clever intervals are searing pearls of humanity, heart breaking, common to us al ...more
Donna
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. When I first heard of it, I thought it was about a circus sideshow featuring the world's largest man. That was, of course, my silly, initial thought - long before I read the synopsis.

Instead, "the world's largest man" refers to Harrison Scott Key's father, a person larger-than -life in many ways. In size, in temperament, in a young boy's eyes and in a grown man's memory. The story, however, isn't only about the author's father. He talks about his wif
...more
Esther Bradley-detally
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book; plucked it off the "new" shelf at the Pasadena Central Library; went through a few other books first, but I have been reading The World's Largest Man steadily for the past few days. Reader I laugh out loud, small chuckles burst into huge ones; rough childhood, but his literary bon mots so acerbically inserted into his prose at just the write time makes his life one of effulgent pathos. I just adore his voice. At the end of the book, he deals with his life as a grown man, a wo ...more
Scott Diane
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing

This book had me laughing out loud during a recent plane trip and because of my uncontrollable laughter, the people on either side who I disturbed both wanted to know the name of the book so they could in turn order a copy. Note, the subject matter of this book, although funny, contains some content that is potentially not suitable for all readers. Overall, Mr. Key is able to tackle some weighty, heavy issues with honesty and humor, making this a read I would highly recommend.
Steven Wedgeworth
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I ended up throwing in the towel on this one. It is very funny, but the crude toilet humor got to be too much. The cynicism also lost its charm after the first 75 pgs or so, and the whole thing just stopped being fun. I hope that I can still enjoy Key's short stories, but this book wasn't for me.
Meg
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, arc
On the surface, this is a funny book. Look a little deeper and it is quite poignant. A great memoir.
This review is based on an ARC provided to me by the publisher.
Kelly Ferguson
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I grew up as Key's X chromosome counterpart in Alabama. While boys were expected to play football and kill animals, girls were supposed to cheerlead and poof their hair. Anyway, I know how it got rough for those of us who didn't wake up with a rebel yell emanating from our throats.

At same time, those of us from the South tire of the stereotypes and flat renderings. Key shows Mississippi in all its frustrating and glorious complications, brought to life through the characterization of his father
...more
Will White
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you like David Sedaris, then you will love this book. It's not just for guys. I immediately put it on my wife's stack of books to read. Key is hilarious throughout the book while also providing a view of life growing up as a boy in the South during the 70's and 80's. If you want to better understand your husband from the South, if you want to better understand why you hate and love the South, or if you want to better understand the people from the South then read this book.
Kristine
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have never laughed out loud so much reading a book in my life! Just download a sample and you will understand what I mean. I want all of my friends to read this. Harrison has a way of writing about both good and painful memories with humor, and yet doesn't suggest that they are trivial - every story has heart.
Mississippi Library Commission
Fathers. Families. Funny. Feels. Harrison Scott Key's book about his father is a beautiful, soul-searching, hilarious memoir that you need to read.


Alison Hardtmann
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
"You ever speak to old Lamar Bibbs?" Pop would say.

"Not since him and Gola Mae went down yonder after the thing up at the place," Monk would say.

The younger me would perk up, eager to hear some gothic fable drawn from the mists of Mississippi Hill Country lore. Perhaps a story about a mule trampling a baby, or the time when everyone got the yellow fever and died.

But all was quiet. Monk would be leaning over and staring at his folded hands, as though he had be bludgeoned with a skillet, while Pop
...more
Blair
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
At times I laughed so hard I was crying. Keys wit kept me turning the pages giggling along the way. While parts were hard to read (the abuse and skinning of the animals), I appreciated his humor and comedic timing. I really enjoyed reading this memoir. {And even his notes on why he struggled writing something called a memoir!}
Justin Lonas
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crass, juvenile, and silly, while simultaneously meaningful and moving.

It's a neat trick if you can do it.
courtney
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This was good. Like you should ask me to borrow it good. I was told I would laugh until I peed myself and I came pretty close. And I also cried, and therein we have my top 2 marks of a good book.
Debbie
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm about half way through but had to heavily skim the first half of the book about killing animals. I don't do well with descriptions of killing, hunting or abuse. I plan to finish the book so will update the review at the end.
Shan
Dec 22, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Quit, reluctantly. Key is a great storyteller and his father - the world's largest man of the title - is a fascinating, larger than life character, and their life in rural Mississippi ("What was it like to grow up around people who believe that whatever can't be shot should be baptized?") is interesting. There's just too much hunting and generally "killing shit" in this book for me, and when I got to the point where I realized I'd paged past more than I'd actually read, I stopped.
Craig Pittman
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I admit I approached this book with some trepidation. Harrison Scott Key is hilarious on The Twitters and FB. Would he still be funny in old-school, dead-tree book form? The answer is yes, yes indeed. His memoir is by turns hilarious, astonishing and poignant.

In this book, Key writes with verve and a sneaky wit about growing up in semi-rural Mississippi with a mother who loves books and nature and the kitchen arts, and a father who's an asphalt salesman, a football coach and die-hard deer hunter
...more
Sara
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, funny, southern
This book is fantastic! Brutal, beautiful, clever, touching, and funny. Not for the faint of heart.

It's the memoir of a boy who grows up in rural Mississippi, and makes his way to being a professor and writer. It's largely about his father.

(One might see how this book would strongly resonate with an academic librarian who grew up in rural Tennessee who recently lost her father. Ahem.)

I saw Harrison Scott Key at the Southern Festival of Books, where he read excerpts from the hilarious chapter
...more
Bonnie Sanguinet
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
I would have given this book 4 stars, but the first 100 pages, mostly about the author's horrors of hunting, just dragged. He made his point over and over. As it is, I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Young Harrison is nothing like his big, brutal, Outdoorsy dad. He loves reading and cooking and sewing. He doesn't understand his dad and his dad doesn't understand him. As Harrison gets older, he finds he doesn't really understand his mother, or his brother or his beautiful wife.

The exaggerated humor reminds m
...more
Jennifer
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
*I won this book through Goodreads’ First Reads in exchange for an honest review.*

Due to illness and injury, it took me a long time to read this and to get a chance to write a review. Had it not been for that, I would have flown through this incredibly touching yet seriously funny book. I can't tell you the number of times my family members would peek around the corner to see why, every minute or so, I was laughing to myself and dabbing tears of hysterical howling from my eyes. I would look at t
...more
Bill Fowler
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a great read. As a Southern 40-something Key's voice is mine. I have been in frigid tree stands and duck blinds for no other reason than because my father thought it was good for me, despite my intense lack of interest in guns, birds, trees or anything not made by Atari. Maybe Key's greatest achievement is the subtle notion that the Southern Man he depicts in the form of his father is a fading breed. As the South changes, so do it's sons. Maybe I'm putting too much on the theme, but that's ...more
Katy Brandes
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks for helping make the tears come on during savasana at yoga tonight, dammit. That's what I get for reading right before class starts. Or at least the end of this book - just too much too close to home. Those father quest feelings long repressed brought on all the feels.

I'm honestly grateful for all the laughs during this book, some at familiarities of growing up in a hunting-saturated environment where men were expected to act certain ways and some at funny situations or clever ways of ex
...more
Liz Clappin
Nov 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
I won't lie I didn't finish it, after over a year of trying I probably never will. Know Harrison personally and he's a great guy, hilarious beyond belief and his stuff In Oxford American always makes me laugh. I just couldn't get into this and so much of it that was supposed to be funny I just found depressing . Yankee at heart just don't get Southern humor to a degree, incest, poverty, and racism don't seem terribly funny to me. It's a well respected book and lots of people who read it lived it ...more
Kim
Jul 01, 2015 added it
I laughed. Then I laughed some more. Then I read some things to my husband and HE laughed. I posted about it on Facebook and then I became a bit nervous because it got pretty graphic about the hunting. I thought about the men I know/knew and saw their essence in the book. I thought of my friend, Connie, who would likely have hated the casual voice describing violent acts. And then I got to the end and I won't tell you about that. You have to experience it for yourself.
All I'll say is that I'm gr
...more
Whitney
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
Hilarious, Touching, Beautiful

I'm not sure if being from Mississippi means I was destined to love it or expected to hate it, but I am completely in love with this book. There's a reason it won the Thurber - it is absolutely hilarious. Then it's moving and beautiful. The laughter and the tears are seamless - like in life itself.
Teri Ann
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Way too much testosterone for me in this book. The back and forth didn't work for me either. There were a few lovely moments; however the author tried too often to be funny--I didn't find him as funny as he apparently finds himself. I also expected more of a southern feel to the memoir that really could have been written about any part of the country.
Moses Operandi
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read aloud with my wife. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cry laughing. This is a surprisingly deep and meaningful memoir, Patrick McManus with some Robert Pirsig, or David Sedaris, but you don't feel the need to shower afterwards. Five enthusiastic thumbs up.
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Harrison Scott Key is the author of two memoirs, including Congratulations, You Are You Again? (Harper Perennial), a true story about how his American Dream to do something creative and meaningful with his life nearly obliterated every meaningful thing in his life. His first memoir, The World's Largest Man, a true story about what it's like to be related to insane people from Mississippi, includin ...more
“The South is a strange place, one that can't be fit inside a movie, a place that dares you to simplify it, like a prime number, like a Bible story, like my father.” 6 likes
“But having people meet my family was a secret fear. It would be like taking someone to a dark room to show them my anal fissures, and you can't just go introducing everybody to your anal fissures. Only special people get to see such as that.” 1 likes
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