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

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  241,956 ratings  ·  19,899 reviews
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ—the curse that has haunted t ...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by Riverhead Books
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 Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Gabriela Yes. Because Diaz has no difficulty from weaving a comprehensible story from two languages without making you want to check a dictionary. Because the …moreYes. Because Diaz has no difficulty from weaving a comprehensible story from two languages without making you want to check a dictionary. Because the story of Oscar's life is nothing without the background remembrance of Abelard, Beli, Lola wondrous' lives. Because you can't figure out from sentence 2 who narrates this book and this gives the book that je ne sais quoi that keep you going. Because there are far too many atrocities committed by dictators all over the world that we have no clue about and that we are bound to know and to prevent from happening. And also because it's not our duty to decide whether one author or the other deserve the awards they receive - what makes you feel like you're qualified to judge upon this?!(less)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  241,956 ratings  ·  19,899 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Jun 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
How this book won the Pulitzer Prize AND the National Book Critics Circle is beyond me. It's terrible. Here's the review I wrote when it came out. I stand by this completely. If someone says they read this and liked it, punch them in the throat. (I'm kidding, naturally.)

Review of Junot Diaz’s first novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” published Oct. 7, 2007
Imagine, if you will, that seven years after publishing "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Ernest Hemingway decided to ex
Michael Finocchiaro
Exhilarating. Brutal yet beautiful. Wao. I really enjoyed both the style and the story of this whirlwind of a novel by Junot Díaz. I can see why he got a Pulitzer and wonder if his other books are as fun to read. I think that Seven Killings was even more masterful, but Oscar delivers nearly as much gore and Caribbean corruption and historical facts as well. I especially enjoyed the footnotes. Writing any more about this book would certainly break my no spoilers rules so suffice it to say that th ...more
Sep 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I want to know all about your family, your childhood, your grandparents, their childhood, etc, etc, I want to know where you lived, what food you ate, what games you played or didn't play. I want to know why this is important to you or that is not. Which is why I LOVED this book! Junot Diaz takes 300+ pages to tell a story about a boy that wants to be kissed and the kiss MATTERS because we know his family, we know his friends, we know their superstitions and their pains, and their loses and thei ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A to Z around the world personal challenge - D is Dominican Republic

After the partial failure with another Pulitzer winner and the controversy surrounding this book /author I was a bit weary at first. I shouldn’t have been because it was an excellent novel which deserves its praise.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not about Oscar’s life which definitely wasn’t wondrous. It is a saga of a Dominicana family starting in the Republic during the horrendous period of Trujillo’s reign, one of t
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
I bought Oscar Wao as a birthday gift for my mother in October based on scores of sterling reviews. She read it, gave it a mild thumbs-up (probably just being nice) and handed it off to me. Now having read it, I'm pretty mortified I thought this book would be something she might like.

The critical consensus seemed to be that Junot Diaz is a good writer, and he picked a good story to tell here in his first novel. But I found this book lacking on both counts. I found the writing lazy and unexpress
The Crimson Fucker
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ok, I’m writing a review of this book right now or I’ma die trying goddamn it!

I got nothing! I’ve deleted like 20 paragraphs!

1 HOUR LATER!!! 2 bruises in my forehead, kind of dizzy, I’ve cursed the gods of knowledge for being born without literary talent!! And 0 review!

Oh god!!! I give up!!! This is all I got!!! This book is awesome!!! Is a nerdy dude being nerdy as hell and not getting pussy!! Even tho he desperately wants it!! he watches Akira which I think is kind of cool! he wa
Jul 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never_finished
Soon after I started reading this book, I also started reading Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby. In it's preface, Hornby discusses why reading has fallen by the wayside as of late. A lot of people associate reading with boredom because to most, it feels like a chore to get through novels. If people would just read what they enjoyed, then they would begin again to see the pleasures of reading and thus, do more of it (he even makes a point that someone who reads only The Economist and ...more
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-fiction
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz is pure genius storytelling at its core. This was a Book Club choice that had me a little nervous but in the end had me tightly strapped in for the ride.

As the title suggests, there is brevity to Oscar Wao's life. Going into the read knowing this fact makes it even harder to accept as you have little hope that he will survive all that is thrown at him in his early years. You root for him the entire length of the book but know deep in your heart
Honestly, if someone had warned me that this book would barrage me - page after page, line after line - with obscure dorky references, Dominican Republican history lessons, and Spanish colloquialisms, I may not have picked it up.*

But I am glad that I did.

It is interesting to realize that on the scale of nerd-dom, I fall on the light end. I could follow the shout-outs to science fiction authors, as well as the Lord of the Rings allusions (of which there were many). But I was lost for all the ani
Em Lost In Books
"That’s life for you. All the happiness you gather to yourself, it will sweep away like it’s nothing. If you ask me I don’t think there are any such things as curses. I think there is only life. That’s enough."

Have you ever met someone who tries very hard to fit in? Or perhaps sometimes you find yourself in situations where you try to fit in? You know how hard it is to be an outcast, know someone who is being one or perhaps your own experience. I think everyone has face this at one time or t
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

"WAHHHHHH! My life is so horrible!! I'm 100+ pounds overweight, have no friends, and have never gotten laid!! Especially to some fine b!tch with huge tits! The one time I "tried", the girl was in an abusive relationship with a d-bag. I was TOTALLY the Nice Guy; she should have gone with ME!!! Now I will whine and do nerdy things, and occasionally mention them so that the cover blurb saying I'm the Dominican Tolkien won't be 100% inaccurate."

If this is what you want to read, go ahea
Darth J
May 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Darth J by: G

This book was recommended to me by my cousin so I thought I would like it. I was so wrong. All that's here is childish profanity, body-shaming, and portraying minorities is stereotypical ways. For an author who is so lauded, I am left confused at what he has to offer.

It all seemed so forced and inorganic for something that was supposedly based on the author's past that it felt like a poorly drawn cartoon that fifth graders would make as if they were aiming to create the next South Park.
David Abrams
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Meet Oscar de Leon, dubbed "Oscar Wao" by bullies who liken him to the foppish Oscar Wilde. Our Oscar is a fat, virginal Dominican-American teenager who carries a Planet of the Apes lunchbox to school, spends hours painting his Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, and who knows "more about the Marvel Universe than Stan Lee." If Nerd was a country, Oscar would be its undisputed king. Oscar is the kind of kid—sweaty, mumbles to himself, inevitably invades personal space, probably has bad breath—we would ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz

The book chronicles the life of Oscar de León, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels and with falling in love, as well as with the curse that has plagued his family for generations.

The middle sections of the novel center on the lives of Oscar's runaway sister, Lola; his mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral; and his grandfather, Abelard. Rife with footnotes, science fiction
Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dominicans, Americans, Dominican-Americans
Recommended to Jason by: Susan Clearfield
A lot of people seem to either hate or love this book. Most people get irritated with misleading title, the hard-to-follow narration/storyline, but mostly with the eclectic use of spanglish that is scattered throughout the book and with no footnote, i might add!!!

In an interview, Junot Diaz said that he offered up the Spanish without translation because he wanted to give English readers an idea of the immigrant experience. The spanish in this book reflects the immigrant experience. The alienati
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
These are the reasons I'm abandoning this book:

1. It's crude. And it's not just the overuse of the f word I'm over. The sex and violence is crude too. There's love that's personal and emotional and touches something deep down inside. And then there's banal sex that devalues human connection and emotion, the kind of thing someone who was desensitized to real relationships in preference of porn would write. This is the later. Even inexperienced Oscar's interest in women is banal and of no depth.

Giorgia ~ Reads
2.5 stars

Hmm, apparently this won the Pulitzer Prize and I’m a bit confused now because, although I’m not the best judge of literary greatness I can say with utmost certainty that I’ve read better books which received little to no recognition.

This is why I don’t trust literary prizes to recommend quality books. As much as I wanna quote the fact that literature is subjective and quality if judged much in the same vein, can be as well, I just can’t. There are books that the majority of people ca
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Because in my brain there is a sharp-edge precise hierarchy of the MODERN CLASSICS (read in the most recent years*), and because this book is newly minted therein:

3RD...........WORLD'S END

I mean, surely this is a book to join the others. It's about pretty much the same thing as those others: it deals with the Family Odyssey. Theme of the decade..? Half century? I subscribe to the belief that now
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Junot Diaz’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao is an achingly beautiful, irresistibly harrowing depiction of Dominican Republic.

The twentieth century’s one of the most disreputable dictators, Rafael Trujillo exercised absolute power over Dominican Republic like a feudal lord from February, 1930 until his assassination in May, 1961. The longevity of his barbarous reign led to the slaughter of 50,000 Dominicans.

The author, Junot Díaz persuasively creates a br
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am late to the party with Junot Diaz's work, but wow, what a book! This is realistic adult fiction, with interlocking stories tracing several generations of a Dominican family. I say 'realistic,' though it owes a debt of gratitude to the magic realism of Garcia Marquez and Borges. I knew very little about the Dominican Republic before reading this novel. Now I can't imagine how I got along without the wonderful voices and characters Diaz evokes. He tosses out literary, pop culture, geek, and D ...more
Junot Diaz has created a masterpiece here, an incredible tribute to Dominican culture and history, and let's face it. . . what in the hell did you know about Dominican anything before you read this book? Nada. Less than nada.

Chances are, unless you're Dominican, a Caribbean history buff or a fan of Julia Alvarez's, you know mierda about Trujillo or his reign of terror or how badly Dominican women have been treated.

And, if you haven't read this book. . . you don't know Oscar Wao, and that's a tr
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of footnotes and silenced history
Shelves: dost, read-in-2014
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep...that have taken hold.” J.R.R. Tolkien.

Oscar Wao is a wonder of nature. A nerd. Weirdo. Freak. This is the story of an outcast and his travails. A free spirit who speaks in sci-fi gibberish and aspires to become the Dominican J.R.R.Tolkien. His isolation is as massive as his 307 pounds and
Vit Babenco
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a great coming-of-age tale about a boy who wished to grow up but just couldn’t… He just managed to grow older. And somehow I place this unusual novel between To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and of course it has some sinister touch of The Comedians by Graham Greene to boot.
“In September he headed to Rutgers New Brunswick, his mother gave him a hundred dollars and his first kiss in five years, his tío a box of
R.K. Gold
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't expecting this book to be so sad. I'll be honest, when I first started reading the book I knew more about the author than the synopsis. I read one of his short stories in undergrad and always planned on reading this book but never got around to it. Always had a different excuse to not pick it up.

Well, I finally read it, and it was--it was something. The different perspectives, the family, the entire history and origin story of their curse and the island itself, no matter how far they we
I have tended to neglect the Latin American masters of magical realism because of foolish biases in expectation. For my taste I stubbornly clung to a preference for outright science fiction or full-fledged fantasy over some half-way order of things or a sporadic supernatural or otherworldly force of causality in a narrative. But I am changing my ways under the onslaught of talented writers who make the magical realism approach work well. Like with this one, where Diaz gets me onboard already in ...more
3 to 3.5 stars

I did enjoy this book, but in the end I was left wondering what it was all for? It richly develops with lots of details to suddenly come to an end without anything really happening. Basically - here is Oscar's life, some background on why things are the way they are, and here's where it all ended up. The end.

If you like really detailed Historical Fiction, this is the book for you. There is a lot of very descriptive and thorough information about the political and social structure o
This is someone's masterpiece, is what I kept thinking. Someone's lifechanger, someone's book they hug to their chest when they finish and re-read every couple of years for the rest of their life. And I would nominate it for classic canon worthy for that reason, and I should be so lucky to ever get the gift to discuss it with a class.

Diaz tells the story of the de Leon family and their trials and tribulations throughout at least three generations under the horrors of the Trujillo dictatorship in
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Pulitzer prize winning and well deserved. An amazing work on the fictional life of Oscar Wao, his family and their antecedents and how they appeared to be plagued with 'fuku' bad luck. Superbly crafted with chapters concentrating on specific characters in a non-linear progression. It also takes a frank look a Dominica under its various oppressive regimes, especially that of 'El Jefe'. The characterisations of all the major players is exceptional; also amazing is how the story is juxtaposed with ...more
Whitney Atkinson
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved listening to this because Lin-Manuel Miranda narrated it and, subsequently, I was attuned to every word. But although I loved listening to this, both because of Lin's voice and the content, I would love to revisit this in a few years and actually read it to see what else I can pull from it. It's very different than anything I would typically read, and it delves so far into backstories and family lineage that I would love to try flying through it in order to pick up more connections.

Eliza Rapsodia
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: TODO EL MUNDO
Recommended to Eliza by: Brown Girl Reading
Shelves: literary-fiction
Mini review in english


Said this, I can definitely say that I am to be declared as Junot Diaz fan. Because I heard about this novel before it was assigned as class reading at uni. It never ceased to amaze me by the different narrative voices, the words used of dominican spanish that the writing style includes and all the footnotes that the book have. They are in th
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
  • Middlesex
  • The Corrections
  • Americanah
  • White Teeth
  • Interpreter of Maladies
  • Freedom
  • Everything Is Illuminated
  • Beloved (Beloved Trilogy, #1)
  • The Sympathizer
  • Empire Falls
  • Tinkers
  • The Orphan Master's Son
  • Dreaming in Cuban
  • Gilead
  • In the Time of the Butterflies
  • Between the World and Me
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud ...more

Articles featuring this book

Author, journalist, public intellectual, and (in recent years) comic book writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates is an Extremely Busy Person by any metric, and...
100 likes · 31 comments
“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” 771 likes
“It's never the changes we want that change everything.” 657 likes
More quotes…