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


3.12  ·  Rating details ·  511 ratings  ·  98 reviews
A wickedly funny debut in which the niece of a legendary and enigmatic writer forever alters the life and work of a young student writing about--and desperately searching for--inspiration.

Anna Brisker is a 29-year-old graduate student in English at Collegiate University who can't seem to finish her dissertation. Her project: an intellectual history of inspiration. Her
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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 Talent, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  511 ratings  ·  98 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Talent
Lindsay - Traveling Sister
2.5 stars.

A quirky and unique story revolving around an English graduate student working on her dissertation. Unfortunately, the promise of a “wickedly funny debut” completely missed its mark for me. While I enjoyed following some of the main characters’ experiences, a lot of what happened seemed random and awkward. I was simply not the proper audience for this novel.

Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with a physical ARC to read and review.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you to the publisher Little, Brown and Company who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

I was drawn to this book by the cover artwork and the premise that it involved books. The story began with the main character Anna Brisker on a supermarket line where a woman in a bright orange raincoat discovered her pockets were empty. My first thought was, "Did she borrow the raincoat from Ringo who wore that for The Beatles final concert on Apple headquarter's rooftop?" Anyway, Anna lent
Norma * Traveling Sister and proud Grandma!!!
Smart, unique and clever!

TALENT by JULIET LAPIDOS was an interesting, steady-paced, and quirky story that was a little structurally & mentally challenging for me to read. The blurb states that this is a “wickedly funny debut” novel that I definitely didn’t find funny at all or it went way over my head. I kind of lack the sense of understanding the dark humour here.

JULIET LAPIDOS delivers an intriguing and well-written read here that I really wanted to fully embrace and love. I have this
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley

An interesting debut novel about a graduate student struggling with her dissertation on the origins of artistic inspiration. “Relatives who’d once admired my precocity were beginning to wonder what was taking so long.” Her thesis advisor has told her to find a case study for her hypothesis. She stumbles across the niece of a well known short story author, Freddy Langley, someone who was prolific for a few years and then just stopped publishing. He would seem to be the perfect subject to use for
Brenda -Traveling Sister
3.5 stars

I feel like Talent can best be described as an academic literary thriller and is something I have not read anything like before. Like Norma mentioned I do like to challenge myself by reading more books that require me to think differently. I do think it took on a bit of a psychological feel to it as well as some of these characters were unreliable and manipulative. At times it felt a little bit like a psychological playground with the characters. The writing took on a bit of a chaotic
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, as the saying goes it takes talent to recognize talent. By that logic does it make me a talented reviewer to recognize what a clever book Talent is? I love books, books about books, authors, etc. but primarily I read for pleasure. The protagonist of this book, and the main secondary character also for that matter, are two individuals who are also around books all day, but they utilize them in different ways. One, the 29 year old graduate student stuck on finishing her dissertation, ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Talent is a gorgeously written academic satire, focusing on floundering doctoral student Anna Brisker. Sadly, gorgeous writing is all Talent has, as its plot lands the satire but fails when it tries to make broader points about writing and people and life--so, you know, everything. It also, aside from Anna, suffers from character description syndrome, where (in this case, beautifully written) appearance (coat, shoes, lipstick, hair, state of general grooming, etc.) are meant to convey depth in ...more
(3.5) Talent is loosely based on the Parable of the Talents. I remember being told the story at school. It's the one about a master who goes away and leaves his three servants with various 'talents' (sums of money). When he returns, two of them have made investments and doubled their money. But the third, risk-averse servant has buried the talent, and for this he is punished; it's taken from him and given to the servant who already has the most. (I never realised how weirdly capitalist the whole ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received an early copy of this book. It made me think--which is actually pretty unusual. I see other reviewers were confused by the ending. But, I think the ending was intentionally confusing, or at least intentionally ambiguous. One of the themes here is that people are bad at interpreting both literature and other people (the publicity materials say as much). People make assumptions and then go with them, even when the evidence contradicts those assumptions. The ending riffs on that, putting ...more
Jason Kellogg
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book very clever and complex--deceptively so. When I finished it I actually went back and reread certain parts that I realized, upon completing the book, I hadn't really understood / were more significant than I had realized. I don't generally find that necessary with contemporary fiction. It's full of Easter eggs. Five stars.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Talent pulled off the rare double of speaking to my interests in (1) fiction that puts ideas at the forefront, and (2) fiction that bends daily life into absurd-bordering-on-menacing twists. If analogies are helpful for you figuring out whether you'd like a book or not: It reads like a Jean-Philippe Toussaint novel with a revved up ideas engine.
Dan Weber
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received an advanced copy of this book. I thought it very funny and charming--and also thoughtprovoking. Lots to mull here about the meaning of talent--hence the title--and productivity and nothingness, too.
Aaron Morgan
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think this is a book people need to read closely to enjoy. The notebooks, I found, are full of little hidden messages that explain the main narrative.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this in one long sitting because the story drew me in and the writing is superb, but I didn’t find anything funny about it, as other reviewers have noted. I found it sad. For me, the intermittent notebook entries felt like annoyances, and the random footnotes weren’t something I enjoy. Certain things (like the last 2-3 chapters/sections) felt sort of rushed and slapped on, almost underdeveloped.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
via my blog:
'But the alternative is to let your talent lie fallow and rot.'

Anna Brisker is a graduate student at Collegiate University trapped under the heavy weight of her incomplete dissertation that is “very nearly finished”, lacking enthusiasm, feeling uninspired writing about the ” intellectual history of inspiration”. Inspiration, in her mind, isn’t simply floating around like blessed golden confetti thrown by some benevolent being, landing on the
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, jewish
I don't really go for fiction with a lot of meta commentary about art, inspiration, attribution, and well, talent, but this is a sharp exception. And I do mean "sharp" in the sense of being clever, and funny, and taut.

Talent is about an English Ph.D. student, Anna, who is struggling with writing her dissertation. By chance she meets the niece of a dead mid-century author, Frederick Langley (a sort of a Chuck Palahniuk or J.D. Salinger of his day - a cult icon writing in a transgressive way for
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was not “wickedly funny” to me. I loathed the protagonist from her first Pop Tart-obsessed musings and I found the book painful to read and abandoned it pretty quickly. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Barry Harbaugh
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny, propulsive, and full of wisdom. Talent is a retelling of the Parable of the Talents, in a way, an existential novel about reading disguised as a laconic campus thriller. Coursing though a fictionalized New Haven are shady characters both rich and poor, state sponsored oppression in architectural form, unglazed Pop Tarts, and ideas about the mythic history and personal burdens of creation itself. Love this author very much.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Looking forward to more long prose from this author.

For example, on page 162, “I didn’t recognize her but I imagined that I could recognize in her the boundless arrogance of an intelligence not yet stopped in its tracks for repairs.”
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book left me feeling like a deflated balloon. The premise of the novel is that a young, promising scholar loses steam midway through her dissertation and not only fails to complete her degree, but is caught up in something illegal in the process. Is the message that the academy is broken? Or that the academy will break you? Either way it hit a little too close to home and the recurring pop-tart motif recurred a little too frequently for my taste.
Trace Nichols
Jan 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
“Finally he's beginning to understand that I never had and never will have, not in a million years or more, I can wait until the sun explodes, any interest in his narrow sort of wife-and-child-and-job life. Why, if it prosper, none dare call it life.”

The author's attempt to constantly be witty completely obscures the premise of this book. The narrative, an English graduate student working on her dissertation struggles with artistic inspiration until she crosses paths with the niece of a well
James Beggarly
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fun book that takes you inside the mind of a graduate student who is slowly losing touch with reality as her unfinished dissertation is making her question all of her life choices. She sees salvation in the form of a relative of a popular writer who has passed away and left two notebooks to the college she’s attending. Lapidos is such a smart writer. The book never goes exactly where you expect it to and finds dark humor everywhere.
Tracey Callison
Feb 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
If I never read another “literary” book comprised of the internal sufferings of struggling English PhD writers who have Lost their Motivation, it will still be too soon.
Mairead Hearne (
My Rating ~ 2.5 *

Anna Brisker is a frustrated mature student. Having spent many years in the college system, she is unable to cross the final line and get her PhD in English completed. Her tutor is not impressed by what she is currently submitting and he suggests she look deeper for inspiration, that she find a case study.

Anna has spent a number of years in the college environment, with a long term goal of achieving the position of professor emerita. But Anna has hit an academic wall.

Anna has
Amy Lawson
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Thank you Little Brown and NetGalley for the advanced copy-
A very clever book that tells of a desperate graduate student trying to figure out how to complete her dissertation. Anna thinks she has found the answer in a distant relative (a writer) who has left behind two notebooks that Anna thinks might help her complete this harrowing step towards academia. The other main character in the novel is a cranky old woman who binds books- an antiquarian. The lives of these two women collide and drama
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-buy

I was worried I’d chosen poorly when this hold came in from the library and I scanned some of the Goodreads reviews. But I thoroughly enjoyed it!

As a PhD dropout, Anna's dissertation paralysis, feelings of isolation and inadequacy, and the absurd lengths she goes to avoid writing certainly resonated. Lapidos' wry and scornful commentary on the hypocrisy of higher ed generally and literary criticism more specifically had me tittering more than once. It's an absolutely delightful campus novel.
Jenn Fields
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Juliet Lapidos' novel follows the waning track of a snarky but once-promising Ph.D. student, Anna, who is hunting for a case study for her dissertation on the topic of artistic, and specifically literary, inspiration. Is it mystical and muse-induced, or the (pragmatic) result of hard work? Anna has theories, mostly based on her own thoughts on the topic, mulled as she procrastinates, and her advisor thinks her dissertation is "a little thin." She finds a promising thread to follow when she meets ...more
Cherise Wolas
A fun novel dashed with philosophical elements about talent, about the concept of work, of achieving rather than maintaining plateaus, set on a college campus, where Anna is in her 7th year of her Ph.D program and no closer to finishing her dissertation about inspiration. And then, through happenstance, she meets Helen, the niece of a now-dead but once popular writer, and Anna seems to have found a case study she can use to thicken the dissertation her advisor has deemed thin. Fun elements ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, february-2019
This was very frustrating. It felt like it could have been so much better. The writing is there but the story is pretty lackluster. Every time it feels like it’s starting to get going we get sidetracked by something completely uninteresting. I’m always ready to love a spoiled unsympathetic main character but it just didn’t come together for me. There were things I liked but overall a disappointment.
I believe this was meant to be ironic, but it came across as pretentious to me.

Ultimately, I'm rarely in the mood to read about trust fund babies who haven't worked a day in their life wax on poetically about pop tarts.

« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Trust Exercise
  • The New Me
  • Stay Up with Hugo Best
  • Bowlaway
  • Costalegre
  • The Heavens
  • If, Then
  • Fake Like Me
  • We Cast a Shadow
  • The Altruists
  • Gingerbread
  • Late in the Day
  • Lost and Wanted
  • The Grammarians
  • Looker
  • Feast Your Eyes
  • Talk to Me
  • Supper Club
See similar books…
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“If you’re doing something because you’re expecting a reward, then you’re not living in the here and now and you won’t enjoy the action itself.” 1 likes
“Edmund Bergler coined the term writer’s block in 1947.” 0 likes
More quotes…