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The History of Living Forever

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  549 ratings  ·  127 reviews
A chemistry student falls for his teacher and uncovers a centuries-old quest for the elixir of life

The morning after the death of his first love, Conrad Aybinder receives a bequest. Sammy Tampari was Conrad’s lover. He was his teacher. And, it turns out, he was not just a chemist, but an alchemist, searching for a mythic elixir of life. Sammy’s death was sudden, yet he som
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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Jun 10, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Yet another giveaway win!!!
Anna Luce
★★★✰✰ 3.75 stars (rounded up to 4 as this is a debut)

The History of Living Forever is an ambitious novel. The narrative includes multiple timelines and often switches between 1st and 3rd perspective, weaving together a compelling yet intricate story. Two of the central figures in these various 'timelines' are Conrad Aybinder and Sammy Tampari who in spite of their student-teacher relationship, and of Conrad being underage, become involved romantically. Their "liaison" however is soon cut short b
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a moving and compelling read. You feel for both Conrad and Sam even as you are appalled by their choices. The melding of alchemy and science feels well done and believable. Like the characters you will start this book looking for certainty, but revel in the beautiful ambiguities of life by the time all is said and done.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-read
Book Review: The History of Living Forever
Author: Jake Wolff
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Review Date: December 24, 2018

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book will not be published until June, 2019, but for some reason I was magnetically drawn to reading it as soon as I downloaded it, so here is that review. I will post on NetGalley now, and then wait until publication to post on Amazon and Goodreads.

Robert Sheard
The opening 50 pages and the closing 50 pages of this one are really good, but I don’t think the middle lives up to that level. There are a number of story lines, which is fine, but jumping back and forth among them was chaotic and jarring and made the entire narrative a bit less cohesive for me. It’s a fascinating premise, though.
Elissa Sweet
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The History of Living Forever is a fresh, heartbreaking book about young love, mental illness, family and, yes, the search for the elixir of life. At the beginning of the book, 16-year-old Conrad's boyfriend Sammy—who is also his high school chemistry teacher—has just died of an apparent suicide, leaving Conrad with a box of his old journals and an unfinished recipe for the elixir of life. As Conrad sifts through the layers of mystery that composed Sammy's life, he becomes caught up in the same ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The book started off strong with a unique premise and interesting narrative style--I liked the varying story lines, narrators, and formats for expressing the varying threads.

However, it felt like the goal of the story was more ambitious than the book was able to live up to. The book begins from Conrad's POV and ends with it, but because we spend so much time reading from Sam's POV (whether because it's a journal entry in first person or narration of the past in third person) the thread of the st
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-books
Like a whole box of chocolates at once: some of them strange, some of them sweet, all of them irresistible.
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway-wins, arcs
✨I won this on Goodreads, and all I can say is THIS BOOK.
I don’t know how Jake Wolff managed to fill a book with science and all the feels and keep me so entranced. I have consciously been avoiding feelings for a while now, & failed science, so...

Synopsis can easily be found anywhere, so I’ll just give you my general lowdown.

The way this is written is woven between 3 views: the POV of the present day, told through the eyes of 16 yr old Conrad, a jaded, troubled boy who returns to school to disco
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I devoured the first fifty pages, which are wonderfully written and addictive. The book the began to go down more and more convoluted plot rabbit holes, though, some of which I found more interesting than others. I found the narrator engaging and believable, so when he disappeared for long stretches I grew impatient.

I love reading first novels, though, especially ambitious ones that try to tackle The Modern World and Big Questions, so if you can put up with some dull bits, this is worth checking
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways

Every once in awhile, a story comes along that simply captures your soul. The History of Living, by Jake Wolff, is one of those stories.

Taking the reader through a deluge of different voices, but primarily focused on the lives of Conrad and Sammy, Wolff showcases the worldwide, perpetual desire for the discovery of the elixir of life. Some are after it for selfish, money-hungry reasons, some are simply looking for a way to get high, but one thing is for certain- Conrad i
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
While I found this book to be a good read there was just something about the story that I personally found unfulfilling. The premise was fresh and interesting but I feel like maybe each of the personal stories contained within were not explored enough to completely satisfy me as a reader.

That being said I would totally recommend this as a read. The search for the perfect elixir recipe was a wild ride and I enjoyed reading Sammy's story more than Conrad's to be honest. Would have loved to have re
Leah Spitale
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved loved loved this book. Although the plot included science and a lot of immortality talk (which didn’t interest me in the least bit) I decided to give it shot. I can’t resist an unreliable narrator and I feel that Sammy may just be the best one I’ve met in awhile. Although you are appalled by his recent choices, you can’t help but feel for him. Anyone who has ever suffered from depression can tell you that Sammy’s thoughts and feelings are spot on. It’s impossible to not feel his pain. I ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
While this book is well conceived and has some really nice writing on the front end, it quickly becomes didactic and uninspired. Character development and any sort emotionally driven narrative is sacrificed for pretentious exposition. By the last third of the book I’d lost interest in characters and found myself skimming my way to the inconsequential and trite ending. It’s clear Jake Wolff has talent but this ain’t it, chief.
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I don’t even know where to start with this review. So much went on and it was absolutely banana-pants. The historical anecdotes and recipes for the elixir were really interesting but also kind of sad. So many people died in such horrific ways just for the chance to live a longer than normal lifespan or to cure their diseases. This is only one of the shocking elements in this book which is really Sam and Conrad’s story. Conrad was a teenage student and Sam was his teacher but their “love” story i ...more
Megan Collins
THE HISTORY OF LIVING FOREVER is a unique, deeply imaginative book that explores timeless themes of grief, love, and obsession through a fresh—and scientific—lens. On the same day sixteen-year-old Conrad learns that his Chemistry teacher, Sammy (who is also Conrad’s first love), has died, he receives a box of Sammy’s journals that outline the teacher’s recipes and quest for an “elixir of life.” As Conrad navigates his grief and confusion over Sammy’s death, he decides to continue Sammy’s search, ...more
Aaron Marsh
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-books
Compulsive readability is a trait both overrated (by the airport-buyers, the Christmas + Easter patrons of literature) and grossly underrated (by the rest of us pretentious Pulitzer chasers) all at once. Jake Wolff has crafted a very fleet, very readable novel in The History of Living, one that had me pondering the value of those traits. Because the book definitely is too melodramatic, scattered as all hell + jam packed with too many characters, and it contains several key plot points that are i ...more
Barred Owl Books
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A chemistry student falls for his teacher and uncovers a centuries-old quest for the elixir of life

The morning after the death of his first love, Conrad Aybinder receives a bequest. Sammy Tampari was Conrad’s lover. He was his teacher. And, it turns out, he was not just a chemist, but an alchemist, searching for a mythic elixir of life. Sammy’s death was sudden, yet he somehow managed to leave twenty years’ worth of his notebooks and a storage locker full of expensive, sometimes baffling equipme
Oct 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
Jake Wolff's "The History of Living Forever" is a creative, thought-provoking taken on the allures and tragedies of life.

Conrad, a teenager in Maine who recently lost his mother in a drunk driving accident, finds himself alone in the world when he falls in love with Sam Tarpian, his teacher. Little does he know, Mr. Tarpian, beyond being his lover, has spent his whole life piecing together the mysteries of an elixir that could allow someone to live forever. When Mr. Tarpian dies he leaves behind
Christopher McDonald
2.5 stars, but I'll round up. Oh man, I REALLY wanted to love this book. It's right up my alley. I've always been fascinated with life-longevity and the stories surrounding the topic, whether it's non-fiction or fiction, sci-fi or drama, etc. I became obsessed with prolonging life after my mom passed away over a decade ago. It's something I mulled over for a long time, but therapy and time and the natural stages of grief helped me to realize and remember death is as natural as breathing.

So yeah,
Kim McGee
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This is more a coming-of-age story about sexual identity and love than anything paranormal as the title suggests. 16-year-old Conrad falls head over heels with high school chemistry teacher Sammy. Sammy, like Conrad's emotionally distant dad, is fascinated with numbers and alchemy specifically the elixir of life. When Sammy later comes to a bad end either at his own doing or from his test trials, he leaves Con his notebooks on the elixir. Many are eager to retrieve this information however and i ...more
Christopher Berry
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was picked for discussion with our book club, and it was perfect! I really enjoyed this one for sure! The characters were engaging. The story was very interesting! The author did an amazing job with everything! The reader is going to become engrossed in this awesome book, and they might learn some scientific facts along the way!
Jordan Brown
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
When it's good, it's very good but for the most part I was quite bored
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very science oriented way to look at immortality.
Janet Womack
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The History of Living Forever deals with love, mental illness, science, and the elixir of life.
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
(FROM MY BLOG) Conrad lives in a small town in Maine. He is a brilliantly precocious science student who has skipped two grades as he worked his way through the public school system. He lost his mother in an auto accident when he was ten, and his distraught father took to drinking and showed little further interest in him. Conrad now lives with an aunt.

The summer he turns 16, he falls desperately in love with -- has an affair with -- Mr. Tampari ("Sammy" to Conrad), a brilliant biochemist who,
Edwin Howard
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Conrad Aybinder, a sixteen year old genius, has been thrust into his recently deceased teacher's search for the formula for the Elixir of Life in THE HISTORY OF LIVING FOREVER by Jake Wolff. The deceased teacher, Sammy Tampari, was also his first love. As Conrad digs deeper into Sammy's research, questionable people from Sammy's past appear and Conrad has to decide who to trust, all the while trying to determine why Sammy has orchestrated an elaborate plan to guide Conrad to the Elixir of Life.
Sep 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
"The History of Living Forever" makes a case for intellectual property theft, not because such an act of piracy is an element of the convoluted plot, but because an act of piracy might have allowed Richard Powers to steal this idea from Jake Wolff and write a masterpiece, not a pretentious mess. I downloaded "The History of Living Forever" because it's been nominated for a Best First Novel prize (which makes me fear for the future of fiction), and because I'd read a synopsis and wondered how the ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
The easiest way to describe The History of Living Forever is to say it's complicated, which is also kind of how I feel about it. The book is revolves primarily around Sammy, and Conrad, a student of Sammy's that he was having an affair with before he died. In some ways it's hard to get past the ick factor of a teacher having an affair with a student but the book is so fascinating that I almost have to store it in the back of my mind and forget about it. In addition to having an affair with a stu ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
Sometimes a book just "isn't for me" and I think this is one of those instances. For me the presentation as an adventure, complete with slightly cartoonish escapades, meant I just couldn't connect with it on an emotional level, and I never became fully engaged with it as a piece of escapist fun either, in large part due to the two central characters (Conrad and Sammy) being incredibly similar to each other and both rather lifeless (both of those things are intentional and tie into the novel's th ...more
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24 likes · 20 comments
“At 4:00 a.m. on the first day of my senior year, my chemistry teacher overdosed in the parking lot behind United Methodist. He was known by his students as Mr. Tampari, but that summer, to me, he had become something different: Sammy, my first love.” 1 likes
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