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


3.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,314 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
The new novel from one of American literature's brightest stars, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler's uproarious new novel is set in the underworld. Its main character, Hatcher McCord, is an evening news presenter who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He's not the only one to s ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Grove Press
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 Hell, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Hell

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Ryan Hibbett
I'm only giving it 2 stars for the idea and themes. Really, it deserves 1 for being written so poorly. This guy won a Pulitzer Prize? I'm surprised he has even made as a writer. Let me give you a tip, Mr. Butler: never write in the passive voice! "He is thinking" should never be written. Every other page had something written in the passive voice and it drove me nuts. It was hard to concentrate. I also get what he's trying to do with the thought process being run-on sentences, but when it goes o ...more
Apr 14, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Someone once said that the problem with sensational journalism is not that it is not journalism, but rather that it is not sensational. Reading through this book, I thought of a new way of phrasing the idea: the problem with experimental novelists is not that they are not novelists, but that they are not experimental.

This could have been a truly imaginative piece of work. When I picked it up, I was looking forward to all the grossness, horror, and enslavement of Dante's Inferno, but updated with
Amy Wilder
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New Yorker capsule review got my attention. The premise alone is great - a newscaster in hell does a series of celebrity interviews - just one question: "Why Do You Think You're Here?"
Perversely profound, though we are lured into the novel at the prospect of being a voyeur of someone else's eternal damnation, Butler leads the reader quickly to contemplate the source of all suffering.

In the opening scene Hatcher McCord, the narrator and anchorman of the Evening News from Hell, describes a televis
First off, thanks to the good people at ARCycling and to Mariela O. for getting me this book. Free books are always a cause for thanks, regardless of what I end up thinking of the book itself. In this case....well, my reaction was just incredibly ambivalent. Robert Olen Butler is apparently a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, but at least in this case I didn't see what all the fuss was about. There are a few laughs throughout this work of satire, but on the whole its cynical view of human nature ju ...more
Jeremy Zerbe
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hatcher McCord was a world-famous broadcast journalist, known for his sharply discerning eye for the news and his interviews with the dirtiest dictators and celebrities alike, while dealing with asshole producers and a bevy of bitchy ex-wives. And then he died and went to Hell, where his eternal punishment turned out to be exactly the same as his life on earth, only with even worse traffic and bouts of acid rain. And his producer isn't just an asshole, he's Beelzebub. You see, Hatcher isn't just ...more
If Hell were a 79¢ microwavable burrito it would come in the green wrapper and it's flavor would be mild.

I bought this book when it first came out, having excited myself over the synopsis. A snarky, adult, pop-culture referencing trip through Hell? That's so up my alley. I had started it immediately but according to the old receipt-turned-bookmark I only made it to page 40. What had happened?

Probably not by coincidence, it was around page 40 on the reread that I realized why I dropped Hell the f
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I'll summarize. This was an excellent book. The premise is awesome. I don't want to share too much to avoid spoilers.

The basic idea is that the main character is a journalist who has died and gone to hell, and is now a Evening News in Hell anchorman. Oh yeah, and he's co-habitating with Anne Boleyn. Right, the Henry the 8th Anne Boleyn. The author has cooked up some seriously demented "punishments" for the various denizens. You may consider this a modernized Dante's Inferno if you wish, but that
Jan 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you look at most of what I enjoy reading, you’ll understand that every now and then I need a dose of comedy, and this ingenious satiric three ring circus fit the bill well. As with Dante’s Inferno, there’s precious little plot: this one’s mostly about the sightseeing, and much of the entertainment of this book actually stems from the seemingly endless variety and ingenuity of such special punishments, which make Dante look like an amateur. William Randolph Hearst blogs without recourse to the ...more
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 52-in-2010
Hell by Robert Olen Butler (pp. 232)

Hands down, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A surreal comedy set literally in Hell with deceased fictional journalist, Hatcher McCord as our tortured, philosophical tour guide who happens to be the current anchor for Evening Nightly News of Hell.

Based on Dante’s Inferno with pieces of Jean Paul Satre, Waiting for Godot, Picasso at Lapin Agile, Dennis Miller, CNN, Entertainment Weekly and your high school history books all beautifully merged in
Jeff Rowe
You know the old joke: if you go to hell then you'll be so busy shaking hands with all your friends that you won't have time to worry? That pretty much sums up this story. But of course being dead in hell in this story is probably just a metaphor for life as we know it. This slim book was surprisingly difficult to get through. All the famous denizens: J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Anne Boleyn, etc., were cliches of the popular versions of these characters. Snore. Their individual tortures were ...more
Travis Cherry
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this at first. From the jacket it appeared to be a comical romp through hell with all your favorite characters from history, and while the humor exists it is more subtle that the synopsis had me believing. It read more, to my thinking, as a commentary on the fallacy of religious idealism where even the most holy men on the planet live through hell. But happiness is in the struggle or so they say and perhaps that's the point. Worthwhile reading, but easy to set ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm so happy to have discovered Robert Olen Butler. I'm not sure what made me pick up this book (the title? the cover illustration?). Butler takes readers on an enjoyable literary romp through Hell with his protagonist, a TV anchorman who has found himself in that place below and sets out to find out why he is there--along with all manner of other famous and not-so-famous people. But there's a deeper message about humanity that's both satisfying and poignant. I'll be picking up more of Butler's ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
holy crap this was terrible

note to literary world: Pulitzer winners still need editors to tell them when their work sucks balls. note to Pulitzer winners: don't waste our time (or, hell, your own time), not to mention the bajillions of trees it took to print the book, with self-indulgent, idiotic work like this. note to R.O.B.: your sense of humor is downright embarrassing, yo

(had to read this for class)
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't be turned off by the number of lower reviews of this book. Most people don't like it cause its "depressing." I have to say that most literature is depressing and if you don't want to read about reality stick to reading Romance novels are the stuff that scruffs by these days as "bestsellers." This novel is inventive and fascinating. A quick read and definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time. This is number 75 for the year so that should say something.
I had some issues with this book at first, mainly because its themes were a bit heavy given the personal hell I was going through. But it picks up very well once it gets past the initial fascination with itself and the idea of all these famous people in hell. I loved the ending and found it unexpected and remarkably sweet.
Jun 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Not impressed. As a matter of fact, several times throughout the book, I was reminded of the title whenever I considered how many pages were left. I only stuck with it because Mr. Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winner (although, not by the standards of this book, in my opinion) and the premise is interesting, just not well done. Anyway, I can't recommend it at all as I barely finished it myself.
Not what I was expecting AT ALL. It had its moments in the first 50 pages, then it just went downhill for me after that. I skimmed and jumped around and was never genuinely engaged. I guess I just missed the point.
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lives up to the intriguing premise. I found the novel to be strangely satisfying despite the fact that all of the characters are languishing in Hell. Would make a nice companion read to Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman.
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spinebreakers
Almost 5 stars. Great book, creatively set in a vivid underworld, with a great list of famous (infamous?) cameos. Read with a search engine nearby, looking up unfamiliar names is almost a must.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
One of the members of my book club suggested we read Hell. In many ways, it sounded like an excellent companion to our previous book, A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I had expected that, in spite of the dark subject matter, I would see much of the same humor and quirkiness that defines Moore's writing. Based on the back cover and summary, this book sounds more like a comedy. However, I found that it didn't deliver on that at all.

Hatcher McCord presents the evening (or is it the evening? Time p
Ace McGee
Winner of a Pulitzer Prize! Splashed all over the book’s jacket, inside and out. But not for this book. An interesting concept of hell, where everyone, even Jerry Seinfeld’s Aunt Ruthie apparently ends up. Mostly over populated, cheap, dingy, & hot, (except that continuously sinking Titanic, where it is damp). Where memories of life and death rise & fade quickly.
Our hero is an anchorman on nightly news from hell, where the only sure thing is that unpleasant things will happen. Everyone
Lauren Volpone
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I did not enjoy reading this novel. I tend to read more comedic fare, but I came across this cover in a bookstore, and I was drawn in by its premise. It has been a few years since I finished it. However, moments from it keep coming back to me--the scene when the acid rain falls down, and the main character merges with the other people on the street; when Hillary Clinton shares a tender moment with her husband, even though she knows she will be punished for it later; the feeling of isolation that ...more
A little strange but a humorous satire. Imagine a newscast from Hell. This is the premise of this book. I was tickled by some of the interviewees, I.e. Ann Boleyn, Dan Rather, and several political and religious leaders.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Some witty moments, but not interesting enough to slog through. Plus, reading about everyone's personal hell is, well, a downer.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
There was some really clever writing in here but it took me months to read because the plot was so dull.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and fun book. Funny, clever and makes you think.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a rather short book that took me a remarkably long time to read. It's not that I didn't like it, but I really didn't hate it either. It just sort of perplexed me. Maybe it bored me, but not so much that I stopped reading it? At any rate, I think there were just too many internal dialogues, and too much weirdness for me.
Christina Rumbaugh
I'd say that I enjoyed about 7/8 of this book. It was an interesting premise, and the author delivered for most of the book, but I was less than enthused at the end. Maybe it was a little esoteric for me.

Anyway, the book follows famous news broadcaster Hatcher McCord. He was this in life, and in death. You see, Satan makes him the anchor for the Evening News in Hell. Here, he is doomed to read Bruce Almighty-esque teleprompters, no matter how hard he tries to avoid it, and is responsible for the
I keep teetering on what rating this book actually deserves. For now, I'll give it a four because the ending was satisfying to me, but I may change my mind as I let the finer details of the book percolate in there.

Hell is a novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert Olen Butler that focuses on the damnation of Hatcher McCord, a former anchorman, whose skills as a reporter are culled by Beelzebub (the showrunner of Evening News from Hell) in the form of a particular segment called "Why Do You Think
Sep 29, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I invest time to read a book I feel I have the right to demand certain expectations from the author, not many, essentially only two. One is the idea that the author structures the work along certain understandable premises of plot, character arc, conflict resolution etc. The other is I believe, there should be an attempt to meet a minimum standard of communication with readers that move along certain language commonalities that register recognition beyond those relevance’s singularly conta ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Purloined Number (There Goes the Galaxy #2)
  • Atomik Aztex
  • Dance With Snakes
  • The Art Fair
  • The  Uncomfortable Dead
  • Love Me
  • Master of Space and Time
  • A Big Enough Lie: A Novel
  • Sympathy for the Devil (Devil's Point, #1)
  • Total Oblivion, More or Less
  • These Hellish Happenings
  • The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump
  • The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales
  • Death: A Life
  • Pink
  • Gnosis
  • Nine Kinds of Naked
  • Boy with Loaded Gun: A Memoir
“I’ll never stop believing it: Robert Olen Butler is the best living American writer, period.”
– Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Robert Olen Butler has published sixteen novels—The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, Hell, A Small Hotel, The Hot Country, The Star of Istanbul, The Empir
More about Robert Olen Butler...

Fiction Deals

  • Star Sand
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Chasing the Sun
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Hidden
    $3.99 $2.00
  • Jubilee
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Where We Fall
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Over the Plain Houses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Mustard Seed
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Count Belisarius
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Memory of Things
    $7.80 $2.99
  • Julie of the Wolves
    $6.24 $1.99
  • To Hold the Crown: The Story of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (Tudor Saga, #1)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • A House for Happy Mothers
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Lace Makers of Glenmara
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Quaker Café (Quaker Café #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Whiskey Rebels
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Honest Spy
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama (Ala Notable Children's Books. Middle Readers)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • We Are All Made of Stars
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Mercer Girls
    $4.99 $1.99
  • While the World Is Still Asleep (The Century Trilogy Book 1)
    $5.49 $1.99
  • Tulip Fever
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • 600 Hours of Edward
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Prayers for the Stolen
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Daughters of Palatine Hill
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Very Valentine
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Cellar
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Clouds (Glenbrooke, #5)
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Ireland
    $10.49 $2.99
  • Funland
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The Comfort of Strangers
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Endless Night
    $4.49 $0.99
  • Lilac Bus
    $7.99 $1.99
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Unremembered Girl
    $4.99 $2.49
  • We're All Damaged
    $3.99 $1.99
“The monitor presently shows the Windows Blue Screen of Death, though this does not alarm him, as the BSoD is the universal screen saver in Hell.” 6 likes
“And so, given the musical sensibilities Hatcher treasured in his earthly life, it is hard to exaggerate the severity of his torture at standing naked in his tiny kitchen in Hell as former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover sings a Bee Gees disco song backed by a full studio orchestra and Robin and Maurice.” 4 likes
More quotes…