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

Less Than Zero

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  77,458 ratings  ·  4,181 reviews
Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation that experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, growing up in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money.

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of limitless privileg
Paperback, Vintage Contemporaries, 208 pages
Published June 9th 2010 by Vintage Books (first published May 1985)
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 Less Than Zero, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Stefo! Clay is most likely bisexual, there are numerous times in the book where he says that "he thinks he slept with them", referencing a boy character. The…moreClay is most likely bisexual, there are numerous times in the book where he says that "he thinks he slept with them", referencing a boy character. There is also a scene in the book where Clay is over at the house of a boy he met at a party, and its implied that they have sex. But generally throughout the whole book none of the characters seems concerned with putting labels on their sexuality, most of them just fuck whoever they want to regardless of gender. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  77,458 ratings  ·  4,181 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Less Than Zero
This book seems boring and shallow, and reading it gives me an anesthetized, hollow, detached feeling that I would not describe as entirely pleasant.

And yet I cannot seem to stop, and whenever I have to, I become very anxious to return to it as quickly as I can. Its appeal is no less powerful for being difficult to pinpoint or explain.

This experience reminds me of something, but I'm not sure what.... Oh yeah, I know: Bright Lights, Big City. Way better, though, so far. I love all the characters'
mark monday
some books are like the face of Justin Long:


this is a highly punchable face. don't you just want to punch that smug look right off of his corny face? it is a face born for being stomped into the ground. ugh, i hate justin long. although i loved him in the last few seconds of Jeepers Creepers, he was perfect for the role of Gutted Horror Victim.

i also hate Less Than Zero. i blame this book for all of the ennui-laden, masturbatory nonsense that was foisted upon the world in the 80s. shouldn't
Krok Zero
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2010
Last year I spent a few months as an intern for a major national arts publication, which shall remain nameless because that makes me look cooler than if I just blurted it out. I had a few regular duties at this (unpaid) gig, the primary one being transcription of interviews. You might think that transcribing is drudgery, and in a sense it is. But if the interview subject was interesting—and, given this publication's bent and cachet, most of the subjects were interesting—it provided a rare glimps ...more
Kevin Kelsey
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Unloved rich kids in 80s L.A. desperately try to feel something. It's depressing and disheartening, but worth it if you can stomach the apathy and hedonism. It's pretty awful at times (the events of the book). ...more
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
Rich kids doing drugs. Ugh.
Actually, my view of this book was kind of distorted by this man I used to work with at this coffee shop.
He was a huge fan if this author. And he was also a writer himself (published in Hustler!). He was in his 40's and still trying to break out. He had a son that was autistic and had tons of medical bills but because he still wanted to be a struggling artist his family had to suffer.
So, he gives me the manuscript of one of his books (that was rejected by several publi
Jr Bacdayan
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This novel irritated me but at the same time I couldn’t take my hands off it. I so clearly recognized the hardened apathy reflected in the eyes of Clay. He is a young man immobile, paralyzed by indecision, slowly rotting as he waits for whatever doom comes his way. His problem is not that he doesn’t know what he wants, but rather the ability to want has been lost in him. His circumstances, which usually is being driven by the person, is rather moving of its own accord, and he is aboard not steer ...more
Whitney Atkinson
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
TW: drug abuse, pedophilia

The person who recommended this to me cited it as her favorite book of all time, but she had read it for a class, so I think we had different experiences with it. This book is steeped in melancholy and nihilism, which I typically enjoy, but the format and emotionlessness of this often made it difficult to read, so it took me over a month to complete. Still, I enjoyed its themes and totally understand why my friend connected with it so much. I'm jealous that she got to d
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drugs, family-drama
Books of this nature age well with me. I keep thinking about what happened, what Ellis might have meant. I find it fascinating what people walk away with from this and American Psycho. It seems rather obvious to me that this book is not just about spoiled rich drug addicts wasting away while taking some of their world with them. The characters' actions, more specifically their lack of action, says so much for the state of the times in this book, for LA, for American culture, all of which I find ...more
I read this book with the constant eerie feeling that I was reading someone else’s diary. I wanted to stop but couldn’t! And trust me, this was proper scary stuff.

How simple it is to stop caring or not to be afraid to lose if you think there’s actually nothing left to lose. How easy it is to think you can replace affection with a credit card. How so much easier it is to let yourself go when you’re young enough to think you’re going to live forever.

There’s a reason why this book became a bestse
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book is almost a painful exercise. Everyone is drugged up, f*@$ed up and nobody cares about anything other than getting high and wasted. Everyone is literally sleeping with everyone. Many meaningless sexual encounters where morals are left by the highway. The 80's were really about living the excess lifestyle and no place more than L.A where this book centres around. The book is one painfully awful situation after another, a lot of aimless wanderings, with lots of bad pointless dial ...more
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Another empty novel about emptiness, oh joy! I read this because friends were always like, “You’ve never read Bret Easton Ellis? Whaaaaat?” But now I have and we never have to talk about it again. Yay.
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-read, usa
Bret Easton Ellis lays the groundwork for the discussions of "surface aesthetics" in literature: Contrary to the reigning attitude of the dominant literary elite in the 60's and 70's, he relentlessly focuses on surfaces, insisting that they are, in fact, deep. Everybody in his debut novel is blond, tan, rich, and on drugs, even male prostitutes drive Ferraris. The soma (hello, Brave New World) that 18-year-old protagonist / narrator Clay and his, ähem, "friends" use has different forms, but much ...more
‘’If the book is an existential satire, its actual premise is that the world is hell disguised as paradise.’’- Ottessa Moshfegh

‘’You’re a beautiful boy and that’s all that matters.’’
Cruelty, depravity, exploitation, hopelessness…

Okay soooo I read the sequel Imperial Bedrooms last year because it was 2€ and I didn’t know it was a sequel. I will probably reread it when finals are over. I read it at 1am while watching Blackmail Boy (Οξυγόνο) and because it’s less than 200pages long I finish
Sam Quixote
A young student called Clay returns to Los Angeles for Christmas break to see friends and family. His visit reads something like this: “We’re rich kids in LA! Let’s do drugs and have sex – we’re soooo hedonistic and transgressive! Ooo, let’s have sex again and do MORE drugs!” Repeat for 200 pages and you’ve got Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel Less Than Zero!

Ellis can write really well so it’s a shame he doesn’t really have anything to say besides: rich LA brats are aimless, lost youth, their pare
Edward Lorn
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less Than Zero is an affecting ridealong in a car full of coke-addled rich kids. The ending is properly shocking. I was, as was intended, thoroughly disgusted, as I'm sure you will be too.

I didn't like a single character. The book has all the appeal of a trainwreck that causes a chemical spill at your local kindergarten. You don't read this book for fun. You read it to justify your hatred of humanity and all things wealthy.

Christian Rummel does a fantastic job with the audiobook.

In summation:
May 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
One question before we start, "Anthracite?"

Less than Zero is a meditation on the soul-less, physically obsessed world that was born in the 1980s. Yes, perhaps the pedulum has swung to and fro since the publication, but I find the relevance striking to today's pop-culture aesthetic. If Easton Ellis was writing this story today, which his website says he is working on a sequel!?! TECHNOLOGY would or will seperate the characters even more. The Internet is the most convenient place at this time to "
The defense I see most often of Ellis is: "You just don't get the joke." And could there be a more annoying defense? How can you even respond to that? It's meaningless.

And it's not a joke. It's satire; that's totally different.

I spent tonight arguing about Ellis with some very smart contrarians, and here's what they said: Ellis has captured the soulless Me First Generation, and their failure to connect with life, in a really effective way. He refuses his rival David Foster Wallace's edict that l
Barry Pierce
still a bop
Sean Wilson
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Disappear here...

In modern times, it’s hard to imagine a better published first novel than Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, published in 1985, when the writer was just 21. The tender age didn’t seem to bother Ellis as he effortlessly deconstructs the youth of his generation in Los Angeles. It’s cold, nihilistic, raw and driven by emotionless desires. It’s this detachedness that gives power to Bret Easton Ellis’ minimalist prose.

Tightly controlled, the novel follows the narrator, Clay, an e
Neil Walker
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Bret Easton Ellis is listed on my author page as of my four biggest influences as a writer, the other three being Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King and William Shakespeare.

In Less Than Zero, he is writing about his favourite time period, the 1980s, and his favourite location, Los Angeles.

The way he captures the mindset of a certain element of society in the 1980s in a particular place and pushes it to it’s logical conclusion is very much something I was trying to emulate in Drug Gang, with my chosen
The Bibliophagist
I would give this book Less Than Zero stars if I could.

I picked up this book for multiple reasons. But the main reason was because it was in the bargain bin at Books-A-Million for $5.97. Mr. Ellis was my age when this book was published, so I thought I’d get great insight on troubled young adults against the back drop of Los Angeles, but instead I got a bunch of obnoxious teenagers with drug problems.

Here's what's wrong:

Writing Style
One of the main issues I had with this book was the writing
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
I've never read Ellis before, and since he published this when he was just 21, I'm not sure if or how to really come to grips with it. The style is obviously super flat, though whether this is because Ellis simply wasn't able to write otherwise at such a young age or if he was just smart enough to realize he's probably too young to try, I can't say. But I found Clay's cool, detached narration to be, if nothing else, fairly engaging. Not revelatory, not brilliant, but interesting enough to keep m ...more
reading is my hustle
Drugs, sex, more drugs, sex, sex, drugs. Repeat. Drive around some. Go to parties. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD make it stop.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: saw-the-film
Okay, so I was willing to accept this book as a criticism of the emptiness of modern culture. I was willing to overlook the dullness and amateurishness. But it just got duller and duller and duller. And yes, we know American culture is a wasteland. But there has to be a more interesting way to get this across. And if I am to accept this book as metaphor, I'm going to have to disagree with its premise because I think it's cynical to the point of inaccuracy. It was like a Wes Anderson movie: I can ...more
Steven Godin

This is one of the most disturbing novels about youth that I'll ever read. It is also one of my fave debut novels of all time and, as well as being vastly misunderstood, probably the book that had me devoting more of my time to reading. Bret Easton Ellis totally nails it in his depiction of rich and jaded adolescence consumed by a cocktail of hard drugs, wild sex, and trendy designer clothing. A few of the scenes really were shocking; one in particular I'll never forget, but even more frightenin
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, christmas
A large part of this book is boring and the characters are all just horrible people but the overall effect is amazing. It races along full of boring details and you feel like sticking pins in your eyes and shouting at the characters but then it drops in anvil heavy, horrific statements so subtly it just merges into the text. It's so subtle it makes it all the more shocking.
Bret Easton Ellis is amzing at writing dialogue. This was a point that kept me going. All his "and then I did this, and then
Aug 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Fear never shows up and the party ends early.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero


I'm afraid I OD'd on LA novels this week. Started with 'Less than Zero', added the Black Dahlia, and finished with The Day of the Locusts. Let me just say, I'm definitely not planning on moving to that City where people and their dreams both go to die. A visit of 3 days was just enough to reestablished my conviction.

I had a hard time deciding whether to read Less than Zero. I hold B.E.E. with a certain level of co
A.C. Lillywhite
Sep 18, 2008 rated it liked it
This book probably deserved more than three stars. But I just can't give it any more than that. I HATE this book. I hate it with my whole soul. It's so true and I am massively depressed after reading it. It perfectly illustrates the life of a completely useless waste of a human being and all his useless friends and their useless lives. It's awful. They should all be put out of their (and our) misery. The best thing I can say is that this book serves as a glorious example of how not to be. The sc ...more
Liam O'Leary
Oho, How our, how our parents they suffered for nothing
I live the dream, live the dream, live the dream
Like the 80's never happened
People are afraid, are afraid
To merge on the freeway
Disappear here.

Song for Clay (Disappear Here) by Bloc Party

Less Than Zero is an incredible debut novel for a 21 year-old writer. At least, if we consider the introduction, at which point I was thinking it might turn into a favourite. However the story just does not move anywhere and I lost interest midway through
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some books that after you finish, you sit there holding it, the last page, the last word staring back at you, and you just kind of zone out and ponder everything that's happened since you picked it up; everything that happened in the story, everything that happened in real life.

Before I drove back from my folks today, back to hit the road again, I was watching the news. On the news crawl at the bottom of the screen a snippet kept passing that said 31 people had died in a blast in Syri
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Book Club+ MPC: Summer Movies-Less Than Zero 3 5 Jun 07, 2021 10:21AM  
Reading 1001: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 4 28 Apr 09, 2021 04:32PM  
Bret Easton Ellis 1 14 Mar 06, 2019 03:23AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Alternative cover for Less Than Zero 3 28 Dec 11, 2018 12:53AM  
Less Than Zero Analysis 1 18 Jan 19, 2018 12:28PM  
Valley Ridge Dreamers project 1 8 Nov 09, 2016 12:07AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 2 28 Apr 25, 2015 12:37PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Bright Lights, Big City
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn
  • Naked Lunch
  • Skagboys (Mark Renton, #1)
  • Invisible Monsters
  • The Cement Garden
  • Choke
  • Fight Club
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Brighton Rock
  • On the Road
  • The Sacred Well Murders
  • Trainspotting (Mark Renton, #2)
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Survivor
  • Crash
  • Story of My Life
  • Post Office
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Bret Easton Ellis is an American author. He is considered to be one of the major Generation X authors and was regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney. He has called himself a moralist, although he has often been pegged as a nihilist. His characters are generally young vacuous people, who are aware of their depravity but choose to enj ...more

Articles featuring this book

Say what you will about George R.R. Martin's long-awaited fantasy installment, Winds of Winter. Some of the sequels in our roundup below have...
59 likes · 25 comments
“But this road doesn't go anywhere,” I told him.
“That doesn't matter.”
“What does?” I asked, after a little while.
“Just that we're on it, dude,” he said.”
“Disappear here” 146 likes
More quotes…