A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Book - 2000
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Well, this was when Bill was sighing a lot. He had decided that after our parents died he just didn't want any more fighting between what was left of us. He was twenty-four, Beth was twenty-three, I was twenty-one, Toph was eight, and all of us were so tried already, from that winter. So when something world come up, any little thing, some bill to pay or decision to make, he would just sigh, his eyes tired, his mouth in a sorry kind of smile. But Beth and I...Jesus, we were fighting with everyone, anyone, each other, with strangers at bars, anywhere -- we were angry people wanting to exact revenge. We came to California and we wanted everything, would take what was ours, anything within reach. And I decided that little Toph and I, he with his backward hat and long hair, living together in our little house in Berkeley, would be world-destroyers. We inherited each other and, we felt, a responsibility to reinvent everything, to scoff and re-create and drive fast while singing loudly and pounding the windows. It was a hopeless sort of exhilaration, a kind of arrogance born of fatalism, I guess, of the feeling that if you could lose a co
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, c2000.
ISBN: 9780684863474
Branch Call Number: 973.92/EGGE
Characteristics: xxxix, 375 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
DBRL_IdaF Jan 14, 2019

The writing in this memoir rings true. Emotionally true, I mean. Reminiscent of Anne Lamott.

When Eggers was 21 years old, both of his parents died within a few weeks of each other. He and his sister found themselves raising their 7-year-old little brother while trying to launch into their own adult lives. This book will make you feel all of the feelings.

ArapahoeBethW Aug 06, 2017

It's interesting when a book makes you laugh, breaks your heart, but also invokes the classic face-palm because, at points, you are so exasperated with the author. A young Eggers loses both his parents in the span of a month. Dang... Barely an adult himself, he ends up raising his 8 year old brother, Toph. Eggers takes you through his story like you are part of his cast, a life long old pal. In a bizarre way this makes so much sense. I worked with Eggers years ago on his Denver stop for the What Is the What tour, he invited everyone there out for a beer afterwards. Everyone. He instantly makes you his friend. In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, you are his friend, his classmate, his co-worker, through every struggle, neurotic thought, and narcissistic behavior. Does this make him a genius? Yeah, ok, it probably does... but please don't tell him that :).

Jul 18, 2017

Extremely well written. Eggers writes from an honest place, that isn't always 100% likeable, and that honesty grants a refreshing air to this memoir-fiction combo. I found the structure of the book to be more readable than a traditional memoir, and while it is told out with a different emphasis than straight factuality, that doesn't diminish its message or its truth at all. Laugh out loud funny in the quirkiest way possible.

Mar 21, 2016

A self-indulgent, post-modern and self-conscious story about twenty-somethings mostly on the west coast which would have been better if shorter and edited. Nevertheless, Eggers talent (although not genius) comes through.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 18, 2014

Yes, even the verso and the preface are inspired in this wonderful memoir by Eggers. His humourous and ironic touch lightens the heartbreaking tragedy that befalls his family but leaves us hopeful for their survival. The deep love that Dave has for his younger brother, Toph, is truly inspirational. It underlines the enduring faith in family that may get knocked around but staggers through to salvation.

multcolib_central Jul 11, 2014

How would you cope if you were a young indulgent hipster riddled with nervousness who's forced to witness the slow deaths of both your parents from cancer within weeks of each other and so become the DE facto caregiver to your 8 yr. old brother? Would you write a book in an original, funny and poignant voice about the experience?

May 03, 2014

Great book by a local author. Amazing story, recommend it to anyone.

Dec 11, 2013

I had to read this book for school. While the review that the teacher gave us was all positive, when I started reading it, I was ... underwhelmed, to say the least. The first chapter, nothing happens. The author, at the beginning of the novel, even suggested that some might want to skip to the middle, which is what I did. Then, things began (only a little) to get more interesting, so that was fun, but it still was definitely not a book that is one of those you can't put down. Maybe I'm not analytical enough, but it seems like it's a very simple memoir of the author's childhood, and that is it. Sure, there's lots of humor in it, but not enough to make me want to read it. Flat and simple and plain. As a metaphor, To Kill A Mockingbird is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while this is half a piece of bread, plain and simple. I rated it 3 stars because while I didn't like it, I did finish it, so it can't be that bad.

jaelle Mar 27, 2013

I read the reviews and found that this book is proably too esoteric for me.

Aug 24, 2012

I love Dave Eggers work but I did not enjoy this collection of short stories at all! That being said, short stories aren't my favorite format. I pushed through to the end hoping I'd 'get it' but I didn't :)

View All Comments


Add a Quote
bumpyminion Aug 23, 2013

I pick her up. We walk down to Nickie’s. It’s small, full of bodies, sweltering.

bumpyminion Aug 23, 2013


bumpyminion May 30, 2013

“To have lost one parent, Mr. Worthing, might be considered a misfortune. To have lost both smacks of carelessness”


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at TAHQ

To Top