“A Little Life” Changed the Way I View Life and Literature (Book Club Pick)

Here at Pressboard, we believe in few things more than the power of a great story. Stories inspire us, galvanize us and move us to tears. They change the way that we view a particular issue or society as a whole. But most importantly, they bring us together.

This passion for storytelling is what originally inspired us to design a platform that allows brands and publishers to connect and craft outstanding content together; now, it’s the driving force behind our book club, which delivers our favourite reads — fiction, non-fiction and everything in between — to your inbox every month. Allow us to introduce our pick for April 2019: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

This book is a bit of a hard sell.

Or at least, that’s what I’ve gathered from the raised eyebrows and rapidly changed subjects that I’ve been greeted with every time I’ve tried to recommend it to someone. I get it: it’s an 800-plus-page tome that meditates on brick-heavy topics like trauma, sexuality and the trappings of the middle class. Just looking at the expression contorting the face of the man on the cover makes you feel as though you’re interrupting a deeply private moment.

A Little Life was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker prize.
MADISON TAYLOR

But this book also changed the way I think about life.

Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life follows four men — Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB — from young adulthood into middle-age. At the core of the novel is Jude, a character both physically and mentally injured by his past. The plot examines how his life intertwines with those of his three friends, slowly unspooling more and more details about his mysterious upbringing as it progresses.

I read it (rather irresponsibly) entirely at work, consuming it in a few sittings while manning the nighttime help desk at a bookstore. In hindsight, this was an awful idea (on more than one occasion, I had to pretend that I hadn’t just been sobbing alone at my desk as a customer approached). But this isn’t the kind of book that can be read responsibly. A cursory glance at the blurb on the back cover pulled me into a high-speed race straight to the book’s devastating conclusion, leaving me winded, baffled and ultimately, changed.

Yanagihara’s dizzying personal library is made up of over 12,000 books.
BROOKE HOLM/THE GUARDIAN

A Little Life is many things. It’s a reflection on the complexities of friendship. It’s a study of the difficult nature of recovery. It’s even a love story. What it’s not is a book for the faint of heart. But if you want to read something that challenges you, startles you, moves you and alters the way you look at human life and relationships, then boy do I have a recommendation for you.

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