Real Life

Real Life Review

Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more.

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.


Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

Title:Real Life
Edition Language:English

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    Real Life Reviews

  • Roxane

    There is writing so exceptional, so intricately crafted that it demands reverence. The intimate prose of Brandon Taylor’s exquisite debut novel Real Life offers exactly that kind of writing. He writ...

  • chai ?

    ✧ find this review & others on my blog ✧This review would be a lot easier to write if Brandon Taylor weren’t so good.“Real Life” was like a crush, an obsession. It seemed almost to becko...

  • Michael

    Contemplative and absorbing, Real Life reflects on what it means to live authentically. Unfolding over the course of a single summer weekend in a Midwestern college town, the story follows Wallace, a ...

  • Paris (parisperusing)

    Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is indisputably one of the best novels of our generation, and I say this because it is true. Do you know how wonderful it feels to be represented as a gay black man — an...

  • Esil

    I can’t figure out if it’s me or the books I’ve been reading, but I feel like I’m in a bit of a reading slump after a strong beginning in 2020. It took me forever to read Real Life. It’s get...

  • Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    Longer review to come. Thanks so much to Riverhead Books for the review copy, clearly I adored this book and I’m so glad I got to read it....

  • Thomas

    Though it pains me to write it, this book and I just did not fit well together much at all. I appreciate some of what it portrays, the struggles of Wallace, a gay black biochemistry graduate student l...

  • Anna Luce

    ★★★★✰ 4.25 stars“Is it into this culture that he is to emerge? Into the narrow, dark water of real life?”It had been awhile since I finished a book in one day or since I read a book that...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is one of the best books I've read in a while, spread out over a few days because I was worried I'd finish it too quickly. The author uses some of his own experiences as a gay science grad studen...

  • Darryl Suite

    FINAL REVIEW: Real Life follows Wallace, a young Black and queer Biochemistry student enrolled in a predominantly white school and living in a predominantly white town. Throughout the novel, I was bur...