Star Wars Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN!

Weekly drawing for $100 credit. Subscribe to for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

More at Powell's

Reviews From





The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

We're All Fukú'd

A review by Allison Glock

Junot Díaz isn't messing around.

Yunior -- the narrator of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao -- he is messing around. With women, with drugs, with his future, something both uncertain and fated.

Through Yunior we learn of Oscar Wao's exquisitely damned immigrant family. We also learn of the so-called fukú curse they can't escape. It's a curse of your people, of love, of New Jersey. The curse that brought down longtime Dominican dictator Trujillo and JFK alike. And the curse that brings down Oscar -- a nerdy fatboy, disparaged and done for by age seven, the one Dominican teenager in all New Jersey who can't lose his virginity.

Like his shattering 1996 debut collection, Drown, Díaz's first novel is dense and thick, teeming with observations stacked tight like staples. From Santo Domingo to Paterson, New Jersey, from cane fields to college, Díaz mashes up history and modernity as we follow the doomed fate of Oscar's family. Magical realism and animal guides find a home...

Previously Reviewed by Esquire
Sort: by date | by title | by author

1968: The Year That Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky

1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America by Andreas Killen

36 Yalta Boulevard by Olen Steinhauer

'57, Chicago by Steve Monroe

Absolute Friends by John le Carré

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

All Yesterdays' Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print, 1966-1971 by Clinton Heylin

Aloft by Chang Rae Lee

The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright

American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting by Steven Biel

American Purgatorio by John Haskell

American Sucker by David Denby

Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel by Colson Whitehead

Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America by Cullen Murphy

Articles of War by Nick Arvin

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

Back to the Miracle Factory: Rock Etc. 1990s by Paul Williams

Bad News of the Heart (Canadian Literature Series) by Douglas H. Glover

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein

Baseball Prospectus 2005: Statistics, Analysis, and Insight for the Information Age by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts

Bay of Souls by Robert Stone

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears: A Novel by Dinaw Mengestu

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs Signed Edition by Irvine Welsh

Before: A Novel by Irini Spanidou

Bernard of Hollywood Ultimate Pin-Up Book by Susan Bernard

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century by Tony (edt) Hillerman

The Best People in the World: A Novel by Justin Tussing

Big If by Mark Costello

The Black Veil by Rick Moody

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz

Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds and John Eidinow

The Body Artist by Don DeLillo

The Book Against God by James Wood

Borkmann's Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakan Nesser

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky: A True Story by Ken Dornstein

The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders

The Brief History of the Dead: A Novel by Kevin Brockmeier

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Cadence of Grass by Thomas Mcguane

Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose by Raymond Carver

Canaan's Tongue by John Wray

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

Cary Grant: A Biography by Marc Eliot

Case Histories: A Novel by Kate Atkinson

The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, And Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It by John Miller and Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell

The Chrysanthemum Palace: A Novel by Bruce Wagner

The Clinton Wars by Sidney Blumenthal

The Closers (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connelly

The Closers (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connelly

The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe by Paula Fox

Cold Skin by Alber Sanchez Pinol

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound by Ben Ratliff

The Commissariat of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus

The Complete Works of Isaac Babel by Isaac Babel

Comrades in Miami (Havana World) by Jose Latour

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

Conned: How Millions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House by Sasha Abramsky

The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany by David Blackbourn

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Cottagers: A Novel by Marshall N. Klimasewiski

Crooked Little Vein: A Novel by Warren Ellis

Crusader's Cross: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries) by James Lee Burke

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic : the Aesthetics of Consumerism (00 Edition) by Daniel Harris

Dancer by Colum McCann

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray by Linda Simon

Dead Cities and Other Tales by Mike Davis

The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric by Michel Pastoureau

The Devil's Feather: A Novel by Minette Walters

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

The Diary of Adam and Eve: and Other Adamic Stories (Hesperus Press) by Mark Twain

Dick: The Man Who Is President by John Nichols

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History by Jonathan Franzen

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country: A Novel by Ken Kalfus

The Dissident: A Novel by Nell Freudenberger

Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind

Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta

The Effect of Living Backwards by Heidi Julavits

The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips

Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

Emporium: Stories by Adam Johnson

The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal by Daniel Bukszpan

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 by Dinesh D'Souza

Enough about You: Adventures in Autobiography by David Shields

Envy: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison

The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

Everyman by Philip Roth

Facing the Wind: A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation by Julie Salamon

Faithful by Davitt Sigerson

Falling Man: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Finn: A Novel by Jon Clinch

The Fish's Eye: Essays about Angling and the Outdoors by Ian Frazier

Five Skies: A Novel by Ron Carlson

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq by Christian Parenti

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

Gallatin Canyon: Stories by Thomas McGuane

Genesis by Jim Crace

The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War by Judith Miller

Getting Mother's Body by Suzan-Lori Parks

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Glad News of the Natural World by T R Pearson

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan

Goya by Robert Hughes

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff

Guston in Time: Remembering Philip Guston by Ross Feld

The Gutter and the Grave (Hard Case Crime) by Ed McBain

Hamlet: Poem Unlimited by Harold Bloom

Hamlet's Dresser: A Memoir by Bob Smith

Harbor by Lorraine Adams

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

The Headmaster Ritual by Taylor Antrim

Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick

Hello to All That: A Memoir of War, Zoloft, and Peace by John Falk

Here Kitty Kitty: A Novel by Jardine Libaire

Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage by Stephen Budiansky

The Hermit's Story by Rick Bass

Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City by Neal Bascomb

Hollywood Animal: A Memoir by Joe Eszterhas

Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden by Peter L. Bergen

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

Home Remedies (Harvest Original) by Angela Pneuman

The Housekeeper by Melanie Wallace

House of Meetings by Martin Amis

A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America by Elinor Langer

The Ice Soldier: A Novel by Paul Watkins

I'll Let You Go by Bruce Wagner

The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru

Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel

In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa by Daniel Bergner

In the Land of Pain by Alphonse Daudet

In Persuasion Nation: Stories by George Saunders

In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History by Adam Bellow

Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap

Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel by James Wood

I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek

It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium: Football and the Game of Life by John Ed Bradley

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights (Pivotal Moments in American History) by Richard Labunski

Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford

Jenny and the Jaws of Life: Short Stories by Jincy Willett

JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone and Me: An Idealist's Journey from Capitol Hill to Hollywood Hell by Eric Hamburg

John Adams by David McCullough

Johnny Too Bad: Stories by John Dufresne

Journals by Kurt Cobain

J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by T. A. Shippey

The Killing Jar: A Novel by Nicola Monaghan

The King Is Dead by Jim Lewis

Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg

Kings of Infinite Space: A Novel by James Hynes

Kornwolf (06 Edition) by Tristan Egolf

Kosmos: A Portrait of the Russian Space Age by Adam Bartos

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

Last One In (P.S.) by Nicholas Kulish

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq by John F. Crawford

Laughing Gas (36 Edition) by P.g. Wodehouse

Laughing Gas (36 Edition) by P.g. Wodehouse

The Lay of the Land 1st Edition by Richard Ford

The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes

Liberation by Joanna Scott

Liberation Movements by Olen Steinhauer

Lightning Field by Dana Spiotta

Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus

Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography by William Lee Miller

Little Children by Tom Perrotta

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Looking Forward to It: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process by Stephen Elliott

Looking Good: Male Body Image in Modern America by Lynne Luciano

Lost Echoes (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) by Joe R. Lansdale

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield

Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

The Making of Henry by Howard Jacobson

Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss

The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester

The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World by Ken Alder

Memorial: A Novel by Bruce Wagner

Memories of My Melancholy Whores: A Novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen

Merry Christmas! (00 Edition) by Karal Ann Marling

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Ministry of Special Cases: A Novel by Nathan Englander

The Mission Song by John le Carre

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Moth Smoke : a Novel (00 Edition) by Mohsin Hamid

My Cold War by Tom Piazza

My Friend Leonard by James Frey

My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox

My Mentor: A Young Man's Friendship with William Maxwell by Alec Wilkinson

The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure: Stories by Jack Pendarvis

The Mystery Guest: An Account by Gregoire Bouillier

Natasha: And Other Stories by David Bezmozgis

Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys by Peter Evans

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No One Thinks of Greenland by John Griesemer

Novel by George Singleton

Nowhere Man by Aleksandar Hemon

Now You See It...: Stories from Cokesville, Pa by Bathsheba Monk

Nutcracker 1st Edition by E T A Hoffmann

Officer Friendly and Other Stories by Lewis Robinson

Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey

Old School by Tobias Wolff

On Chesil Beach: A Novel by Ian McEwan

The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done by Sandra Newman

On the Rez by Ian Frazier

The Optimists by Andrew Miller

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson

The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin

People: Life After Dark by Roxanne Lowit

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

Personality by Andrew O'Hagan

Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America by Arianna Huffington

Pike's Folly by Mike Heppner

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope by Tariq Ali

Polar by T R Pearson

Poor People by William T. Vollmann

Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker by James McManus

Prague by Arthur Phillips

The Preservationist by David Maine

President Nixon: Alone in the White House by Richard Reeves

Prey (02 Edition) by Michael Crichton

A Primitive Heart: Stories by David Rabe

Project X by Jim Shepard

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser

Remainder (Vintage Originals) by Tom McCarthy

Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam by David Kaufman

River of No Reprieve: Descending Siberia's Waterway of Exile, Death, and Destiny by Jeffrey Tayler

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Ruins: A Novel by Scott Smith

Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

Rust and Bone: Stories by Craig Davidson

Saints at the River by Ron Rash

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Searching for Hassan: An American Family's Journey Home to Iran by Terence Ward

The Secret Paris of the '30s by Brassai

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: A Memoir by David Goodwillie

Selected Essays of John Berger by John Berger

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman

Signal & Noise by John Griesemer

A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Kevin Odegard and Andy Gill

The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken by Terry Teachout

Slow Man by J M Coetzee

Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance by Matthew Kneale

Some Great Thing by Colin McAdam

The Stars Above Veracruz by Barry Gifford

State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by James Risen

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'j Pancake

Strange but True by John Searles

Strangers' Gate by Tom Casey

Stranger than Fiction 1st Edition by Chuck Palahniuk

The Strangler by William Landay

The Subject Steve by Sam Lipsyte

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin

The Summons by John Grisham

Surveillance: A Novel by Jonathan Raban

Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle

Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J. R. Moehringer

Terrorist: A Novel by John Updike

Thanksgiving Night: A Novel by Richard Bausch

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey

Things in the Night by Mati Unt

Thirteen Moons: A Novel by Charles Frazier

This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century by David Bowman

A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini

Ticknor: A Novel by Sheila Heti

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories by John Biguenet

Tourmaline by Joanna Scott

Train by Pete Dexter

Tree of Smoke: A Novel by Denis Johnson

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

The Unbinding: A Novel by Walter Kirn

The Vagabonds: A Novel by Nicholas Delbanco

Vanished Splendors a Memoir by Balthus

Veronica: A Novel by Mary Gaitskill

Villages by John Updike

Violence, Nudity, Adult Content by Vince Passaro

The Virgin's Guide to Mexico: A Novel by Eric B. Martin

Voices from the Street by Philip K. Dick

Walking into the Night by Olaf Olafsson

The War Against Cliché by Martin Amis

War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black

We Pierce by Andrew Huebner

West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story by Tamim Ansary

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School by Sam Kashner

Where I Was From by Joan Didion

Whirlwind by Michael Grant Jaffe

White Christmas: The Story of an American Song by Jody Rosen

Widower's House: A Study in Bereavement or How Margot and Mella Forced Me to Flee My Home by John Bayley

Willful Creatures: Stories by Aimee Bender

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

Winslow in Love by Kevin Canty

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

With Love and Squalor: 14 Writers Respond to the Work of J.D. Salinger by Kip Kotzen

Wonder When You'll Miss Me by Amanda Davis

Working Fire: The Making of an Accidental Fireman by Zac Unger

The Year Is '42 by Nella Bielski

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Yellow Dog by Martin Amis

Yes, Yes, Cherries: Stories by Mary Otis

Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer

Yonder Stands Your Orphan (01 Edition) by Barry Hannah

You Don't Love Me Yet: A Novel by Jonathan Lethem

Young Men on Fire by Howard Hunt

Click here to subscribeSubscribe to Esquire and Save 75%

Get 12 fantastic issues of Esquire magazine for only $8. The best culture, entertainment, style, financial advice, women and more delivered right to your door every month ? at an incredible 81% savings off the newsstand price! What could be better... or easier?

Click here to subscribe now! spacer

  • back to top
Follow us on...

Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at