Dead Men Who Tell Tall Tales

Posted by Sara Grochowski

(Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash)

Dead narrators in literature, plays, and film aren’t uncommon, especially when one considers ghosts, zombies, and other supernatural beings that are dead, but… not. We’ve compiled a list of a few books that utilize the trope of posthumous narration without going the supernatural route.


Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

Unless you were assigned Masters’ work during a college course, it’s likely this one isn’t on your radar. An immediate commercial success when it was published in 1915, this is a collection of epitaphs from the Spoon River cemetery, all ostensibly read by the deceased. As the volume progresses, readers will begin to notice connections between the dead and a full understanding of Spoon River comes into view. With the shackles of social etiquette left a death’s door, the residents of this small town hold nothing back – not the good, bad, or ugly.


Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin’s (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) tells the story of 15-year old and recently deceased Liz Hall in Elsewhere. Liz is in a curious place called Elsewhere, where she will stay until she ages backward, eventually becoming a baby and returning to Earth to be born again. Of course, on the cusp of 16, Liz has no interest in growing younger and she’s not afraid to say it.


Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing is told from multiple points-of-view, but perhaps the most powerful perspective is the Greek chorus composed of the generation of gay men most lost to AIDS. These haunting passages offer insight into the past, present, and future of the gay community.


Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Primarily told from the point-of-view of Vera Dietz, A.S. King employs other narrators to round out this gorgeous novel, including a pagoda and Charlie, Vera’s best friend who’s recently died under mysterious circumstances. Though Charlie’s perspective is employed sparingly, readers will be drawn to him, mourning his death right alongside Vera. Sometimes it’s not how much you say, but how you say it.

Sara Grochowski

Sara Grochowski is an unapologetic book pusher, whether she’s in the library stacks or bookstore. She also writes for Publisher’s Weekly and speaks at conferences about great books and best practices for booksellers and librarians. You can find her on Twitter @thehidingspot and her blog, The Hiding Spot.