A Little Life was written by Hanya Yanagihara and was published in March 2015 by Doubleday. A Little Life is Yanagihara's second novel, and due to the difficult subject matter, neither the author nor editor predicted that the novel would be popular. Nonetheless, it received very strong critical reviews and a positive response from readers. The novel was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for fiction and won the 2015 Kirkus prize for fiction. Yanagihara was also selected as a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Fiction. However, there were a few notable exceptions in which the novel received negative reviews. Most of these reviews focused on the grim subject matter and graphic representations of bodily suffering. A few critics also took issue with Yanagihara writing about gay male characters without having lived experience of this identity. On the other hand, Yanagihara has also received praise for sensitive depictions of trauma and loss in the gay community.
In 2018, playwright Ivo van Hove adapted A Little Life for the stage in collaboration with Yanagihara and directed a theatrical adaptation that debuted in Amsterdam.