Although dismissed by critics for much of his career—one New York Times review called him “a writer of fairly engaging and preposterous claptrap” — Stephen King is by any measure one of the greatest horror writers of all time. The author of fifty novels, nearly two hundred short stories and nine collections of short fiction, he is as productive as he is versatile. With so much fiction to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where to begin.
Happily, help is at hand thanks to the online book community Goodreads. As of July this book lovers’ heaven had an incredible 20 million members, the vast majority of whom spend huge amounts of time reading and reviewing. One author who understandably gets lots of attention is Stephen King. Here’s his ten greatest horror hits according to the Goodreads five star rating system.
1. The Stand – score: 4.3
The Stand might not be the first novel you think of when you contemplate horror, but this post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy, an expansion of King’s earlier short story “Night Surf”, is Goodreads’s top choice. First published in 1978 and later re-released in 1990 as The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition, it’s a genuine King masterpiece.
Goodreads top review says: “You know what’s really scary? Getting sick while you’re reading the first part of The Stand. Just try running a fever, going through a box of tissues and guzzling the better part of a bottle of Theraflu while Stephen King describes the grisly deaths of almost everyone on Earth from a superflu. On top of feeling like crap, you’ll be terrified. Bonus!”
2. It – score: 4.06
Published in 1986, It is a horror novel in every sense of the word. Moving back and forth between 1958 and 1985, the story tells of seven children in a small Maine town who discover the source of a series of horrifying murders. Having conquered the evil force once, they are summoned together 27 years later when the cycle begins again. The novel is famed for starring one of the scariest clowns in literature.
Goodreads top review says: “This is a brilliant novel, beautifully told in crisp, clear prose, with truly unforgettable characters and situations. It is the essence of good fiction; the truth inside the lie. King knows his way around the corners; and has that undefinable look in the eye, the dreamy look of a child.”
3. The Shining – score: 4.03
This 1977 classic follows Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic and writer, and his family, through a terrifying winter as they care for a deserted Colorado hotel whose history is anything but bucolic. The title was apparently inspired by the John Lennon song “Instant Karma!”, which contained the line “We all shine on…” Originally conceived as a five-act tragedy play, the story evolved into a five-act novel that also included many of King’s own personal demons. In 1980, Stanley Kubrick’s film version became an instant cult classic.
Goodreads top review says : “While reading “The Shining,” I revisited my kid fears– as if walking through a bell-bottomed-shaped portal into the shag carpet of the seventies. King evoked my vulnerability and reminded me of what it felt like to be a powerless child in a universe where everybody is stronger and more experienced than I.”
4. Misery – score. 3.99
Published in 1988, the novel focuses on Paul Sheldon, a writer famous for Victorian-era romance novels involving the character of Misery Chastain. After an automobile accident, Paul meets his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes. His nurse-and captor, she wants Paul to write his greatest work just for her, and she will do whatever it takes to make this happen. Of the inspiration behind Annie, King once said, “There was never any question. Annie was my drug problem, and she was my number-one fan. God, she never wanted to leave.”
Goodreads top review says: “I first read Misery when I was seventeen years old. I started it about eight o’clock that evening, and finished it about four in the morning. Heart pounding, bleary eyed and afraid to open my closet door lest Annie Wilkes was waiting there for me with an axe or chainsaw raised over her head.”
5. Salem’s Lot – score. 3.91
Published in 1975, Salem’s Lot follows a writer named Ben Mears as he returns to the town where he lived as a boy, Jerusalem’s Lot, or ‘Salem’s Lot for short. To his dismay he discovers that the residents are all becoming vampires. The title King originally chose for the book was Second Coming, but he later decided on Jerusalem’s Lot, because his wife, novelist Tabitha King, thought the original title sounded too much like a “bad sex story”. In 1987 he told Phil Konstantin in The Highway Patrolman magazine: “In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!”
Goodreads top review says: “Vampire stories have been around for a long time – But leave it to Stephen King to turn the terror up a notch, add a whole new layer to it. How? In addition to showing us the monsters of the night, he also brings into the picture the monsters and the darkness that are already with us, that live in the deep dark recesses of everyone’s soul.”
The newest book on the list, Duma Key was published in 2008 and reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. In the book, a construction site accident takes Edgar Freemantle’s right arm and scrambles his memory and his mind, leaving him enraged as he begins his rehabilitation in a beach house on Duma Key in Florida.
Goodreads top review says: “Duma Key is not just a novel for the fans, but a cathartic response from King over his near-death accident in 1999; no doubt he relived his agonizing recovery while writing about Freemantle, and yet it is because of this firsthand experience, that Duma Key feels much more personal and empathetic.”
7. The Dead Zone – score. 3.83
Dedicated to his son Owen, the Dead Zone features Johnny Smith, a young boy who is injured in an accident and enters a coma for nearly five years. When he emerges, he can see horrifying secrets but cannot identify all the details in his “dead zone”, an area of his brain that suffered permanent damage as the result of his accident.
Goodreads review says: “I have been really surprised, especially as I read The Dead Zone, this isn’t more of a popular read, especially with King readers. Johnny Smith’s character and his ability were done very well. I really liked all of the characters, especially Johnny and his parents.”
8. Carrie – score 3.82
King’s first published novel, released in 1974, it revolves around “Carrie N. White”, a shy high school girl who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her, causing one of the worst disasters in American history in the process. It is one of the most frequently banned books in US schools.
Goodreads review says: “This is one of those books where you’re just like, dude, how did you even come up with these thoughts? I mean, I think we take it all for granted now but honestly, this book is amazing. This novel was insane and fearless and obviously written by someone who had this story in him that needed to gush out like Carrie’s menstrual blood and crazy telekinetic angst. This is one of the books I think of when I get depressed about the idea of workshopped writing and the internal observing critic and all the rest of that limiting quality-control type stuff.”
9. Bag of Bones – score 3.79
Bag of Bones, published in 1998, focuses on an author who suffers severe writer’s block and delusions at an isolated lake house four years after the death of his wife. It’s a tale of grief and lost love’s enduring bonds, which went on to win the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.
Goodreads top review says “Don’t get me wrong, I love IT and The Stand and the Gunslinger septulogy, all the crazy outlandish horror and fantasy that is SK’s bread and butter. But I adore Bag of Bones and think it is one of his absolute best. It’s very intimate, very down to earth, with the supernatural downplayed.”
10. Pet Sematary – score – 3.77
Released in 1983, it was later made into a film of the same name. The original idea came in 1978 when King was teaching at the University of Maine at Orono, and his family rented a house on a busy road in Orrington. The road claimed the lives of a number of pets, and the neighborhood children created a pet cemetery in a field near the Kings’ home. King wrote the novel based on their experiences, but feeling he had gone too far with the subject matter of the book, it became the first novel he “put away”.
Goodreads top review says “The painful, hard thing about Stephen King’s writing is that so often, he takes something real, something that people can experience in the real world, and builds the supernatural stuff onto that. In The Shining, there’s Jack’s alcoholism; in The Talisman, there’s Jack/Jason’s mother’s cancer; The Stand plays on our fears of something, somewhere, in one of those labs, getting out of control; in Pet Sematary, it’s the death of a child. So much of the book is completely real and believable.”
No fear or loathing here. These are the books that the good doctor personally suggested to his friends and family.
“I don’t advocate drugs and whiskey and violence and rock and roll, but they’ve always been good to me.”
The quip above, written by Hunter S. Thompson for Playboy shortly before his death in 2005, captures what many readers best knew him for and still remember. Beginning with the publication of Hell’s Angels in 1966, rising with “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” in 1970 and reaching its zenith in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the second part of which was published by Rolling Stone 43 years ago this month, Thompson forged a lasting persona for himself as an outlaw journalist. It was astonishingly successful — his books, film adaptations and general cultural influence are all testaments to that — but it came largely at the expense of his first love: novel-writing.
Although readers today associate Thompson most with his drug-and-booze-fueled antics, he was in fact a committed literary stylist, especially early on. As a child growing up in Louisville in the ‘50s, he would type out his favorite novels, particularly The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises, over and over again to get a feel for the words. This aspiration, melded with his initially frustrated writing career, made Thompson a harsh literary critic, if not a bit of a dick. An example:
“I have tonight begun reading a stupid, shitty book by Kerouac called Big Sur, and I would give a ball to wake up tomorrow on some empty ridge with a herd of beatniks grazing in the clearing about 200 yards below the house. And then to squat with the big boomer and feel it on my shoulder with the smell of grease and powder and, later, a little blood.”
That comes from a letter by Thompson to a friend in 1962. Throughout his personal correspondence (published during his lifetime in two volumes,) Thompson digs into contemporary writers and classics with his trademark venom, but he also occasionally recommends a book to an acquaintance — and then he gushes.
These are a few of the reads Thompson recommended before Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, before he had become an outlaw journalist, back when he was just a desperate Southern gentleman:
To Knopf Editor Angus Cameron:
“Fiction is a bridge to the truth that journalism can’t reach. Facts are lies when they’re added up, and the only kind of journalism I can pay much attention to is something like Down and Out in Paris and London. …But in order to write that kind of punch-out stuff you have to add up the facts in your own fuzzy way, and to hell with the hired swine who use adding machines.”
To high school friend Joe Bell:
“To say what I thought of The Fountainhead would take me more pages than I like to think I’d stoop to boring someone with. I think it’s enough to say that I think it’s everything you said it was and more. Naturally, I intend to read Atlas Shrugged. If it’s half as good as Rand’s first effort, I won’t be disappointed.”
To Knopf Editor Angus Cameron:
“If history professors in this country had any sense they would tout the book as a capsule cram course in the American Dream. I think it is the most American novel ever written. I remember coming across it in a bookstore in Rio de Janeiro; the title in Portuguese was O Grande Gatsby, and it was a fantastic thing to read it in that weird language and know that futility of the translation. If Fitzgerald had been a Brazilian he’d have had that country dancing to words instead of music.”
To the author, Wolfe:
“I owe the National Observer in Washington a bit of money for stories paid and never written while I was working for them out here, and the way we decided I’d work it off was book reviews, of my own choosing. Yours was one; they sent it to me and I wrote this review, which they won’t print. I called the editor (the kulture [SIC] editor) the other day from the middle of a Hell’s Angels rally at Bass lake and he said he was sorry and he agreed with me etc. but that there was a “feeling” around the office about giving you a good review. … Anyway, here’s the review, and if it does you any good in the head to know that it caused the final severance of relations between myself and the Observer, then at least it will do somebody some good. As for myself I am joining the Hell’s Angels and figure I should have done it six years ago.”
To Viking Editor Robert D. Ballou:
“Last week I read two fairly recent first novels — Acrobat Admits (Harold Grossman), and After Long Silence (Robert Gutwillig) — and saw enough mistakes to make me look long and hard at mine [Prince Jellyfish]. Although I’m already sure the Thompson effort will be better than those two, I’m looking forward to the day that I can say it will be better than Lie Down in Darkness. When that day comes, I will put my manuscript in a box and send it to you.”
To his mother, Virginia Thompson:
“As a parting note — I suggest that you get hold of a book called The Outsider by Colin Wilson. I had intended to go into a detailed explanation of what I have found out about myself in the past year or so, but find that I am too tired. However, after reading that book, you may come closer to understanding just what lies ahead for your Hunter-named son. I had just begun to doubt some of my strongest convictions when I stumbled upon that book. But rather than being wrong, I think that I just don’t express my rightness correctly.”
To freelance journalist Lionel Olay:
“Now that you’ve taken personal journalism about as far as it can go, why don’t you read Singular Man and then get back to the real work? … I’m not dumping on you, old sport — just giving the needle. I just wish to shit I had somebody within 500 miles capable of giving me one. It took Donleavy’s book to make me see what a fog I’ve been in.”
To Norman Mailer in 1961:
“This little black book of Miller’s is something you might like. If not, or if you already have it, by all means send it back. I don’t mind giving it away, but I’d hate to see it wasted.”
To Mailer in ‘65:
“Somewhere in late 1961 or so I sent you a grey, paperbound copy of Henry Miller’s The World of Sex, one of 1000 copies printed “for friends of Henry Miller,” in 1941. You never acknowledged it, which didn’t show much in the way of what California people call “class,” but which was understandable in that I recall issuing some physical threats along with the presentation of what they now tell me is a collector’s item. … And so be it. I hope you have the book and are guarding it closely. In your old age you can sell it for whatever currency is in use at the time.”
For more reading recommendations from the good doctor, check out both his collections of letters: The Proud Highway and Fear and Loathing in America.
[1891 – 1980]
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Higher Education: 2 months at New York City College (according to one biographer, Miller became “disillusioned after an encounter with Spenser’sFaerie Queene“)
On Education: “[G]oing to school so many hours a day, learning all that nonsense, is what I call utter garbage. The only part of education I approve of is kindergarten. The rest cripples you, makes an idiot of you. I know this sounds crazy, but I believe that we’re all born creative. We all have the same creative instincts. Most of us are killed off as artists, as creative people, by our schooling.”
Work Experience: Bellhop, garbage collector, cement mixer, gravedigger, employment manager at Western Union, employee at Park Department in Queens, manager of New York City speakeasy, starving artist, proofreader on the Paris edition of The Chicago Tribune
Family and Relationships: Married 5 times (Beatrice Sylvas Wickens, June Edith Smith Mansfield, Janina Martha Lepska, Eve McClure, Hiroko Tokuda); 2 daughters and a son; also had well-documented affair with writer Anais Nin
Favorite Authors: Celine (Journey to the End of the Night), Blaise Cendrars, Joseph Conrad, Dostoevsky, Theodore Dreiser, Elie Faure, Rider Haggard, Knut Hamsun (Hunger), Hermann Hesse (Siddhartha), Jack London, Nietzsche, Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past), Isaac Bashevis Singer, Oswald Spengler, Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)
Other Literary Influences: Taoistic writing, Oriental philosophy
On Ernest Hemingway: “Hemingway in my mind was not the great writer they make him out to be. He was a craftsman. But he wasn’t a craftsman as good as Somerset Maugham. There was a real craftsman. But if you are a craftsman you go on turning it out. It gets thinner and thinner . . . as much as I put him down, that first book, The Sun Also Rises, had a lot to do with my going to France; it inspired me to go.”
On George Orwell: “He was like so many English people, an idealist, and, it seemed to me, a foolish idealist. A man of principle, as we say. Men of principle bore me . . . I regard politics as a thoroughly foul, rotten world. We get nowhere through politics. It debases everything.”
On Jack Kerouac: “I have been fascinated by Kerouac, I must say. Very uneven writer, perhaps and I don’t think he has yet show his full possibilities, Kerouac . . . But he has a great gift, this great verbal gift like Thomas Wolfe had, you know, and a few others. Tremendous gift I think, but to me rather undisciplined, uncontrolled and so on, but I am fascinated by one book of his called The Dharma Bums.”
On William S. Burroughs: “Burroughs, whom I recognize as a man of talent, great talent, can turn my stomach. It strikes me, however, that he’s faithful to the Emersonian idea of autobiography, that he’s concerned with putting down only what he has experienced and felt. He’s a literary man whose style is unliterary.”
Tenure in Paris: 1930-1940
First Published Novel: Tropic of Cancer ( “[T]he Paris book: first person, uncensored, formless – fuck everything!”)
Age When Tropic of Cancer First Published: 43
Publisher: Grove Press
Year in Which Tropic of Cancer Finally Published in the United States: 1961 (U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled book was not obscene)
Last Lines, Tropic of Cancer: “Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space – space even more than time. The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing through me – its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.”
Anais Nin on Tropic of Cancer: “This book brings with it a wind that blows down the dead and hollow trees whose roots are withered and lost in the barren soil of our times. This book goes to the roots and digs under, digs for subterranean springs.”
Ezra Pound on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that’s readable.” [Another critic once described Miller’s entire body of work as “toilet-wall scribbling.”]
Origin of Tropic Titles: Miller’s pet names for June’s breasts – Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn
Selected Works: Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), Tropic of Capricorn (1939), The Colossus of Maroussi (1941), The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1945), Sexus (1949), The Books in My Life (1952), Plexus (1953), Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (1957), Nexus(1960), Under the Roofs of Paris (1983) [Note: Sexus, Plexus and Nexus make up trilogy called The Rosy Crucifixion]
Favorite of His Own Books: The Colossus of Maroussi
Sample Sex Scene from Under the Roofs of Paris: “She has a bush as big as my hand and as soft as feathers. She lifts her dress in the front, takes my dong out and rubs John Thursday’s nose against her whiskers . . . will I pinch her breasts, she moans, and would I be offended if she asked me to kiss them, perhaps to bite? She’s catting for a fuck, that she’s been paid to come here has nothing to do with it now . . . she’d probably give the money back and something extra besides just to get a cock into that itch under her tail now . . . “
Awards and Honors: Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1957; French Legion of Honor, 1974
On His Readers: “I would say that perhaps less than 10 percent of my readers are the only ones I’m interested in having read me. The others are worthless. My books don’t do them any good or me any good. You see, I believe that over 90 percent of everything that is done in the realm of music, drama, painting, literature – any of the arts – is worthless.”
On His Critics: “Critics are just people, after all. They criticize, because you didn’t write the kind of book they wanted . . . I don’t write for the critics. I write for myself and the reader, whoever he or she may be.”
Favorite Films: Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, Five Easy Pieces
Least Favorite Film: “Bonnie and Clyde! Did I hate that! I was clapping to myself when they machine-gunned them to death at the end. Dynamite them! Blow them to smithereens! It was so vulgar, that film. I love obscenity but I hate vulgarity. I can’t see how people can enjoy killing for fun. Also, there was a perverse streak there. There was a suggestion that the hero was impotent. I don’t like that. I like healthy sex. I don’t like impotence and perversion.”
Hobbies: Writing, painting, astrology, eating, roaming the streets of Paris, playing Ping-Pong [“I keep the Ping-Pong table handy for people I don’t want to talk to. You know, it’s simple. I just play Ping-Pong with them.”]
On American Artists: “I feel that America is essentially against the artist, that the enemy of America is the artist, because he stands for individuality and creativeness, and that’s unAmerican somehow. I think that of all countries – we have to overlook the communist countries of course – America is the most mechanized, robotized, of all.”
On Christianity: “The Christian Church in all its freakish ramifications and efflorescences is as dead as a doornail; it will pass away utterly when the political and social systems in which it is now embedded collapse. The new religion will be based on deeds, not beliefs.”
On the Civil War: “At Gettysburg, at Bull Run, at Manassas, at Fredericksburg, at Spottsylvania Court House, at Missionary Ridge, at Vicksburg I tried to visualize the terrible death struggle in which this great republic was locked for four long years. I have stood on many battlefields in various parts of the world but when I stand beside the graves of the dead in our own South the horror of war assails me with desolating poignancy. I see no results of this great conflict which justify the tremendous sacrifice which we as a nation were called upon to make. I see only an enormous waste of life and property, the vindication of right by might, and the substitution of one form of injustice for another. The South is still an open, gaping wound.”
On Civilization: “For 72 years I’ve been waiting to see some breakdown of the artificial barriers surrounding our educational system, our national borders, our homes, our inner being – a shattering of the wretched molds in which we’ve lived – but it never happens. We have the dynamic but we don’t set it off. I get sick of waiting.”
On Hippies: “Always, in the past, as soon as they become adults they join the Establishment. They become conservatives. The radical always becomes a great conservative. And the revolutionary becomes a tyrant, just like the one he overthrew.”
On Obscenity: “I feel I have simply restored sex to its rightful place in literature, rescued the basic life factor from literary oblivion, as it were. Obscenity, like sex, has its natural, rightful place in literature as it does in life, and it will never be obliterated, no matter what laws are passed to smother it.”
On Politicians: “One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one.”
On Politics: “Don’t ask me about politics. I’m against war. And I never voted in my life. But I’ll tell you one thing – I’m living with this hope: that the youngsters will get rid of all the old birds and wiseacres. In this country the ordinary man, you know, is dead inside before he’s 40. It’s not his fault. It’s the fault of mechanized things. There’s a lack of individuality. Everything is made for comfort and ease.”
On Joyce’s Ulysses: “There are passages of Ulysses which can be read only in the toilet – if one wants to extract the full flavor of their content. And this is not to denigrate the talent of the author. This is simply to move him a little closer to the good company of Abelard, Petrarch, Rabelais, Boccaccio – all the fine, lusty genuine spirits who recognized dung for dung and angels for angels.”
Henry Miller on Film: The Henry Miller Odyssey (full-length documentary with insights from Miller’s friends Lawrence Durrell, Anais Nin, Alfred Perles, Brassai, Lawrence Clark Powell, Joe Gray and Jakob Gimpel); Henry and June (notable as the first NC17 film, based on Nin’s famous diaries)
Place of Death: Big Sur, California
Final Resting Place: Ashes scattered off coast of Big Sur
CODA “It’s a distortion. Henry, Look at me! Look! You can’t see me or anyone as they are! I wanted Dostoyevsky!” —Henry & June, 1990
TROPIC OF CANCER TRIVIA
• Miller was 43 years old when Tropic of Cancer was first published in 1934 by Obelisk Press in Paris.
• Tropic of Cancer was finally published in the United States in 1964 after the Supreme Court ruled the book as not being obscene (Grove Press, Inc. vs. Gerstein).
• Ezra Pound on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that’s readable.”
• Miller’s pet names for his second wife June’s breasts: Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
• George Orwell called Tropic of Cancer “the most important book of the mid-1930s.”
• Samuel Beckett referred to Tropic of Cancer as “a momentous event in the history of modern writing.”
Hunter mentions in Proud Highway regarding Styron’s work, “This man is a writer!” and in Fear and Loathing in America calls it “one of the best books in English.” He wrote to Styron asking if the author could recommend a literary agent, and Styron actually wrote him back.
2. The Ink Truck – William Kennedy
William Kennedy was one of Thompson’s long-time friends. The two met while working in San Juan at the local newspaper, with Kennedy being the editor; time spent there would become the premise for Thompson’s The Rum Diary. The Ink Truck was written in 1969. (Also check out Ironweed.)
3. The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley
The Doors of Perception is the 1945 book written by Aldous Huxley concerning the new discovery of a psychoactive drug called mescaline. He takes the title from William Blake, and several since then, including Thompson, had been influenced to use the drug recreationally. Specifically Hunter describes his “mescaline binge” in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He also references it in his letters of correspondence to Oscar Acosta.
4. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby has become an American classic. In particular, the novel focuses on the American Dream, and whether or not it still exists. About 45 years later, Thompson addressed this same issue in his magazine articles and finally in his novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When given the assignment to work on a novel based on the American Dream, Hunter struggled immensely until finally turning his research into what would become Fear and Loathing.
The Great Gatsby itself was one of Hunter’s long-time literary favorites, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work was one of many novels that Hunter would rewrite word-for-word in order to get a feel for the writing style of its author.
5. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms is the 1929 novel from Ernest Hemingway.
Along with The Great Gatsby, Thompson used what money he had to get a typewriter in order to rewrite Hemingway’s work, as Thompson considered him to be one of the greats. Later in life, he would write a tribute piece regarding Hemingway’s death (or rather, suicide,) and eerily years later, Hunter would commit suicide in the same fashion as Hemingway; with a shotgun in mouth.
6. The Book of Revelation (Bible)
While it may be surprising that a man like Thompson would read the Bible, you should remember that the author appreciated any good piece of writing, whether or not he considered it fact or fiction and whether or not he was a “holy” man.
Specifically, it’s my belief that Hunter took to the Gospel of John, especially in consideration of the fact that the single word typed on his typewriter before he committed suicide was “counselor.” The Gospel of John mentions this “counselor” as being someone who will be with you and who will keep you in the company of the truth no matter how much this truth is hidden from the outside world. As a man of the written word, and a firm believer in the revealing of truth no matter how harsh, this clearly is fitting to Hunter’s persona, and the type of treatment he’d hope to receive after death.
7. The Ginger Man – J. P. Donleavy
The Ginger Man is the 1955 novel from J. P. Donleavy that takes place in Ireland, and was initially banned in the US and in Ireland upon its publication due to strong obscenities.
Hunter read the book while living in New York City, and related highly to the novel’s main character (although Hunter was certainly a gentleman whether or not he tried to be.) Interestingly, Hunter’s friend Johnny Depp was asked by Donleavy to work out a film production based on the book, although as of 2009 no concrete progress has been made.
8. A Fan’s Notes – Frederick Exley
A Fan’s Notes is the 1968 novel from Frederick Exley. Hunter mentions it in his novel Fear and Loathing in America, saying “there is something good and right about it, hard to define. He’s not a ‘good writer’ in any classic sense, and most of what he says makes me feel I’d prefer to avoid him… but the book is still good. Very weird. I suppose it’s the truth-level, a demented kind of honesty…” Even though this description may be lacking obvious praise, it’s clear some of the book’s qualities appealed to Hunter.
9. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe
1968’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is Tom Wolfe’s infamous account of the travels and times of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. With their LSD trips and psychedelic music, the lifestyle of the Merry Pranksters became a staple and symbol of life in the 60s, and having also lived through this decade, Hunter could surely relate. He wrote segments of Hell’s Angels around the relationship of the Angels and the Pranksters, notably the Prankster’s introduction of LSD to the Angels. Wolfe and Thompson would also become friends through their love of writing and observation of culture around them.
10. William Faulkner
I put Faulkner’s name alone as he influenced Hunter both as a writer and a man. Here is a quote from Hunter:
“Gonzo journalism is a style of reporting based on William Faulkner’s idea that the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism — and the best journalists have always known this. True gonzo reporting needs the talents of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer and the heavy balls of an actor. Because the writer must be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it — or at least taping it, or even sketching it. Or all three…”
Also check out Henry Miller’s World of Sex and Nelson Algren’s The Man with the Golden Arm (not to mention A Walk on the Wild Side.)
BBC Believes You Only Read 6 of These Books…
The BBC believes that most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books below. How many have you read?
(Tip: The average Goodreads member has read 23 out of 100 books on this list)
p.s: BBC didn’t make a declaration. The list is probably based on the average. Also, Narnia and Shakespeare are on the list twice but, they can be a freebie if you prefer 🙂
BELOW ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS-AS A CHILD I READ “OF MICE AND MEN” AND I MUST SAY IT’S MY MOST FAV, BOOK EVER.
of cocaine vodka and speed
the words came out like
a spicket spilling words
Into notebooks filled
With rant and sticky
shot glasses residue
like crop circles
They came and went
But were always there
In some nook or corner
easy to reach at a moments
and i miss those great days
that were part of my world
With you my mentor sitting
Across the old kitchen table
Butts accumulating in
The old blue ashtray
Your rugged face in
Haze of smoke
“everything to excess.
Nothing for success”
-you laughed when i
Repeated our funny mantra
it suited me then just fine
Life was intense like a
Double edged sword
when the words come to me
now they come more naturally
especially when i smoke weed
or drink some sort of libation
once when younger I
used to write with no sort of
enhancement just Dylan, incense
And a pot of tea
and that was good too-
when inspiration comes now
it’s like an avalanche tumbling
toward me-if i am not ready
i can get lost in it forever
those are the good days and
there are many of them and
the best days are when my words
are published and i feel real
an another successful
poem or a page for my
i am happy no matter
which way they come
then there are the bad days
That came after my overdose
My damaged brain spit out amnesia-tic
Have to decipher the good from
The bad the spelling the grammar
The stumbling bumbling mishmash
Clutching my head in desperation
“You can do it” he said “just carry
On as if it never happened
you have it, you just have to find it”
and I would cry for my loss of
wanting to stamp my feet and shake
My head till the letters and words
Came out on the right order.
goodness can come from chaos
sometimes i write words
and discard them
better under the influence
as long as i have a connection
I’ll be just fine.
Just you are no longer there. Ana christy
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