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Credit: David Phenry


A reading list to get you laid: John Waters pick his favourite books

A wise man once said, “We need to make books cool again.” It is a poignant message built on the foundations of learning, the pursuit of knowledge and the broadening of one’s horizons. The same wise and practical man continued, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em.” and thus the quest to find the legendary reading list of the wise man, AKA the iconic John Waters, begun.

Radical Reads provided a wide-ranging and utterly captivating copy of John Waters’ epic reading list. It’s a list which not only hints at his own creativity and culture but also shows the pursuit of learning that has always driven men like Waters beyond the shocking superficial into the theoretical nooks and crannies of the art world.

The pursuit of bed-worthy literature is fitting pursuit for John Waters, a man with such monikers as the Prince of Puke, Sultan of Sleaze, and our favourite, the Pope of Trash

Waters has always had a love for books and a desire for everyone to engage in his wild love affair alongside him. It jump head first into the power of words for a sordid intellectual orgy, because “nothing is more impotent than an unread library”. Below is just a selection of his claimed 8,000 books strong library in Baltimore, and it’s a fascinating list.

Having written several books alongside his screenplays for cult-classic titles such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Cry-Baby, and Hairspray, it’s fair to assume he has good taste. And he does, thankfully.

Waters’ often expressed his love for the subversive and his book choice is no different, he marks out Andy Milligan as a preferred filmmaker in the list, and also says James Purdy is great if “you’re having a sexual nervous breakdown”, while also declaring undying love for his idol and David Bowie inspiration, Jean Genet

While some books remain firmly in his perceived wheelhouse, such as Cooper’s The Sluts and Jean Rhys’ Good Morning, Midnight others are a little more out of leftfield such as the biography of Cambodian tyrant Pol Pot. It all amounts to a full library, and according to Ohn that means you’re more than likely to get lucky.

Below is a selection of John Waters’ favourite books, or as we’re calling it, ‘the reading list to get you laid’.

John Waters favourite books

  • My Prizes: An Accounting by Thomas Bernhard (Author), Carol Janeway (Translator)
  • Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
  • The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley
  • Darkness and Day by Ivy Compton-Burnett
  • The Sluts by Dennis Cooper
  • The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp
  • The Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras (Author), Richard Seaver (Translator)
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Consider the Oyster by M. F. K. Fisher
  • Suicide in the Entertainment Industry by David K. Frasier
  • Jernigan by David Gates
  • We Disappear by Scott Heim
  • Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant by Philip Hoare
  • The End of Alice by A.M. Homes
  • Platform by Michel Houellebecq and Frank Wynne
  • The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq (Author), Gavin Bowd (Translator)
  • The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell translated by Charlotte Mandell
  • The Beard: A Play by Michael McClure
  • Time Remaining by James McCourt
  • The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan by Jimmy McDonough
  • Sita by Kate Millett
  • Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) by Eileen Myles
  • Narrow Rooms by James Purdy
  • Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short
  • So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
  • We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • And I Don’t Want to Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder by Deborah Spungen
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
  • Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler
  • Genet: A Biography by Edmund White
  • Still Holding: A Novel of Hollywood by Bruce Wagner
  • The Assistant by Robert Walser (Author), Susan Bernofsky (Translator)
  • In Youth Is Pleasure by Denton Welch
  • Voss by Patrick White
  • Swimming Underground by Mary Woronov

Source: Radical ReadsThe New York TimesThe WeekThe Strand’s Curated Collections, & KCRW