John Waters favourite book
Credit: David Phenry

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

A wise man once said, “We need to make books cool again.” 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 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. A fitting pursuit for 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 their wild love affair alongside them 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. He’s 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 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’.

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 (also rec’d by Bruce Springsteen)

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 Reads The New York TimesThe WeekThe Strand’s Curated Collections, & KCRW


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