Importance – I’m not quite sure where to place it, or where to even put it. How big is importance? A couple of shelves I’ve got up, wood and pretty thick in comparison to, say, well, something not so thick. Let’s say the bookshelves I have are as thick as seventy percent of the books that are on them. Does that make sense? There’s some room on there, too. There’s also some water, a couple of buttons, handful of dead-end cigarettes and a snapped pencil. Nothing too important.
Top ten, aye. “And here we have it, folks. The Top Ten recommended books of all time by the one and only, Sa”- See, here’s my problem, and I’d really prefer you to come a bit closer so I don’t have to say this to the whole bloody room but, I haven’t actually read every book ever published… I just haven’t. I’d love to be objective about this and to be able to give you a really accurate, spot-on, nail on the head, job’s a good’n, Fanny’s your aunt, bish-bash-bosh list of the what you should read but I just can’t write with confidence if I don’t know all of them.
So, you’re just going to have to go about this in the following manner: “Read this list the other day. Lad says Herrera should be a good read. You know anything of this Mexican guy?” “Not at all, Barry.” “Alright then, how about this. I’ll have a gander and I’ll let you know. If we both like it, lad on the internet may be onto something and we’ll go for the next one.” “Sounds good to me, Barry.”
If you’re ok with that, grand. But let’s get one last thing clear. Number ten is just as important as number one. Because, like people, we all glow in our own special light, don’t we…
SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD – YURI HERRERA
Having lost The Old Man and the Sea to the hands of my brother, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Mexican author, Yuri Herrera, seemed like a fair trade. “I bought it for you.” He tells me. “You’ll enjoy this one.” He ensures. “Oh, I’ve not got into Hemingway yet. I see you have a few.” He nods, eyebrows raise and picks one up whilst still looking at me, smiling. “Take it.” I reply, eyeing over the review printed on the Signs’ back cover.
I’m glad that trade took place. This book is a must. This book is not what you will expect. This book starts like this: ‘I’m dead, Makina said to herself when everything lurched: a man with a cane was crossing the street, a dull groan suddenly surged through the asphalt, the man stood still as if waiting for someone to repeat the question and then the earth opened up beneath his feet: swallowed the man, and with him a car and a dog, all the oxygen around and even the screams of passers-by.’
THE RUM DIARY – HUNTER S. THOMPSON
Watch the film adaptation, do it. There’s no reason why you should feel bad about taking in one of Thompson’s greatest texts through the story-telling techniques of a man who warps the list of characters and bends the story to suit budget. It’s fine. The film is an OK film about a guy drinking rum and reporting out of a drowning paper.
The book, as it happens, is about a guy drinking rum and reporting out of a drowning paper. But for some reasons it’s just nicer to read about it. The Rum Dairy, written when Thompson was twenty-two, was unpublished before being found by a friend in the author’s basement and forced to light. To be honest, the film isn’t too bad. It’s one of my go to movies if I’m not sure what to watch, but the book must be taken more seriously, especially considering his age when writing it. I hope you can find the same enjoyment when discovering it as I did the first time, many reads ago.
THE WILD BOYS A Book Of the Dead – WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
The Wild Boys – it’s Beat, it’s Burroughs, it’s an experimental triumph. A homo-erotic youthful overthrow of the Western world dissected into eighteen parts with titles like, “The Penny Arcade Peep Show”, “The Frisco Kid”, “The Wild Boys Smile” and “The Dead Child”. Perspective shifts are rampant. Bad dreams are told. Bare flesh is ejaculated all over the page in a style that Burroughs defined and shared with us. Read it a couple of times and you’ll find an element that you can sell to a friend too. Your imagination will benefit.
TRAVELS IN THE SCRIPTORIUM – PAUL AUSTER
Short, less than an evening’s read. One for those who need something in them quick. A tequila of a book, you could say. You could say it is a meta-fictional gem, a not-so-hidden-treasure-but-may-trip-one-staring-at-the-sky, “The megabus from Edinburgh to London takes roughly eight and a half to nine hours so I thought I’d bring this.” “Oh, what’s that?” “It’s a meta-fictional gem”, an inspiration to unconventional writers. You could say any one of these, and much more. Many more, even, considering the total number of combinations the English vocabulary contains over millions over, which there are, then there’s over two million “Really goods”, right? Either way, Paul Auster’s novel is dense, intriguing and innovative. Read it.
SURVIVOR – CHUCK PALAHNIUK
Working its way back from chapter forty-seven, Palahniuk takes us again on an escape into the psyche of, well, a bit of a nutter. You will learn from this book the best way to remove blood stains, boil shellfish, etcetera, etcetera, fabric content, etcetera, and flower maintenance. A Creedish Death Cult, a stolen Boeing 747, and you’re ready to feast on this masterpiece of intensity and satirical bleakness.
HOT WATER MUSIC – CHARLES BUKOWSKI
Charles Bukowski, according to the publication of Hot Water Music that I own, a publication by Ecco, has also been published, by Ecco, in 1969, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78, 79 (twice), 81, 82, 83 (twice), 84 (twice), 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 (twice) 2000, 2001 and in 2002. All of these dates are relative to individual titles, no duplicates. There is a meaning to all this –
THE PRESENTER: You all know him! You all love him! It! Is!! Chaarrrrllleeesss… BuuuuuuKOWskiiiiiiii!!!
Bukowski has passed, unfortunately, but this book is still very much available. Hot Water Music is a collection of Bulowski’s short stories and is filled with his usual ranting over beer, sex, poems and self-loathing. It’s marvellous. As are you lucky, lucky people for being able to find such a text in almost all big name book stores as well as small independent outlets in a town near you. There’s no reason not to. If you have read Bukowski extensively and you still aren’t a fan, as is the case with many a heathen out there, OK. Please, continue.
BONE IN THE THROAT – ANTHONY BOURDAIN
I have been working as a Chef for almost ten years now so maybe that has something to do with my admiration for this novel. I’m not so much into crime thrillers or that kind of jazz when it comes to literature, but crime thrillers written by inspiring chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, featuring chefs such as ‘Tommy’, dismemberment of the deceased and the Italian mob in colourful track pants eating pizza, I’m pretty sweet with that. Also, if you need more convincing, take a look at the cover… I can’t find an image of the cover that I have so just imagine for a second a man holding another man in his arms wearing a pig mask as if he’s a violin, playing his neck with a knife. Also, if you need more convincing, here’s fifty bucks.
BOOZE – CHARLES WEBB
This novel has stuck with me for a few years now. I’ve read it once. Contemplated reading it again a few times. Never bothered. Never forgotten. It’s generally just a strong book. It’s a black, and often comical, look into art, alcohol, depression and creativity, with a slice of orange in the juice and vodka, maybe some ice.
THE AGE OF REASON – JEAN PAUL SATRE
Part of his “Roads to Freedom” trilogy, The Age of Reason contains some of the best of Satre’s existentialist prose and follows many of the great works of literature, being written around the time of the WWII. It’s heavy and may require some revision, but once it’s all in there, in that cranium of yours, it won’t leave and you will feel enlightened. I would prefer to show you as opposed to unintelligently babble about a far greater man’s work.
‘He had departed. He was walking along the streets, with one pitching, rolling gait of a sailor, and the streets became real one by one. But with him the reality of the room had vanished. Mathieu looked at his green, insidious armchair, his straight chairs, his green curtains, and he thought:
‘He won’t sit on my chairs again, he won’t look at my curtains as he rolls a cigarette,’ the room was no more than a patch of green light that quivered when a motor bus passed. Mathieu went up to the window, and leaned his elbows on the balcony. And he thought: ‘I could not accept,’ and the room was behind him like a placid sheet of water, only his head emerged above the water, the insidious room was behind him, he kept his head above the water, he looked down into the street thinking: ‘Is it true? Is it true I couldn’t accept?’ In the distance a little girl was skipping, the rope swung above her head like the handle of a basket and whipped the ground beneath her feet. A summer afternoon; the light spanned the street and the roods, serene and smooth and cold, like an eternal verity. Is it true I’m not a rotter? The armchair is green, the skipping-rope is like a basket-handle, that’s beyond dispute. But where people are concerned, there’s always matter for dispute, everything they do can be explained, from above or from below, according to choice. I refused because I want to remain free: that’s what I can say.’
CALL OF THE WILD – JACK LONDON
This book should be mentioned alongside its counterpart, White Fang, but there is only enough room for ten titles on this list. However, read White Fang-“ANYWAY! As we were saying!” (The writer coughs and winks at the bell boy who rings sound from the church tower, distracting the readers, before their attention back to the point.) Call of the Wild is yet another short read, no more than fifty to sixty pages, though it runs dense with imagery and land-lust. Your feet will itch as they did the first time you read Into The Wild or The Motorcycle Diaries. Take this book on your travels, finish it on the train and leave it in the next hostel so that another hobo can pick it up and be enlightened by one of America’s greatest authors of modern classics.