Required Reading

This is your assignment:


I don’t mean websites or magazines – although this website is okay, and some magazines (ahem, the ones of which Oprah is not the supreme lord and emperor) have pretty pictures – I mean books.  Read books.  Lots of them.  All kinds, all the time.  Learn to pay attention for extended periods to lives that are not like your own.  Learn to lose yourself in stories, and as a result, learn to tell stories yourself.

Start collecting books.  Yeah, they’re a pain in the ass to move whenever you need a new apartment, but they’re worth it.  They smell nice.  They look good.  And if you can’t afford them, you can always get them from the library for free.  As righteous as I am to curse my genes (my cancerous, weak-hearted, insane, alcohol-loving genes), I am forever grateful to my grandmother for reading to me before I could read to myself, and to my mother for letting me spend hours in the Buder branch of the St. Louis Public Library virtually every single Saturday of my youth.

So read a bunch of books.  I don’t really care which ones…oh wait.  I do.  Not Twilight.  You’re forbidden from reading Twilight.  Seriously, if you’re going to read Twilight, go stick some posters on your wall and contemplate bulimia or something.

The below list is the required reading for me.  If I hadn’t read these books, I probably never would have become a whole person.  You’re not required to read them (because I am not the boss of you), but if you’re not feeling all that complete these days, some of these might help:

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Catcher In the Rye, JD Salinger
Welcome to the Monkeyhouse, Kurt Vonnegut
Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
Forced Entries, Jim Carroll
Void of Course, Jim Carroll
Paradise Lost, John Milton
The Metamorphoses, Ovid
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Button, Button, Richard Matheson
A Wrinkle In Time, Madeline L’Engle
Lamb, Christopher Moore
After Dark, Haruki Murakami
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
My Life in France, Julia Child
Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Skipping Towards Gomorrah, Dan Savage
Life, Keith Richards
Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman
The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Love Is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield
Killing Yourself to Live, Chuck Klosterman
Chelsea Girls, Eileen Myles
Just Kids, Patti Smith
Get in the Van, Henry Rollins
7 Tattoos, Peter Trachtenberg
Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Hunter S. Thompson
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Lester Bangs
Cash, Johnny Cash
Bossypants, Tina Fey
Dracula, Bram Stoker
World War Z, Max Brooks
The Talisman/Black House, Stephen King
Interview With the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club, Laurie Notaro

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