We Need To Make Books Cool Again: The Favorite Books of John Waters

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Happy 70th birthday, John Waters!

Waters, the cult filmmaker (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) and author (Role Models, Carsick), is also notorious for his love of books. (“We need to makes books cool again. If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”)

And like any book lover, he has a lot of favorites. So for his birthday, we’ve collected a list of his favorite books, as mentioned in interviews, as well as his own works.



my prizes by thomas bernhardMy Prizes: An Accounting by Thomas Bernhard (Author), Carol Janeway (Translator)

Narrow Rooms by James Purdy

Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short

Genet: A Biography by Edmund White

The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan by Jimmy McDonough

The Sluts by Dennis Cooper

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Still Holding by Bruce Wagner

Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant by Philip Hoare

The Beard by Michael McCluregood morning midnight by jean rhys

(As listed in the New York Times Magazine, Nov. 20, 2015)

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

Swimming Underground by Mary Woronov

Suicide in the Entertainment Industry by David K. Frasier

The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq (Author), Gavin Bowd (Translator)

Sita by Kate Millett

(As listed in The Week, May 21, 2010.)

American Pastoral by Phillip Roth

And I Don’t Want to Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder by Deborah Spungen

consider the oyster by m.f.k. fisherConsider the Oyster by M. F. K. Fisher

Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) by Eileen Myles

Jernigan by David Gates

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Platform by Michel Houellebecq (Author), Frank Wynne (Author)

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

The Assistant by Robert Walser (Author), Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

The End of Alice by A.M. Homes

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley

the naked civil servant by quentin crispThe Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp

The Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras  (Author), Richard Seaver (Translator)

Time Remaining by James McCourt

Voss by Patrick White

We Disappear by Scott Heim

(As listed in The Strand’s Curated Collections)

In Youth Is Pleasure by Denton Welch

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles

Darkness and Day by Ivy Compton-Burnett

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

(As listed on KCRW on July 28, 2010)

Books by John Waters:

carsick by john watersShock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste (1981)

Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters (1987)

Art: A Sex Book (2003) (With Bruce Hainley)

Role Models (2010)

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (2014)